By on November 19, 2009

A paper-bagger if ever there were one... (courtesy:trucktrend.com)

When Pontiac’s infamously retina-searing Aztek pops up in popular auto industry analysis, it’s usually as little more than a throwaway punchline. So credit Thebigmoney.com‘s Matthew DeBord for trying to leave the Thesaurus entry for “ugly” out of a recent piece dedicated entirely to one of the great modern styling miscalculations. Unfortunately, his admirable restraint serves only to further a wholly unsupportable thesis:

GM needs to remember the Aztek, because it represents the kind of risk-taking design that the post-bankruptcy firm will need to go forward. The temptation for the New General will be to copy successful market formulas, rather than try to define new market segments.

DeBord’s fundamental error is his misguided belief that the Aztek was a pioneer in the burgeoning crossover segment:

The Aztek, introduced in 2001, was an attempt to do something entirely different… It’s easy to berate GM for always failing to see where the market is going. But in this instance it was the first to recognize the need for a new kind of vehicle to fill the crossover segment, which would grow rapidly in subsequent years. A crossover is basically a 21st-century station wagon. SUVs are usually built on the same platform used for trucks—and they often feel that way when you drive them. They also inhale gas. Crossovers, by contrast, are built on platforms used for cars, so they have better road manners, and they’re more fuel-efficient. There were some crossover-ish vehicles before the Aztek, such as the Subaru Forester, but these were seen as neo-wagons, or small/compact SUVs. With the Aztek, GM created something that had SUV size, minus the SUV stigma. An innovative GM? Well, yes. GM can sometimes be, for all its detractors, troublingly ahead of the curve. And the Aztek was first in this mold.

Er, no. The Lexus RX is, without question the pioneering model of the modern CUV segment (although proto-crossover precedent has existed for decades), having debuted in 1998. Had DeBord taken a minute to check Wikipedia’s “Crossover SUV” article, he might have saved his readers and ours from having to gaze once again upon the Aztek’s grim countenance. Instead, his entire thesis falls apart.

The Aztek’s emergence no fewer than three years (or one development cycle) after the RX in 2001, more than indicates that GM essentially copied the RX in concept. In fact, the Aztek’s only “innovation” was an overemphasis on “lifestyle” branding that was an unfortunate hallmark of the Ron Zarrella-era General Motors. And which saddled the Aztek with epically unlovable styling and doomed it to its current status as a rolling mark of shame. If there’s a lesson here, it’s that GM should copy innovative designs early, and steadily improve them instead of over-marketing them into niche irrelevance or worse.

Unfortunately, DeBord’s lessons from the Aztek experiment couldn’t be more different. And the implications for GM’s future are troubling.

The Aztek didn’t work, but it demonstrated that GM had the capacity to invent a product that people didn’t know they wanted. The General can still do this—the forthcoming Chevy Volt-extended-range electric car could be a game-changer for the company. But it needs to keep doing it.

And even though it might fail miserably … well, that’s the auto industry. Success is never guaranteed. But blandly hewing to what has worked, falling victim to fear rather than having the confidence to completely miss the mark from time to time, will not bring GM back to its glory days. Or even, someday, enable the company to return to profitability and pay back the taxpayer. So remember the Aztek. It may not have been great. But it gave birth to a new idea in the auto business, and that’s gold.

Or, remember the Aztek as a colossal missed experience, rife with the usual lessons of old GM… and a monstrous warning for Volt optimists.

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65 Comments on “Remember The Aztek!...”


  • avatar
    slateslate

    lol, thanks for mentioning this article. it was an awful article and the author’s thesis was completely misplaced. YMMV.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    As a fan of space wagons, I don’t fault the general idea of what the Aztek was aiming for.

    • 0 avatar
      paul_y

      In concept, the Aztek was a great idea. It’s just that the execution of that idea was filtered through a system of focus groups and accountants.
       
      The original Aztek concept was a much more attractive vehicle — it had the same overall features, but with far better proportions.

  • avatar
    dwford

    But blandly hewing to what has worked, falling victim to fear rather than having the confidence to completely miss the mark from time to time, will not bring GM back to its glory days.

    The author fails to realize that GM rarely HIT the mark over the past 30 years, lurching from one bland failure to another epic overreaching failure, with no consistently good product to profitably underpin the whole operation.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Actually, I’ll give GM credit for introducing another multi-segment vehicle at about the same time as the Aztek:  The Chevy Avalanche, which combines 4 + person passenger carrying ability with a true 8′ bed cargo carrying ability, and does this without making the vehicle as long as an ocean liner as most 4-door pickups are.

    I keep hoping someone will apply the Avalanche formula to a compact truck – Subaru nearly did it with the Baja, but in the end they pulled their punch and left off the Avalanche’s innovative mid gate design that allows the back seats to turn into the forward portion of a full-sized bed.  IMO this is the main thing that doomed the Baja from the start. 

    • 0 avatar
      gsp

      Avalanche had a four or six foot bed, no way was it eight feet long.  Never seen one really used as a work truck anyway, those drivers should have bought a car.

    • 0 avatar
      gsp

      Avalanche had a four or six foot bed, no way was it eight feet long.  Never seen one really used as a work truck anyway, those drivers should have bought a car.
      Aztek Rendezpoo were horrible horrible cars to drive.  My in laws had a Rendezpoo.  A rust bucket too after only five years.

    • 0 avatar
      Bunter1

      I can’t recall ever seeing an Avalanche with the midgate down…and I have been watching.  Definately caught some peoples eye but I suspaect it simply cannibalized PU and SUV sales.

      I do agree it was innovative, BTW.

      Bunter

    • 0 avatar
      superbadd75

      You can put the midgate down in an Avalanche and leave the rear window in, keeping everything closed up, and nobody will ever know just from looking. I’ve used the Avalanche to haul stuff, and its bed is a full 8ft. completely laid out. It’s innovative, and it’s a much nicer driver than a more conventional Silverado.

    • 0 avatar
      ChristyGarwood

      Martin, I invite you to a GM site called The Lab on http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/.  You should find that Avalanche formula applied to a compact truck and you can leave comments.  Enjoy!

    • 0 avatar
      starbird80

      I keep hoping someone will apply the Avalanche formula to a compact truck

       
      This is what I found missing from the Honda Ridgeline.  I suppose patents are involved.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Yes, the Avalanche rocks.

    • 0 avatar
      Bunter1

      Supperbadd-not saying noone ever puts the midgate down, but it is very rare IMO.

      Bunter

    • 0 avatar
      VictoryCabal

      I have a ’02 Avalanche, and I love it.  It does have an 8′ bed, provided you lower at least the lower portion of the midgate.  It wouldn’t be a good worktruck for someone who needs a fullsized bed all the time, but it’s great if you need one occasionally.   It’s sort of like having a crew cab pickup with extended bed, but without the turning radius or parking issues.
      Mine has almost 150k miles on it and, aside from a rash of switch-illuminating bulbs burning out, has proved to be stout and reliable transportation.  It hauls, carrys, tows, and cruises without complaint.
      It even ice-races: http://www.svr-scca.com/fark/IMG_0634s.jpg  Put on a set of Blizzaks and that thing hoons!

    • 0 avatar
      VictoryCabal

      Hmmm, I don’t know why TTAC adds a space to the end of my hyperlink making it 404, but that is annoying.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Two other points: the Aztek was joined by a Buick sibling. The Rendezvous was much more obviously a clone of the RX, but it could never sustain the latter’s selling prices over its lifetime. Both the Aztek and the Rendezvous were based on the execrable U-body minivan platform.

  • avatar
    hapless

    The Lexus RX was a very expensive compact car.  It was bound to be a niche vehicle, innovative or not.
    The Aztek was an attempt to make a CUV that rivaled SUVs on their home turf: the family truckster.  The truck-like, youth-associated image that soccer moms craved, with the minivan practicality that was actually required.
    If it was a clone, it was better thought out than the original.

  • avatar
    John Holt

    The tragedy of the Aztek was that it was a practically brilliant car that was absolutely hideous – and didn’t have to be.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I actually looked at getting one and the reason I didn’t is that it really wasn’t that practical: the space was compromised by the design, and it was actually less fuel-efficient than the Venture/Montana.
       
      That it didn’t actually drive well just made it all the worse.  There are crossovers that blend the best of truck, wagon and minivan (the Taurus X and RAV/4 come to mind); the Aztek was the worst of those worlds, all rolled into one car.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    The author has made a profound mistake in believing that the Aztek was intended all along to be what it ultimately became. It is not GM that was “inventive”, the Aztek was invented by accident, through sheer incompetence.

    It was a failure of astronomical proportions, on so many levels, in so many departments. The marketing department failed to understand the demographic, the r&d failed to execute the brief, absolutely no one with final say so had the integrity to gut the project when it must have become bvious for all parts that the Aztek was a train wreck failure to come. And the one okeying the design without further revisions should be jailed for criminal negligence.

    The Aztek is, to my mind, perhaps GM’s biggest deadly sin. It epitomizes exactly everything that went wrong with the company, in every way. It is a textbook example of GM screwing it up. It should be teached in classes on how not to manage a business. Calling it “inventive” is an insult to all creative and inventive people.

    • 0 avatar
      DPerkins

      +1 Ingvar.

      The Aztek SHOULD be remembered, as in a case study, so that the mountain of mistakes that occured in its development will not be repeated.   Bean counters forcing design changes, faulty (bogus?) focus testing with consumers, poor marketing/pricing strategy (they targeted young buyers who couldn’t afford one IF they had wanted one), etc. etc.

      The author ‘s thesis is very, very flawed.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    The Aztek was a great idea, the execution was a bit lacking. People still love them for their functionality, and I’m actually a bit of a fan myself, although I like other ugly cars like the gremlin, pacer and thing. I never could understand Pontiac’s fascination with body cladding. It was like the more the better as far as they were concerned.

  • avatar
    Runfromcheney

    Although I agree with the criticism you present to the article, I must point out that he has the right point: GM needs to take risks if they are to ever rebound. Ford’s renassance in the 80s from an also-ran to a world class manufacturer occured only because Don Petersen and his team took risks with their aero design experiment, which payed off big time, as the aero Thunderbird and Taurus were overwhelming successes.
     
    Like it has been mentioned before, making cars that are just as good as the competition is not good enough. GM has a major reputation issue to wrestle with, and as we have seen, nobody gives a shit that the Chevrolet Malibu is as good as the Camry and Accord. The only way that GM will ever rebound is if they take huge risks, rolling out products like the market has never seen before (as was the case with Ford and the Taurus). If they don’t do that, and just keep building “just as good” cars and whining about the perception gap, they are never going to get anywhere. I am pretty sure that the majority of the American public is just fed up with GM and would rather see them fail than succeed.

  • avatar
    carve

    People have forgotten: the Aztek concept car was actually pretty good looking.   Well, relatively speaking anyway. It wasn’t too bad…much “sportier” looking. Then they tried to throw it on a minivan platform on the cheap. What they wound up with is a car with all the deplorable traits and handling of their mini vans with worse gas mileage, less interior space due to the sloping back, and some of the worst styling ever. “Image” was the only thing the aztek offered that the vans didn’t, and the image was was joke.  The “risk taking” was in their half-assing an otherwise outstanding concept, and that is NOT the kind of risk taking GM needs to be doing now. 

    I agree that GM will never crawl out of its hole with “me too” cars. They’ve continualy targeted Honda and Toyota (but tried to do the same thing for less money), and once the product was released Toyonda was already a generation ahead, because they DIDN’T REST ON THEIR LAURALS. To be successful, GM will have to make cars that are BETTER THAN Toyonda.

    Oh yeah- the Aztek will be a collectors item one day, picking up the mantle of the Edsel.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      Oh, I really doubt that. The Edsel was basically a Ford or Mercury, depending on whether you got the big or small model (in ’58 anyway); in 59 or 60 it was a Ford. You got a usable car with some weird trim pieces, and the cachet of lower production, especially with the 1960 models. But the stupid and ugly Aztek…I won’t live long enough to ever see one at a cruise night, and neither will you.

    • 0 avatar
      DweezilSFV

      Sorry: minivans are already moving into the old car hobby scene and there’s even a club for K Cars in L.A. It will only take a couple more decades and the Aztek will be taking the field at old car shows too.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Remember the Alamo?  Really??  Isn’t that kind of like screaming “Remember Little Big Horn.”  The battle was lost!

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    The Azteks ugliness is vastly overstated.  Sure, it wasn’t and isn’t a very pretty car, but I think if it were released today the reaction would not be nearly as violent as it was back in 2001.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      Perhaps this is because Chris Bangle and his “talented” compatriots at Honda and Toyota are doing their damnedest to uglify the automobile.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniorMint

      The Azteks ugliness is vastly overstated.
      Agreed, I feel like the camaraderie people find in extreme bashing of this vehicle reeks of desperation.  “I think the Aztek is the ugliest thing EVER CREATED IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND! I’m car-savvy!  Let’s be best friends!”
      And let’s be honest – anyone who thinks the Aztek is truly the ugliest vehicle ever manufactured just hasn’t done enough research.

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    When I went on holiday to California,  I got to see a Pontiac Aztek in the flesh.
    The only car in history that looks like it’s been in a car crash before it left the factory.
     

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Funny that the “Passenger Pidgon” editorial and the Aztek editorial should show up in such a short period of time…
    Home in Detroit last Christmas, we were driving about and got to talking about how the Aztek had become the poster-boy for appalingly wierd, and then we got to wondering where they all were … seeming had fallen off the radar screen … then, sensitized, we started seeing them amongst traffic … what was interesting was that 75% of them had gay-pride stickers of some sort on them (“not that there’s anything wrong with that.”)
    Oh, and while it was better looking, naming the Buick version a name that could be misunderstood and pronounced as “Ren-devis” is almost as bad as Merkur giving a car an alpha-numeric name that could be confused and misunderstood as “X(e)RATI”

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    To some degree I agree with Toxicroach, it was painfully ugly, but frankly the publics ability to swallow nasty looking vehicles is pretty impressive.
    My personal feeling is that very few people had, or have, any use for a minivan (anyone can see that is what it really was) that only carries 4 passengers, 5 in a pinch,  and can’t swallow big clumsy objects because some knothead sloped the back end.
    They just bought well designed minivans instead.
     
    Bunter

  • avatar
    Bocatrip

    Jay Leno describes the Aztec as a future classic.

  • avatar
    don1967

    The AMC Eagle was arguably the first CUV, in fact if you look closely you can see a little Aztek inspiration in its rear quarter window and hatch slope.   Just don’t look too long on a full stomach.
     
    http://www.stationwagon.com/gallery/pictures/1988_AMC_Eagle_2.jpg

  • avatar
    Via Nocturna

    Proof positive that lifestyle marketing is a sure road to ridicule and derision, at least in the auto industry. Fiatsler, I’m looking at you and your “uptown luxury” and “My Name is Ram” hoopla.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    The vehicle to compare to the Aztek in 2001 is not the Avalanche, but the PT Cruiser. The most ironic thing about the Aztek and PT Cruiser is that GM vastly overestimated the market for the Aztek, while Chrysler grossly underestimated the popularity of the PT Cruiser. Maybe if both GM and Chrysler had done a little better market research, the Aztek would never have been designed and built in the manner it was and there wouldn’t have been shortages of PT Cruisers when they were introduced.

    In fact, Chrysler’s version of the Aztek, the Caliber, has sold well enough to stay in production for a long time (and it’s universally despised worse than the Aztek ever was). I always envisioned the original Aztek concept as sort of a much better looking Caliber. If GM had stuck with the original idea, maybe the Aztek wouldn’t now be remembered as a bad joke that many believe ultimately took Pontiac down.

  • avatar
    Bruce from DC

    I remember reading the original article praising the Aztek as ‘innovative” and celebrating a culture of “risk-taking” etc., etc.   After I finished it, I was left scratching my head.
    There is a difference between “taking a risk” and doing something stupid, which the author of that article seems to overlook.  Doing something stupid is <i>always</i> taking a risk, but taking a risk is not always stupid.
    The author mentions some of Apple Computer’s failures but leaves out the most important point: Apple learned from its mistakes.  The “Lisa” computer (Apple’s first model after the very successful Apple II) was a failure (mostly because it was too expensive, IIRC), but fixing the mistakes of the Lisa lead to the McIntosh, a big success.
    What’s significant about Big Detroit, is it’s seemingly persistent inability to learn from its failures in the last 40 years.
    So, the author of the article that Ed is commenting on gets only half of the equation right: Sure, it’s important to take risks, but it’s equally important to learn from the inevitable failures that result from taking risks.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    Remember the Aztek? Oh, indubitably. I lived in Michigan when that turd was released. Nobody bought them, so GM put them in the hands of a bunch of GM employees (and sold them, heavily incentivized, to many more GM employees) to create the illusion of market acceptance.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    GM has not identified, exploited and led in a market segment since the Corvette in the 50s.  The idea that the Aztec was the first crossover is sort of like the S-10 Blazer being the first compact SUV.  Poor execution and immediate also-ran status.  Actually, being the butt of jokes is worse than also-ran status.  I have no faith that the same crew who has not been able to shoot straight for the past 40 years will do any better going forward.

  • avatar
    p00ch

    Without the cladding and with bigger wheels. I see where BMW got their idea for the X6.

  • avatar
    Blunozer

    I’ve always viewed the Honda Element as what the Aztek would have been if it was done right.

    Both vehicles do pretty much the same thing and are marketed to the same group.  However, the Element does it more efficiently and more importantly, cheaper. 

  • avatar
    obbop

    Here in Hillbillyville I see quite a few Aztecs and the vast majority show “pride of ownership.”
    They are universally clean and shiny with very few neding obvious repairs such as dents, dings etc.
    The critters are obviously well taken care of.
    The pride of ownership is obvious, akin to how Corvettes tend to kept cleaner than the typical vehicle.
    While I see many vehicles around the Aztek’s age needing minor body repairs I do not see the same with Azteks.
    Dare I mutter that the Aztek is already a “cult car,”  a vehicle known in the used auto parts world as a “keeper car”?
    Perhaps.
    And for whatever reason I do not perceive the Aztek being as butt ugly as I used to.

  • avatar

    I know a couple people who own Azteks, and they absolutely love them and wouldn’t have anything else. I’ve ridden in both of them, and they’re really not bad vehicles – they ride well on the highway and seem to be well-made.  One of these owners, a professional photographer, actually sees its unpopular styling as a plus – I’m guessing he likes the idea of thumbing his nose at the conventional wisdom.  And would you believe that when people see what he drives, they actually find it interesting and ask him questions about it?  It’s too bad in a way that GM had to give up on it (and, ultimately, Pontiac) – I’m imagining a better-looking second generation Aztek based on the Traverse/Acadia/Enclave platform, and I’m thinking that might have been the one.

  • avatar
    venator

    The Aztek looked like an early 1980s Opel Kadett on steroids. The man who styled the front end obviously never met the man who designed the rear end.
    By the way, the first crossovers, by my definition, were the Matra Simca Rancho and the Renault 6 Rodeo.

  • avatar
    klossfam

    Remember?  Can’t we please FORGET the Aztek…I still cringe every time I see one…At least it has friends now…aka the Acura TL.

  • avatar
    geozinger


    After reading the usual derogatory comments about the Aztek’s styling which magically somehow manages to determine it’s dependability, utility, driveability, and longevity by the sheeple. Pick any three. No one on this board has lived with one or is brave enough to admit to it. I can, I even had two of them. They were great for us. 
     
    Conveniently forgetting that the Aztek scored the highest ratings on J.D. Powers new car satisfaction ratings, the Aztek is universally railed against because of it’s styling, while most folks conveniently forget about the look of contemporary and recent BMW’s, Honda’s and Toyotas, all of which have adopted the more dramatic styling elements debuted on the Aztek in 2001. There was a period of time where driving down the road in an Aztek got you more attention than if you were driving a Testarossa with a naked Pam Anderson on the hood. Well, almost.
     
    With the Versatrak AWD system, it’s fully independent suspension front and rear and four wheel disc brakes, it was a fairy sophisticated piece of machinery for the turn of the century. I’m not such a cheerleader that I would overlook the Chinese manufactured lump-of-iron 3.4 V6, that was a disappointment, and pretty crappy to boot. And the incredibly leaky HVAC system, I bought an extended factory warranty on the second one just for the fact that I knew I would go through at least one condenser coil during my time with the cars.
     
    The interior was very convenient, had great seats for four, deep door pockets with cupholders in all four doors, nice when you have a car full of ‘tweeners and their myriad soda pops and juice boxes. With the optional pull out cargo tray, you could stash your tools in hidden compartments on one side and the other could open up a space that would hold your groceries for a week. The ones equipped with the towing package had a rear air spring suspension which also had a tap for the compressed air to inflate things like bike tires or soccer balls. I know all of this because I lived with a couple of them.
     
    I love when people compare the Honda Element to the Aztek. What genius in Nagoya (or where ever they plan their cars) thought that a 3300 lb (approx.) box shaped car with an overworked 4 cylinder engine was a good idea? Don’t they ever load those things up with teenage kids, camping gear and drive up hills? You could do that easily in an Aztek.
     
    As much fun as we had with ours, once the kids got big enough (and we got out of Scouting) we gave ours up and went back to regular sedans. I still think that GM should have sold a bunch of these just as a great big f-u to the detractors: http://www.aztekrally.org/jim&loaztekhell/Tek%20from%20Hell%202.htm I sure as Hell would have gotten a chuckle out of it.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Puthuff

      No offense, but people were looking to see just what kind of person would buy such a thing. The worst styling point on the early models were the typical Pontiac wheels with three fat spokes. I still laugh thinking about how ugly they were.
      But, bravo for having the guts to come out of the Aztek owner closet.
       

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I actually did want to buy one because I happen to have a thing for odd looking cars and did appreciate the packaging.  Unlike a Saab 900 (which is a nice car, except the styling) or a Suzuki X-90 (which is a toy), what put me off wasn’t the styling but the way the car drove, drank fuel and anchored the bottom of most quality rankings.
       
      I’ll put up with ugly.  Hell, I like ugly, but I’d need something a little better than a compromised U-Body minivan (which have been losing the reliability race for years) underpinning the thing before I buy Ugly.

  • avatar
    Ion

    The Aztek should be remembered, but in the way John Howell (allegedy) has a picture of a Cimarron with a “least we forget” caption on his wall.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    My grandmother has an Aztec and loves it.  I think it’s ugly (bright yellow but thankfully one of the later ones where they painted and toned down the body cladding) but she’s 73 and will likely stop driving soon.  Would I buy it from her?  Hell yes in a heartbeat.  It’s a well cared for vehicle that I know the history on, I don’t care what

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    I liked the Aztek. 

    I test drove one a some GM hoo-hah test drive.  The ride was fine.  I liked the upright seating, and the concept of having the tent-thingie on the back was cool.  I just wasn’t into camping or anything, and I was in my sportscar phase at the time.

    But as a utility vehicle, I could see that it had possibilities.

    Disclaimer:  The above opinion was formed before I swore off GM products.  I stand by the comments, but my swear-off is an overriding factor.  Sorry GM…

  • avatar
    mungooz

    Three Aztek Stories:
    1)GM got conflicting responses from focus groups on the Aztek as did Chrysler when it proposed the semi-truck look for the RAM PU. Like Chrysler, GM decided that it was OK if some people disliked/hated the look of the thing. What they failed to note was that while the in Dodge focus groups 50% of the group might have disliked the style of the new RAM PU, 99%+ of the GM responders absolutely hated the Aztek design.
    2)The first time my wife saw an Aztek she reported to me that she had just seen an incredibly ugly SUV and that her first impulse had been to take a hammer to it and try to reshape it. I felt the same impulse when I later saw one.
    3)Whenever I would see an Aztek on the road I would think about the person driving it and always felt conflicted as to whether I should laugh or cry.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    GM is notorious for ignoring focus group response. The same thing happened with the ’91-’92 Caprice. It was derided for looking line a Hudson Hornet or the Goodyear blimp. GM went forward with it anyway and it, as assumed, didn’t take off. Within one year, they made modifications by radiusing the rear wheel openings and widening the rear axle. This helped with sales but was an expensive lesson to learn, one that could have been avoided if they listened; otherwise, why have focus groups?

    Now I know that planned foolish Buick crossover got twitted away so maybe they are learning now, who knows. The real issue is how many friggin’ crossovers do you need? 
    Let’s see, so far GM has the Traverse, Equinox, Acadia, Enclave, Terrain, SRX and an up coming “Orlando”. Ford is just as screwy with the Flex, Edge, Escape,  MKX, MKT, and a Mariner.  Keep in mind, these companies still clutch, with a death grip, their security blanket known as the SUV as well.

    For once a focus group should tell these guys that they make too damn many of these things and the segmentation is lost or at least blurred. Maybe they can help save themselves from them selves.

  • avatar

    The author fails to realize that GM rarely HIT the mark over the past 30 years, lurching from one bland failure to another epic overreaching failure, with no consistently good product to profitably underpin the whole operation.
    dwford could write GM’s epitaph: Their attention span is ridiculously short, so any product which fails to “hit” is thrown into the dustbin. Imagine if the X-cars, which were for their time a miracle of packaging, had actually been improved once the problems were sorted out? Of course it doesn’t help at all that they come up with a good concept, perhaps the Solstice/Sky twins, and cannot cook it long enough to make it viable from the start. Someone recently suggested that GM’s problem was that the bar for new products was not superiority, but simply “good enough” – the Corvette is proof that GM can, when someone puts their mind to it, produce a product which falls in the “superior” category.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    IMHO compared to the Avalanche, and in fact plenty of subsequent and current vehicles, the Aztec is relatively speaking, a beauty queen.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    @Edward
    You missed the point of the article.  It wasn’t a risk taker because it was a crossover, it was a risk taker because they were going after a specific audience with features for that audience.  He mentions nothing about this being the first crossover on the market.  In fact, it wasn’t even GM’s first crossover on the market.  But the author doesn’t make those claims.  Here is the part of the article you just completely left out of your quote.
     
    The Aztek, introduced in 2001, was an attempt to do something entirely different. It was aimed at then-twenty- and thirtysomethings who liked to hike, camp, mountain bike, and generally participate in the whole suite of Outside magazine diversions, but who might also want a young-family hauler with a bit more flash than your typical truck or SUV. So the Aztek came furnished with a host of outdoorsy options, an interior that could be configured according to the recreational preferences of customers, and an all-wheel-drive system for the snow and the mud and the slush and the rain. The design was boldly idiosyncratic, but GM figured it would attract buyers. It wound up scaring them, but at least it took no prisoners.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but GM took a risk by going after a different segment.  Look at the options that were available on the Aztek, mostly geared to versatility and outdoors lifestyle.
    Granted, I think the concept was ok looking and the production model looks terrible on the outside.  I have never been inside one, but please, have some of that journalistic integrity that Mr. Farago was talking about, although, he didn’t really have it either.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    The Aztek should have come out the size and purpose of the Vibe. Great ideas, wrong size and platform. Like the Rambler Marlin.

  • avatar
    B-Rad

    Interestingly, I know a guy who thinks the Aztek is beautiful.  Always has, probably always will.

  • avatar
    AccAzda

    Jesus…

    Comparing the Aztek as something GM wants to remember? Seriously?! GM wants / should to remember this?? — Only to never forget such a bastard of design…

    But its being compared to ANYTHING from SUBARU?! Subbie is / was a company that only made WAGONS, WAGON, WAGONS! (Even though, they touted their stuff as SUVS).

    Id also like to know…
    How a crossover can be fuel efficient.. simply because of its frame?

    Isnt its inherant size / weight its main culprit for its fuel economy?!

    Also.. as much as I do repect Honda Motor Company… Please dont compare the Element against an Aztek. The two should never meet. Aztek is some awful mistake of design.. that should have never come to light. They canned it.. while bringing the Rendevous to fruition. Where-as the Element could easily be cheaply tweaked.. and be respectable.


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