By on May 8, 2010

Today, we’re setting the way-back machine for 1999 for an ABC “exclusive” behind the scenes of General Motors. Rick Wagoner is in charge, market share is dropping and the Aztek still hasn’t emerged from its camouflage. It’s a more innocent time, as evidenced by ABC’s breathless, toothless reportage, and it makes for good nostalgia and good schadenfreude. Does it get any better than that?

And just for reference, here’s a chart of GM’s monthly market share from 1992 through last month.

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24 Comments on “Inside General Motors, Circa 1999...”

  • avatar

    Just because the segment doesn’t grind your axe doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile or interesting. It shows just how much thought and work goes into creating even cars some people consider mediocre.
    The Aztek would have looked better if they’d left the camo on, or at least used the camo’s headlight and grill shape.
    The braking test presented a false choice, a full on panic stop or one with ABS. Whatever happened to pumping the brakes?

  • avatar

    A wonderful reminder that even when things were starting to go tits up for GM, they still were doing a lot of things right back in those days.

  • avatar

    When a company does a handful of things “right” against a mountain of wrongdoings and/or laughable incompetence, it’s hardly worth mentioning. And certainly not worth a breathless media “exclusive.”

    Incidentally, earlier today I drove by my local Gov’t Motors store, Reliable Chevrolet. I would usually have no reason whatsoever to stop… until I saw a banner proudly proclaiming “We have paid back our government loans! In full! With interest!”

    It was worth stopping for, if only to take a quick cameraphone pic to record the absurdity in pixelated posterity. Oh, and also to count no fewer than 13 salesmen standing around, praying for “ups” on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Just when people should be seeing their tax rebates in the mail, and may have some cash to spend on a new car.

    By comparison, the Hyundai store across Coors Blvd was packed.

    Memo to Whitless: you were forced to pull your deceitful TV ads after just one week. Perhaps you think your lies about the loans being “repaid in full!” can work at the more personal dealer level… but it sure doesn’t seem to be. And that thrills me to no end.

  • avatar

    Ten years from now, these video clips will show how the largest corporation in America was destined for failure.

  • avatar

    Wow, what in the world caused that huge spike down in market share in mid-1998?

    • 0 avatar

      June ’98: A strike by the United Auto Workers has forced General Motors to shut down 25 of its North American plants, affecting nearly 90 percent of its production capabilities.

    • 0 avatar

      If that strike caused it, I remember that. As the strike stretched on, a few friends of mine picked up things like snow mobiles, ATVs, motorcycles, golf carts, ect from UAW workers who were trying to raise some cash during the strike.

  • avatar

    Personally, I”d like to see more anti-GM articles here. In the past couple of days I have only seen a story about the decline of the Suburban, GMAC changing their name to Ally, vitriol toward Bob Lutz and an “inside” look at GM circa 1999 meant to demean the company. Oh wait, never mind!

  • avatar
    Carlos Villalobos

    Maybe If they had shown the Aztek back then, the disaster could have been avoided

  • avatar

    What’s creepier than General Motors Present? General Motors Past!

  • avatar

    Personally I think GM needs to get slammed here.

    Too often in the lamesteam press we see these kind of weak puff pieces.
    This company sucks. We want our car companies to be entreprenerial and hard-charging, and instead they act like the post office with engines.
    GM is a bunch of boring losers and needs to go down.
    And by the way, what happened to the deathwatches? I guess this company did die, but the govt gave it another life like in a stupid video game.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    I think I see the problem. Even back in 1999, Cosby sweaters and oversized white double-breasted suits had been out of style for ten years. If GM’s designers were this out of touch, then that’s part of what was wrong with their vehicles. I’ve always thought that good design that appeals to the world can’t come out of a city like Detroit.

    • 0 avatar

      Respectfully, that’s a lot of nonsense. Good design comes from the mind.

    • 0 avatar
      blue adidas


      Sure it does. But good design also comes from being exposed to the right environment and the right inspiration. The best designers that I know care about everything from the way they dress to the decor of their office or studio, to the culture of neighborhood in which they live. Good design doesn’t come from a depressed bombed-out city that lacks a talent pool. I actually think that GM is on the upswing. But it’s with products that are influenced by other parts of the world outside of Detroit.

  • avatar

    I really enjoyed this look back in time. Bill Clinton was president and I was 50 pounds lighter. And the Grand Prix was a status symbol car for a certain group of people.

  • avatar

    Now we have those responsible caught on film. :)

    Actually, it’s an interesting piece. The ABS test was awesome.

  • avatar

    I interned at GM Design through college in 2005-06. It is amazing how incredibly the SAME that tech center is down to the exact same people. The Aztek designer was featured in that video, and randomly ended up being my professor.[I am no longer involved in the auto industry]

  • avatar

    They have a holodeck.

  • avatar

    How much did GM pay for this commercial?
    Schadenfreude? Don´t you have an english name for that?

  • avatar

    “Good design doesn’t come from a depressed bombed-out city that lacks a talent pool.”
    And we all know that GM only employs those from inner city Detroit.

  • avatar

    Ah, 1999. Back then I was a diehard owner and GM could do no wrong in my eyes.

    How things have changed. Two terrible trucks and a disastrous SUV experience later and I’ll never buy another Government Motors vehicle again in my lifetime. There are just SOOOO many better choices out there for the money with better quality, reliability and value.

    When GM is getting passed up by Hyundai and Subaru (nevermind the Ford, Honda, Toyota, Nissan and even those German makes), by friends and coworkers you know GM just cannot be in a position of surival.

  • avatar

    Great find! I would do terrible terrible things to get inside that warehouse with all the concepts over the years. To have a book of all the keys..oh my! :)

  • avatar


    From a purely analytical standpoint..
    I have nothing positive to say towards GM as a whole.

    From a completely design oriented standpoint.. talk about design. I wish half of that got to the showrooms. There is still no reason why a mid-engined Vette hasn’t been produced. Its been the herald of the name since inception.

    But Alas.. this is GM.
    And to see how fantastic their cars are look at the many awards theyve won from Consumer DIGEST and.. Consumer REPORTS! Ta-DA!

    Talk about depressing.

    Then I checked out the “Is this love” song with some nice footage of Vettes. Made me happier.

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