By on February 13, 2008

2008-subaru-b9-tribeca-front-leftjpg.jpgRecently. We're not talking Mercury, the automaker that's being driving around sans map for (four) decades. No, we want to know who you think most recently has put match to script. Great candidates abound. Could it be Jeep and the brand-slaughtering Compass softroader? Toyota and their new found love of recalls and unreliability? Maybe Porsche, with its embrace of water cooled SUVs and an upcoming four-door sedan. I'm arguing for Subaru. Subaru? Yeah, Subaru. Rewind your mind to 2002. The WRX had just landed on our shores, completely redefining egalitarian performance. Outbacks were everywhere. Forresters will always be the official car of lesbians, but back then they were the smart alternative to the SUV. The 'Camino'd Baja is a bullet they'd like back. But hey, at least they were trying. In fact, the all-AWD brand was the positioned to become the thinking/poor man's Audi. And pistonheads everywhere knew the STi was on its way. Today? The WRX is not only uglier, but softer. The most expensive model in the lineup isn't the sharp dressed Outback, but the formerly pussy-faced Tribeca. A turd of an CUV that few want and no one aspires to. The new STI is indeed meshugga, but sadly, like the whole of Subaru, not meshugga enough. OK, your go.

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67 Comments on “QOTD: Which Brand Has Lost the Plot?...”


  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Subaru is a strong case for clueless.

    I think Mini is on the brink of harpooning itself with cars like the Clubman and upcoming mini SUV.

  • avatar
    steronz

    I vote for Acura. They don’t even seem to realize just how valueless their brand is.

  • avatar
    John R

    [Naming Chrysler would be a cop out to this question]

    I vote for Mitsu. They only have 1 car that anyone could possibly want, 2 if you count the soon to be Ralliart, the GTS Lancer is okay.

    There could be hope if they follow through on that sportback concept.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I nominate Nissan UK. Have you seen their line up?!

    Micra: Small city car.
    Note: Small CUV.
    Qashqai: Medium CUV.
    Pathfinder: Large SUV
    X-Trail: Large SUV.
    Murano: Small SUV.
    3050Z: Sports car.

    If you want a medium hatchback (i.e Civic or Corolla) or a family sedan (i.e Malibu or Taurus) Nissan doesn’t cater for you.

    Check out http://www.nissan.co.uk for evidence.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Subarus were never lookers to begin with (we need to get that out of the way). The only thing they ever had going for them was the fact that every car in their lineup had AWD. But then everybody else started developing AWD, and their flaw of having a one-trick-pony to their marketing game was exposed. If Subaru had a plot, it was a weak one to begin with.

  • avatar

    Volkswagen. VW was founded to be the "people's car," providing affordable, reliable transportation. Now it's all over the map with everything from the Polo to the Touareg to the Phaeton. They've lost touch with what makes a Volkswagen a Volkswagen by trying to be all things to all auto buyers.  And now they're going to be peddling rebadged Dodges?  Give me a friggin' break!

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    Acuras are all pretty much badge engineered Hondas, and the possibility of a non-mid engined NSX shows how far they’ve fallen from the days of the original NSX and Legend.

    Sabb is completely useless

  • avatar

    I'm going with Porsche. There is no substitute– only now there is. The 911 is still a singular supercar (even with the GT-R barking at its heels) and the Boxster got my bucks, but the Cayenne is an answer to a question BMW (and others) already answered. As is the Panamera, which is so not a 928 it hurts. You can talk all day about how the Cayenne saved the company, but its the best example of brand defilement I can name (and the most personally painful). And the excuse given for this hideous beast– we need the money to build better sports cars– has not manifested itself in better sports cars. When will the Boxster get the power it deserves? Where's the next gen 911? How about an entry level Boxster? Did I mention a 928 for today? I think I did. The only brand that truly "gets it" (or "has it") is, gulp, Ferrari. OK, maybe Maserati. Give 'em time…

  • avatar
    86er

    Isuzu?

    Oh my mistake, I thought the question was “which brand has lost the market”?

  • avatar
    SLLTTAC

    Having bought one used Subaru, a 1992 SVX, which I adored, leased a 1996 Outback, and rbought in the last two years five new Subarus for family and for my business, I guess one would say that I’m a Subaru loyalist, but despite the fine reliability of all those cars, I would rather drive an Audi. (I had a 2001 A6 4.2 and a 2004 allroad 4.2, neither of which was close to any of the Subarus for reliability; thus I switched to Subaru. I’ve read that late model Audis are reliable and am likely to pay too much for a new Audi soon.) Subaru’s sturdiness and cost of ownership are top-notch, but I have never understood why their cars usually look ugly or dull, except for the SVX, designed by Giugiaro.

  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    I gotta go with Cadillac. They’ve decided (or maybe they didn’t decide) to forget, sort of, about luxo-barges, and focus, sort of, on sports sedans. But they still make luxo-barges. And pickups. Uh… what happened to the 30 foot long Queen Marys of the road?

  • avatar

    I vote for Saab. Their cars are 10 years outdated, and they have sunk as low as selling badge engineered Subarus and Chevy SUVs. As thetopdog said, Saab is completely useless.

  • avatar
    beetlebug

    Well…I’m a WRX owner (2002) and I’m seriously considering the new one. Why? It’s still ugly but more practical. Softer? Maybe more comfortable but people seem to forget the old WRX with it’s skinny tires and body roll wasn’t really that hard. I think one mistake they are making is with the Legacy. Seems they wanted to make it the poor man’s Audi, and almost did. But what happened the the turbo wagon? The spec B seems half hearted. Oh well. Also I don’t vote for Mini…clubman is a good idea. My wife is already planning to replace her Mini with one. Costs not much to make and will get some low level sales.

  • avatar
    rollingwreck

    Sadly, I have to agree about Subaru. I own a couple of Legacies (1996, 2004), and may not return to the fold when my 12 year old one kicks the bucket. If it ever does that is… it still drives like new despite leading a terribly abused life. Typical, classic Subaru. There’s a reason that so many of these second gen Legacies still prowl around the backwoods of Vermont and New Hampshire.

    I’ve seen first-hand their progression from inexpensive, tough-as-nails, go-anywhere machines that will not die to heavy, thirsty, overpriced, near-lux also-rans. No sir, I don’t like it.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    I don’t know about “soft”, but what I DO know is that the new STi is faster and more capable than the old STi while at the same time being more practical and more refined. You can take THAT to the president.

    My vote goes to Acura and Saab right now. Has anyone seen the refreshed 2009 RL? Acura has totally ruined that car. Or how about the preview pic of the 2009 TSX? It has almost exactly the same exterior as the current TSX, except Acura has managed to make it look uglier and ungainly.

    Saab, well I don’t even need to mention anything. I’m sure we all know how useless their current lineup is.

    Runner-up would be Nissan and Infiniti. All of their “new” and “redesigned” cars look like simple refreshes of their old, dated predecessors.

    Subaru I leave out of this only because of their ties to Toyota which will only help make them more competitive and also their technical expertise. A big reason for leaving Subaru out of this is their new boxer diesel engine, which is in-fact the world’s first boxer diesel engine.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    I agree with Frank, except he forgot to mention the Routan. Where the feck does THAT fit in with ANY sort of brand strategy? “Hey, remember the microbus and how cool it was? Yeah, here’s a chrysler minivan with a VW logo slapped on it instead. Have fun!” Where’s the love, dub?

  • avatar
    Michael.Martineck

    My vote is Pontiac. I have no idea what they’re supposed to represent. Nicer Chevys? Not-so-nice Buicks? The excitement division can’t hang their helmet on an invisible GTO or blubbery Solstice. I can’t see the road they’re on.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    I will only state this once: What happened to Saab was not their fault. Saab was always a niche market before GM came along and tried to turn it into a cash cow. All their models had relatively long shelf lifes; the 900 was around for…15 years, the 99 about ten. This worked well for Saab, as they were a nice market. Volvo has faired better since being bought by Ford. They at least were able to put out new models in more acceptable time spans than Saab. When GM saw that Saab was not as profitable as their shareholders wanted it to be, they cobble together the 92x and the 97x to try and boost sales on the cheap. I feel that it’s going to take at least another 8 years before Saab gets back into the game, according to GM. If of course GM is still around by then.

  • avatar
    AKM

    Wow, big question.

    Obvious ones are already on the thread…

    Chrysler: no one wants any of their cars
    Dodge: the confirmed kill of the magnum, their ONLY original, interesting product says it all
    Jeep: *cough cough* Compass
    VW: except for the Rabbit, GTI, and possibly Eos, its a mess
    Saab: doesn’t seem to exist anymore
    Pontiac: Dude, where’s my G8?
    Mercury: Bleep, bleep, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep
    Buick: the same, with just the enclave acting as a defibrillator, albeit temporary.
    Kia: selling Hyundai clones, only uglier

    Acura is a special case: the only ones I see around are the SUVs. The cars have a lot of potential, but the brand is nowhere
    Subaru: I read a while ago in Automotive News that the brand had abandoned its doomed upscale strategy, so I’m hoping it’ll come back to its sense quickly, although increased ownership by Toyota does not bode well on the blandness factor…

  • avatar

    Megan Benoit

    I agree with Frank, except he forgot to mention the Routan.

    Uh… Megan… that’s the “rebadged Dodge” I referred to.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Saab. No question in my mind. Even the people I know who owned and loved them dismiss them as “a GM.” One couple, who still own a relatively late model “Saab,” might buy a Volvo (they’ve had those, too, and still like them). But never another Saab.

    There was a time when Saab owners were proud to own the weirdest production cars available in North America (V-4, freewheel, ignition between the seats, 2-cycle motors, side windows that curved around a vertical axis, bodystyles like nothing else) but now… it’s just another GM. Well, OK, a GM with the ignition between the seats.

    A friend had an ’84/5/6 4-door, no turbo, and, everytime we went somewhere in it I marveled at how a) nice and b) weird it was. The first time I went for a ride in it, in any Saab, we hopped in, his hand fell below the stick and did something that started the car and I thought “WTF???” And he loved it.

    And I think their sales numbers reflect this, no? Aren’t they slouching towards less than 24K cars/year, US?

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    Robert Farago :
    February 13th, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    I’m going with Porsche.

    There is no substitute– only now there is.

    The 911 is still a singular supercar (even with the GT-R barking at its heels) and the Boxster got my bucks, but the Cayenne is an answer to a question BMW (and others) already answered. As is the Panamera, which is so not a 928 it hurts.

    You can talk all day about how the Cayenne saved the company, but its the best example of brand defilement I can name (and the most personally painful). And the excuse given for this hideous beast– we need the money to build better sports cars– has not manifested itself in better sports cars. When will the Boxster get the power it deserves? Where’s the next gen 911? How about an entry level Boxster? Did I mention a 928 for today? I think I did.

    The only brand that truly “gets it” (or “has it”) is, gulp, Ferrari. OK, maybe Maserati. Give ‘em time…

    The family that own Porsche have been content simply being the “most profitable” car company for what, the last ten years!
    These folks appear to only see $$$ and no longer care about what a Porsche is supposed to be. If a Porsche pick-up or Minivan would sell they would make it. All the more money to chase after VW with!

    I have been claiming for a long time that Porsche cars are living off of the legend. Its OK because they are about to get slapped around once again by some extremely competent “low priced” lowly Japanese whips that are coming down the pipe. Hopefully the competition from such cars as the GTR, LF Lexus, EVO, STi, etc will force them to step up their game once again.
    And yeah the boxster is actually a $35,000 car that deserves to be put in its place!

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    It seems almost all automakers are on the road to becoming full line automakers. I wonder how many full line makers we need? I wonder how many full line makers can survive?

    I vote for Porsche because as RF said, they’ve really defiled the brand by making an SUV.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    I think the problem with the new WRX is that Subaru is trying to keep their customers. 99.9% of the Scoobies I see are driven by younger people, mostly guys. And that is everything from the WRX to the Outback to the Legacy and the flying vage. I’ve always had this image that the Subaru guys grew up and bought Audis afterwards. It seems to me that instead of trying to keep the WRX/WRX STi/I and all that younger and “harder” if you will, they are trying to soften it up so that guys who used to have no problem with sht seats and a harsh suspension and loud turbo boxer will now want the more “luxurious” softer friendly ride.

    Porsche, I don’t have a problem with, really. I personally don’t understand why anyone would buy a Cayenne over a Toureg, but thats just me. Otherwise, the Boxer, Caymen, 911s still hold to what makes a Porsche a Porsche. I’ll withhold judgement on the Panamara till we actually see them on the road and have some seat time.

    Mercedes came pretty close to getting my vote here as well. But they’ve recovered fairly well from the buyout of Chrysler. I have no clue why they went to that whole “Look, a Mercedes under 35k” thing they had a while back. Never really got it, but I thought it was stupid. However, I think they are back in the right mindset now.

    Toyota, meh. They haven’t lost their plot, they are just boring. I would almost say it a bad move for them to bring back cars like the Celica, MR2, or Supra.

    I’ll have to contimplate this one a bit more before I make my call.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Saturn. None of the above comes even close. Saturn was conceived to be one thing only: to prove that Detroit could build an efficient small car to compete with the Civic and Corolla. And now they’re selling 5,000lb CUV’s.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    I’ll say Cadillac!

    They are supposed to be big ass floaters that do double duty as hearses, limos and pimpmobiles! What are they now? I dunno!

  • avatar
    beetlebug

    I’m going to second Saturn. They’re so lost they somehow forgot where they put their plastic body panels.

  • avatar
    JJ

    Did I mention a 928 for today?

    I think a 928 for today would be a bad idea for Porsche because of several reasons;

    If a modern 928 today did what it would have to do, it would depreciate Porsche’s most valuable asset, namely the 911 brand name, because in many ways it would have to be better, immediately making the 911 only 2nd best (at most).
    It would also have much tougher competition than in 1979-1995 which poses the question if they will make enough profit from this hypothetical 928 to make good for the inevitable 911 sales losses they will suffer.

    Also, the previous 928 sort of worked (a little) eventually because Americans liked it and Europeans kept buying 911s, but don’t forget it was initially intended to replace the 911 and in the end they were just lucky things didn’t end up a lot worse.

    Then finally, I would say a modern 928 already exists in the form of the 911 Turbo (luxury, easy to drive, cruise missile, no rear-enginedness in the driving experience) whereas the modern day Turbo (widowmaker) is called GT2 nowadays.

    So, looking at it this way, no matter how bad an idea I think the Panamera is it might be their only oppertunity to bring something like a new 928 to the market, for the simple fact that it has four doors and will not be directly compared with the 911. Not that anyone should want them to anyway.

    Talking about 928s…anyone notice that in one of britney Spears’ video clips (don’t know which one) she drives a 928 in a pool which then magically turns into a 944…

    On another note; did I just gave this comment less credibility with this question?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    I would argue that Porsche is finally fulfilling its long held desire to regain control of VW, and that cars like the Cayenne were part of the ruthlessly profitable strategy to allow them to do so. How’s that for staying “on plot”?

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    Then finally, I would say a modern 928 already exists in the form of the 911 Turbo (luxury, easy to drive, cruise missile, no rear-enginedness in the driving experience) whereas the modern day Turbo (widowmaker) is called GT2 nowadays.

    A 911 Turbo lacks the understated appeal of the orginal 928. Folks that a new 928 would appeal to do NOT want to see a rear wing on the back of their car. Also the 928 was most popular in automatic. A 911 with an autobox makes the driver look like a big dork that brought the 911 turbo strictly to achive “the look”.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    a. Lieberman is back? awesome!

    b. I nominate BMW. I think Infiniti stole their mojo and they need to find Austin Power’s time machine to go back 40 years and bring back the 2002 tii.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Tomorrow’s QOTD suggestion: which brand is still on target?

    crickets…

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Frank: re VW: “founded to be the people’s car”

    You could say the same thing about Toyota, or just about any manufacturer that has expanded their line-up in the last thirty years. Grow or die. And its worked for them globally (except in the US).

    But Saturn’s expansion only comes at the expense of other GM’s divisions. It’s a cancer.

  • avatar
    Ralph SS

    I’ve gotta go with Porshe. If only because it, until recently, had the strongest brand DNA. And that just shouldn’t be messed with.

  • avatar
    Brendan

    You’re next QOTD should be who is most on-brand. I bet a couple of names from this thread pop up there too. My vote would be for Mazda.

    Subaru is more Greek tragedy than bad branding. They have fought the good fight for boxer engines and AWD for so long they have put themselves in a technological corner. The desperate branding doesn’t change the fact the cars themselves are quite good.

    Nobody is more off-brand than Saab. Although I think the least effective branding has got to be Dodge. Dodge wants to be a mainstream player but brand themselves as macho outsiders.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I’m torn between Porsche, for the reasons given by Mr. Farago, and VW. Not exactly the “people’s car” that it started out as. I don’t see anything in their lineup that harkens back to their roots. At least Porsche still makes the 911 and the Boxter. Yeah, VW brought back the Beetle, but it isn’t anything like the original Beetle other than a similar shape. The Touareg and Phaeton are built for what reason?

    I’ll reserve my most on target vote for tomorrows anticipated QOTD.

  • avatar

    I’m just short of a fanboy, but Subaru’s got my vote. They’ve really fallen off-message and ever since building the SUV they always stood against they’ve been tumbling downhill in terms of brand integrity.

    However, I can’t entirely blame them because it seems the market has evolved past the point where Subaru’s old ideals were highly marketable. Everybody’s got an AWD/4WD option now and SUVs are shrinking to more reasonable proportions, stacking the Outback and Forester up against some very strong competition. The Impreza still stands on it’s own in my mind, as an AWD small car, but the mileage is rubbish and the WRX is overpriced, especially considering the MS3 and SRT4.

    The only brand-unique proposition they have is the boxer engine, but nobody seems to care about the dynamics of driving (lower center of gravity, etc.). I’m crossing my fingers; if they can come just a little further downmarket without getting cheap, I think they can salvage themselves and recreate the magic.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Any suggestions for tomorrow’s “project car from hell”?

  • avatar
    Zarba

    1) Acura
    2) VW
    3) Porsche

    Chrysler is too easy to nominate. They’re not just lost, they’re invisible.

  • avatar
    L47_V8

    John R :
    February 13th, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    [Naming Chrysler would be a cop out to this question]

    I vote for Mitsu. They only have 1 car that anyone could possibly want, 2 if you count the soon to be Ralliart, the GTS Lancer is okay.

    There could be hope if they follow through on that sportback concept.

    I certainly see your point, and four years ago (about the time the Endeavor and current Galant were launched, and the Diamante and Montero models killed), I would agree completely. Mitsubishi had a full lineup and a definite place in the world in the mid- and late-1990s. Then… Well, let’s just say GM has nothing on Mitsubishi’s quick and very painful evacuation of US market share. Now, however, I feel they’re on the rebound. Lazily facelifted ’09 Galant notwithstanding, the Lancer lineup is a credible small car with tons of tech for a great price, the Outlander (despite selling to almost nobody) is a well-reviewed SUV with a discernible mission, and the coming 2010 Concept-ZT-based Galant should restore the midsize to its mid- and late-90s place. There’s also heavy talk of a smaller, lighter, sportier AWD Eclipse based on the current Lancer platform to replace the bloated fleet-queen we have now (note the Concept-RA from Detroit this year). They’ve got a decent plan for the future, and good investment in product. I would say keep your eyes open for good things from Mitsubishi, and only time will tell if the public bites.

    My vote goes to Subaru. They had a nearly-unchallenged niche carved out as little as two model years ago. Since then, they’ve launched a redesigned Tribeca that wants desperately to be a rental-ready Pacifica, the Toyota-rific new Impreza line, and have managed to bungle the near-heavenly Legacy (I think the 2004 Legacy is one of the best looking recent midsize sedans) into a finned, gilled, hole-ridden blight. The future holds Toyota-based models, and the capacity being left open at their plant by their entirely lacking models is being taken up by a revived Celica with AWD and a Subaru boxer engine, of all things! Dumb, dumb, dumb.

  • avatar

    Paul Niedermeyer

    Saturn. None of the above comes even close. Saturn was conceived to be one thing only: to prove that Detroit could build an efficient small car to compete with the Civic and Corolla. And now they’re selling 5,000lb CUV’s.

    Shoot, Paul, you beat me to it. Except you neglect one thing: it was “the practical person’s sporty car.” Cool-looking. Fast and flat on corners. Very stable at high speeds, like 100mph. I was on a Saturn listserve from around ’93 well into the ’00s. But what had been a very active listserve began to decline in ’96 or so, after they dumbed the thing down, and it really began to peter out in the late’90s, early ’00s.

  • avatar

    Yeah, VW brought back the Beetle, but it isn’t anything like the original Beetle other than a similar shape.

    In fact, it’s the opposite. The original was all about practicality and disregarded style. As a result, it became an icon of practicality. Easy to work on. Economical. Despite small size, fairly reasonable luggage space. Relatively low maintenance. Simple to a fault. The New Beetle is a totally impractical fashion statement. No luggage space. You might as well get a Miata. Not particularly economical, though not bad I suppose.

    Not to steal Paul Niedermeyer’s thunder here, but I vote for Scion, given what they did to the xB. For those who don’t remember or didn’t yet frequent this site, Paul N had an excellent editorial on that months ago, which should be searchable.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    One more: GMC – The Acadia is neither a truck nor “professional grade”.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    how did the forester become the vehicle of choice for lesbians – was it the sturdy styling?

    well I dont know if they ever had plot but my vote is for Suzuki.

  • avatar
    kjc117

    Subaru has not lost their way. They still produce all wheel drive vehicles. They needed to increase their market share, sales, and profit. They needed an SUV because that was were the market was headed. Now, their designer screwed up but the B9 was not a bad SUV. They improved this year’s B9 look, engine, and C pillar.

    The new Impreza is more refined to capture more sales from the mainstream public. Subaru can not survive in today’s auto market with quicky, loud, basic vehicles.

    VW has lost its way with 40k Passats, 50k Touregs, No CUV, No small high MPG car. Peoples car? Pfffffffttt….
    This was VW Group decision though, to chase the high profit Lambo, Bentley, and Buggatti. Leaving VW to almost being invaded by the Arabs.

  • avatar
    Jonathon

    I’ll put in another vote for Saturn. The started with a clean slate and managed to screw it up in a little over a decade. They’ve gone from “A different kind of car company. A different kind of car” to being just another brand in GM’s muddled lineup.

    First they ignored the brand by neglecting to give it anything new, so it simply stagnated for a while. Then they gave it some warmed-over clones of Chevy models (and not exactly Chevy’s best models). Then they ditched those and decided to move upmarket and bring in the Opels instead.

    You could argue that Saturn never had much of a plot to start with, but they’ve managed to lose it in a remarkably short time.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Oldsmobile

  • avatar
    davey49

    I’ll vote for Saturn and Pontiac. Saturn is the new Mercury and I’m not quite sure the point of Pontiac.
    A better question might be; Which automakers still “have the plot” as I think less have one than don’t.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    Chrysler seems to have a plot. unfortunately its about Six feet deep.

  • avatar

    Acura is clearly lost.
    In their hotly-contested segment, the Acura brand is all about…wait…thinking…

    And I’d be so bold as to suggest that Honda itself could loose its way.

    The new Accord is so large as to be an un-Honda. The Pilot and the Ridgeline are not of Honda’s roots, really. The Odyssey is not the essence of what a Honda is: A minivan? Please.

    Cars like the Civic (which I own) and the Si, sure. Bring on the CR-Z and the cool hybrid coupe and I’m on board. Otherwise? Be careful Honda, or you’ll become passé.

    Paul Niedermeyer says “grow or die”. Fair enough. I’d say loose your focus and risk dying. Perhaps it’s a matter of finding the right balance between the two.

  • avatar

    I’ve got to agree with Jonny. Subaru. A week or two ago I nominated them as the company most likely to disappear from the American market, if the most recent trends continue.

    I’d have said Mitsubishi, but if their missteps over the last decade couldn’t kill them, I don’t know what can. And the new Lancer indicates that they’ve found a road map.

  • avatar
    B.C.

    I’d have said Mitsubishi, but if their missteps over the last decade couldn’t kill them, I don’t know what can. And the new Lancer indicates that they’ve found a road map.

    Mitsu has two things going for them: 1) membership in the Mitsubishi keiretsu and 2) the Evo. I’ll posit that the Evo alone is what keeps Mitsu on people’s radars; otherwise they’d be just another marginal mass-market brand like, say, Suzuki or something.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Mercedes. There isn’t a niche for which they won’t develop an overpriced, unreliable product.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Frank, my apologies. I was distracted and didn’t see “Routan” and made the incorrect conclusion.

    Honda is what Toyota should be and Lexus is what Acura should be. Toyota has lost focus, Acura never really had it to begin with and too many of their cars are also-rans.

  • avatar

    I’d say pretty much everyone except Ferrari.

  • avatar
    eh_political

    Only one passing mention of Jeep. I think the brand is getting off waay too lightly under the circumstances.

    Spin it off to stand alone, and you have an American Porsche in the making–or HD, choose your allusion.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    FERRARI ?!?!?! look everybody knew that ferrari made glorious expensive engines and the rest of the car came for free, now look them with their fancy pants designs and hyperspace acceleration and NSX ease of use> damn your eyes, I say!!!!

  • avatar

    VW.

    None of the old reliability. 20+ Cars on the Special “Seriously-Dude,-Don’t-EVER-Buy-These-F**king-Cars”-List from Consumer Reports.

    Trying too hard to be Audi. Ignoring their locus in the family of brands.

    Fatter, heavier, less fun (save the IRS in the GTI) and more expensive.

    They’re supposed to be the European Toyota, exc. with better, neater, IKEA+JeNeSaisQuoifergnugen-ish design. If they’d stop focusing on the wrong damn things, maybe they could make good, solid cars again.

    And the MkV Jetta looks like a Corolla. The bunny is only saved this by the smaller form factor and the hatch.

    => why willman is an ex-vw customer.

  • avatar
    big_gms

    I’ll throw in my 2 cents here…

    I vote for Saturn. They were very focused in the beginning, attempting to build simple, quality American small cars to effectively compete with Japanese small cars. Today, they’re all over the place, with the majority of their models not even close to the original concept. What does Saturn represent today? I sure as hell don’t know. What are they thinking with the Outlook? What were they thinking when they brought out the now defunct and universally ignored Relay? And now the Astra’s here, a European car built in Europe which is completely at odds with the original Saturn concept. The best thing GM could do is try to find a cost effective and timely way to kill off Saturn. It’s just one of the things that’s dragging GM down, and I predict it will continue to do so at an ever increasing rate.

    I don’t understand why some think Cadillac has lost the plot or moved downmarket. If anything, they’ve changed focus to better compete in today’s luxury car segment. BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, etc. have redefined the fundamental concept of what a luxury car is. Cadillac probably concluded (correctly, I think) that they needed to adapt to the realities of the marketplace or they were literally in grave danger of becoming irrelevant. As much as I love the “old school” Cadillacs of yesteryear, they simply don’t cut it in the luxury car market today. The Escalade seems a little out of place in that context, but then again it does seem to appeal at least a little bit to the few old schoolers left who prefer a traditional large American luxury vehicle as opposed to something with a more international flavor like the rest of Cadillac’s models.

  • avatar
    RayH

    Saturn in a big way. 1991, make small car that steals some import buyers and a dealer experience matched only by the then-new Lexus, check. Word of mouth, more sales, more import buyers. Car is halfways reliable, buy another, tell more friends. 1996/1997 don’t seem to be as reliable, but keep buying due to great experience with past ones… 1998 need a larger car, buy a LS200…. 2000 realize LS is an absolute piece of shi*. By 2002, as cars should be getting more reliable as they reach the end of the model cycle, they were the worst. Alienate rest of loyal customers with ion/ion coupe with the steering feel of…. nothing.
    Last hope for conquest sales on a consistent basis, all gone. The Astra is the nicest $12000 car you can get for $16000. The Aura might be okay but isn’t compelling enough to win back those who abandoned Saturn in early 2000′s. Vue… the original Torrent/Equinox. Finally the… Outlook is it? Not even close to whatever customer base they have left wants.
    Saturn, a car company that was something special, GM’s last chance to woo import buyers.

  • avatar
    mykeliam

    Honda is what Toyota should be and Lexus is what Acura should be. Toyota has lost focus, Acura never really had it to begin with and too many of their cars are also-rans.
    Back in the late 80′s when the car magazines were still relevant and they were still a little objective, Acura was the sh*t. The Integra was priced under 15k, the Legend was around 25k and they were good freakin’ cars! There was no equal! also-rans -meh! Today the only thing that Acura has is the small ute, and it kinda sucks. They’ve abandoned the small car and are starting to let the others rot on the vine.

  • avatar
    zenith

    GMC definitely needs to go back to its roots as GM’s REAL truck.

    Yes, they shared body shells with Chevy, but the GMC always had the stronger frame, springs , engines–bigger 6s, including that massive V6 of the 60s that was basically the 348/396/427/454 big block with 2 cylinders lopped off, available Buick straight 8s and Pontiac 347 V8s when Chevy couldn’t be had with an 8 of any kind.

    Also, you could get more and better-looking bling on the fancy models than anything available from Chevy.

    The wimpmobile Acadia needs to be badged a Chevy;the heaviest-duty Suburbans, dual-wheel 1-tons, etc. and all medium duties taken away from Chevy and made GMC exclusive.

    Finally, go back to dedicated GMC dealers. The “serious truck” doesn’t belong with Pontiac and Buick except in small-population areas where a separate GMC makes no economic sense and full-line GM (or at least full-line minus Caddy) has been the rule for quite some time.

  • avatar
    autoacct628

    Surprising that no one mentioned Ford….

    Maybe they are making cars that meet their “plot”, perhaps it is just that their ‘plot’ is not relevant to the market anymore.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    I’d cast my vote for VW. Since they’ve tried to move up-market in North America and become more trendy and “stylish”, their very name has become an oxymoron.

    My 1984 VW Rabbit diesel was an ugly little box, but it was very reliable and easy to repair. For example, I changed the radiator and all the glow-plugs in my landlord’s driveway in below-freezing temperatures using only hand tools. New Volkswagens? You can’t even find the correct “VW 505.00 spec” oil for the TDI without a trip to the VW dealer.

    Cadillac or Lincoln are both contenders as well, IMO. I don’t care what kind of spin their PR people put on it, or how much profit they make from them, Caddy and Lincoln should never have put their badges on a pickup truck. I’m referring to the Lincoln Mark LT and Cadillac Escalade EXT.

    BTW, the question has been posed several times in the forums why both GMC and Chevrolet sell light-duty trucks and vans. My understanding is that GMC trucks were paired with GM dealers that didn’t sell Chevrolet, so that they’d have a truck brand to sell. Presumably GM dealers that don’t offer Chevy sell the more “upscale” GM brands, so it would make sense to me that the Cadillac Escalade EXT should’ve been a GMC. Similarly, the Lincoln Mark LT would’ve made more sense badged as a Mercury, if Mercury made any sense….

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    As a classic Chevy truck owner (’58 fleetside), I can attest to Zenith’s description of what GMC used to be. Their trucks always had the slightly better/more advanced suspension and engine, were available with more standard features, and had more chrome, etc. than the equivalent Chevy. Basically, GMC trucks got the V8 as an option then five years later you could get it on the Chevy 1/2 ton (though most didn’t, because if you were buying the Chevy truck it was because you were trying to save money, and the straight six was good enough otherwise you would have bought the GMC truck).

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Saab. No question.

    The marketing and production missteps have already been outlined above — quite well, in fact.

    But my opinion of why Saab has “lost it” — mind-bogglingly bonkers “lost it” — comes from personal experience. See, sadly, I own one. Or more accurately, my wife owns one and I endure it (2006 Saab 9/3, purchased new a year and a half ago).

    First — build quality. The once quirky, charming little Swedish niche car is now a squeaky rattletrap. Big dip in the road? Headliner creaks. Railroad track crossing? Dash shakes violently. Mild surface imperfections? Droning rattle in the left rear door and in the sunroof cover.

    Second — quirks have turned into meltdowns under GM management. To wit: The CD player/changer. My wife informed me several weeks ago that the Saab’s CD player quit working. I get in, sure enough, it’s true; CDs no longer play (outdoor temperature, 22F). So we bring it to the dealer that weekend and tell him of the problem. With a smirk, he says, “Yeah, they won’t play when it’s cold. We’ll order you a new CD player and install it in a couple weeks.”

    I’m stunned. It’s SWEDISH. Made in Sweden. That’s what? Right up there by Norway! Look, it’s cold there, trust me. These are the people in blue and yellow jerseys and ice skates who wipe up the rink with our Olympic hockey team. They know cold.

    How can a car built where the annual snowfall makes Buffalo, NY look like Miami, FL have features that are known to fail IN THE COLD?

    Third — meltdowns turn catastrophic. Not two weeks after the CD fiasco, my wife was driving to work and every idiot light in the car went off like Apollo 13. While piloting down a busy 4-laner, she called the dealer on her cell and asks what to do, “Everything’s lit up! Traction control, service engine, stability control, ABS…”)

    “Maam, is there a place where you can pull over?”

    “Yes.”

    “Do it now.”

    “Okay, I’m stopped.”

    “Turn the car off and turn it on again.”

    “Okay.”

    “Are the lights off?”

    “Yes. It looks fine now.”

    “This happens a lot when it’s cold out. Be sure to bring it in if the lights come on and stay on.”

    COLD OUT!? Not to belabor a point, but the car is built in SWEDEN! Can you feel the wind and ice off the North Sea? Can you see the moose standing in the middle of the road? Sweden!

    This, after we’ve already had all the sensors replaced for the stability control system. This, after finding out that Saab’s 3-year no-charge maintenance only covers half the visits (long story).

    This, after we asked if a remote start could be added to the car and were told no, it’s impossible on a Saab, thanks to where the unique-tto-Saab ignition location (between the seats). No remote start possible on a vehicle made in SWEDEN?! Where I guess the locals don’t mind not being able to waste gas in order not to freeze when it’s 0 degrees outside and your car’s been sitting in a parking lot all day?

    This after my wife sat for 2 1/2 hours in the dealer’s service waiting room while the new CD was being installed with assurances every ten minutes that, “It’s only going to be another ten minutes.”

    So, yeah. Saab. It’s lost its way. It no longer knows what it is, where it’s from, or what it’s for.

    Consider this a cautionary tale. A Saab story with a warning. Stay away, friends. Stay very far away from this brand.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Wouldn’t it be easier to figure out who HASN’T left the farm?

    How about Land Rover?

    The LR series is a departure in many ways. They lost the traditional names AND traditional looks. Does anyone think “safari” when they see a Landy anymore?

    It may be working for them, which is even worse. It could be a decade before they give us another practical SUV rather than a luxo barge. Even if the new ones have all the capabilities, they lost the spirit.


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