By on April 1, 2011


Even though I still think the Achieva was saddled with the very lamest car name of all time— what ether-huffing focus group OK’d that abomination?— the SCX was actually quite quick for its time, and incredibly quick for a marque that appealed primarily to octogenarians too frugal to spring for a Buick. They were fairly rare to begin with, and this is the first SCX I’ve ever spotted in a self-service wrecking yard.

It’s got the Le Bra and a fair number of “tuner” style accessories, so it’s not hard to picture the young dude who spent years screaming at Integra and SE-R owners about how his W41-powered front-wheel-drive machine was actually thee most awesome thing evar. To which the response was probably “Oldsmo-what?

185 horsepower, 2,700 pounds… and I still think it deserves to be crushed, because of that stupid name. I cringe just typing it! How could The General have sunk so low? Even bringing back the Starfire name would have been a better idea than (ugh) Achieva.

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80 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1993 Oldsmobile Achieva SCX...”


  • avatar
    M 1

    I had no idea they were only 2700 pounds. That’s kind of amazing.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      They aren’t very large inside.  I knew a few people with Grand Ams (same chassis) and they’re less roomy than, say, a modern Toyota Corolla.

      • 0 avatar
        AspenW41

        Still a LOT roomier than a 1991 Toyota Corolla. I know, I tried in a Corolla for this exact car. It felt like I gain a LOT of room for my legs.

    • 0 avatar
      Cole Balster

      Yeah, 2700lbs and 190HP, that a recipe for good times. Given today’s advancements, i would think you do a little work and get over 200HP pretty easy and have reliability with it.

      Does anyone know what junkyard this is in? I would like to purchase the WHOLE car. My dad worked for Oldsmobile back in the day, and I remember driving a few of these when I was young. It would be cool to find another today as a daily driver that’s cheap on gas, and fun.

      It looks by the author’s other posts it’s probably in the Denver, CO area. However, I looked it up on Google and there are 6-8 junkyards in the Denver area. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

      Thanks,
      Cole
      cole.balster@gmail.com

    • 0 avatar
      AspenW41

      UM,
      Correction. I own one. I weighed it on a scale at 3225 lbs. pretty close to the wieght of a late 80s to 90s 5.o LX mustang.

  • avatar

    I was also never a fan of the Achieva’s Groucho Marx face. That being said, my first new-ish car was a red 1993 Achieva SCX.  I bought it with 1,200 miles and drove it another 60,000 later in my college years and for a while when I had my first job.  I loved the power (for the time) and wasn’t even bothered by the Quad 4′s awful NVH issues.  A friend’s mother insisted that I had an exhaust leak because the stock muffler was so loud.  It also required a head gasket replacement around 45,000 miles.

    Don’t laugh – but here’s a little more background on the SCX that I wrote in 2009: http://www.autosavant.com/2009/01/29/neo-classic-car-1993-oldsmobile-achieva-scx/

  • avatar
    Jimal

    My parents purchased a ’92 Achieva new. In theory it was a nice car but there were things about it that threw up some red flags for me for the first time about GM products. The side window defroster vents in the door were a great idea… until the door panels started curling up. The wheels looked nice enough; even nicer were the replacements after the clear coat started peeling off the originals. The grey interior pieces started turning different colors. The car itself (150 hp Quad4) was a blast to drive, despite its automatic transmission. My father eventually sold the car, which popped its head gasket soon after. It was around that time that I bought my first VW and I’ve been more or less driving them ever since.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Every time I saw an Achieva, I always uttered “Gesundheit”!

    Of all these models, whether in the guise of a Pontiac, Oldmobile and Buick, I liked the later Alero the best. I believe it won an award for the “World’s Largest Taillights”!

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I always thought “Underachieva” was a better name, especially in light of the blown head gasket issue that marked the earliest quad four’s and marred its introduction.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Ah, the Underachieva. To me, these were always geezer cars even when they were new. And it figures that GM would take on the 4AGEs, B16s, and SR20s of the world with a gasket-blowing rock tumbler of a DOHC 4, which would go on to bequeath its head woes to its Northstar offspring.

  • avatar

    Nice find. Those engines had very impressive power for their time. Shame it got saddled with such a poor body wrapped around it. They just needed to put one in a Fiero.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick

      Murilee, save that engine!  It’s somewhat popular in hot rod circles, and as mentioned above it is also a good candidate for substitution into a Fiero.  There are a couple of cheap Fieros around here in need of more power.  Please, Murilee, pleeeeeeeeeeeease.

  • avatar
    nikita

    It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile.

  • avatar
    MoppyMop

    Wow, somebody found a way to make a ’90s GM interior even more hideous than it already was.
    I always liked the Quad 4 though, too bad GM was never able to get it into anything more deserving than their front-drive midsize turd blossoms.  It would’ve been fun in a Fiero or a smaller, lighter F-body.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      There was supposedly a prototype gen2 Fiero with a turbocharged Quad 4 running around at the end of the ’80s. It would outrun and outhandle the Corvette of the time, so of course it was never built.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I wonder if anyone at GM today has figured out that there is external competition. They always hobble products to protect the Corvette, or a Cadillac, or a GMC. Maybe the rules about no competitor cars in the parking lots isn’t helping their product planning decisions.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      You’ve identified the reason why the corporation was better off when the divisions were more autonomous.  A Fiero like that perhaps would have caused Chevy to up their game instead of sitting back fat and happy.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Uggh – my sister had an Underacheiva during high school.  She’s owned Toyotas ever since.  After driving the wretched olds, I can’t say I blame her.
     
    -ted

  • avatar
    crbf1

    Had a 1991 Beretta GTZ w/this engine and the Getrag 5-spd.  Fun car for the time, but like all things GM of the time it was missing a few things to make it great.  180HP, decent (for the time) suspension, fat 215-16 tires and wheels.  BUT:  brakes were 9″ discs / 7″ drums and the interior fabric was cheezy.  Interestingly, never had a head gasket issue on it.  If I remember right, I sold it w/appox 50K on it.  Worked at a GM dealer at the time, so I was very familiar w/fixing this engine………

    • 0 avatar
      TheRedCar

      I had the same Beretta GTZ back in the day. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Looking back at what was offered from the General, I still think it was surprising that it got out the door at all.

      If I remember right, after a year or two, the GTZ reverted to a body package on the same old v6/auto as the rest of the line. GM had always seemed to despise the idea of a twincam motor with a manual transmission.

      I had quite a few post X-car GM’s and that is about that only one that I’d like to have back. That said, I got a new engine complements of GM at 57k miles from the head gasket. I sold it in the 80k range with no other issues.

    • 0 avatar

      Not to nitpick, but only the Achieva SCX had this engine (the W41 Quad 4).  The W41 had a hotter cam, lower restriction exhaust, and higher redline than the H.O. Quad 4 installed in the Beretta and Grand Am (and Achieva SC), good for an extra 10 horsepower.  Not a big deal in the whole scheme of things (and I spent months driving a 1992 Achieva SC 5MT with 180 HP, then years in the 1993 Achieva SCX with 185 HP, and felt nearly no difference).

      The other oddity about the Achieva SCX was that it had 215/60R14 V-rated BF Goodrich tires, while the lesser Achieva SC had 205/55R16s.  The 14s were a bit wider, so they got the nod, but it made the car look like it had way too much tire and too little wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      AKADriver

      You could get the GTZ in both Quad4HO/manual or V6/auto forms from the beginning, according to the ’91 full-line Chevy brochure I have. Around ’94 it became the Z26.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      Chris, not to nitpick your nitpick (haha), but the Achieva SCX wasn’t the only car with this engine. You’re forgetting, like everyone else, about the previous N-Body, the Cutlass Calais. The ’91-only Quad-442 had the W41 engine, only when specifying the 5-speed manual. I’m sure all six of those made have long since been crushed…

    • 0 avatar

      @KalapanaBlack – touche! I didn’t forget about the W41 Quad 4-4-2 Calais (which was mentioned elsewhere in the comments), but was thinking too narrowly when I commented about the SCX having that engine.  The Calais with that engine was undoubtedly the fastest stock N-body, because the 1992 redesign added a few hundred pounds, then in 1993, the Quad 4s all lost 5 horsepower as well.

      There actually was a 50-mile in-the-wrappers W41 Calais 4-4-2 on eBay a few years ago, and had it been an SCX in similar condition, I might have risked my marriage to buy it.  It was basically selling for its MSRP, while you can grab a 100,000-mile SCX in decent shape for a third of that.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadInSideInc

      @KalapanaBlack
       
      Not So! There is a gray one, with leather(?) that I’ve seen in my local area a few times. Still alive and in decent nick despite the corrosive effects of local weather and roads.
      I keep meaning to take some pictures, waylay the owner and have a word. Always thought they had a nice square early 90s ‘aero’ look.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    The head gasket thing got fixed eventually (not until after damage to the engine’s reputation was done and none wanted one which is typical GM.)  A buddy of mine in high school loved to pick up Quad 4 powered cars cheap cause most people wouldn’t touch them.  Then again his dad owned a service station so doing his own work was no problem. 

    http://www.hotrod.com/techarticles/engine/oldsmobile_quad_4_combining_parts/index.html

    There are even a few enthusiasts dedicated to these little DOHC 4-bangers. 

  • avatar
    jaje

    “No maintenance needed” or something similar was the tag line IIRC > Honda or Toyota.  Timing chain was good for ~ 100k miles.  But by then the car was pretty much disposable or worthless.

  • avatar
    MattPete

    I always thought that the Achieva was a handsome car and could have been an import fighter.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I wonder what condition that motor is in… I only really need the head and intake manifold… would love to have the Getrag that’s behind it… It would all drop in to my Sunfire…
     
    These were pretty decent performing cars for the times. I drove one of the SCX’s when they came out, the Q4 had a lot more grunt than my turbo Dodge Lancer. The Achieva SC had a bunch of go-fast goodies on it that I can’t recall right at the moment, I think for homologation purposes. They raced in SCCA or some other series and were quite successful. The SCX was more like the prettier version of the SC. I’d agree that the car was extremely conservatively styled, it definitely didn’t give any clues as to how quick these cars could be (if optioned correctly).

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t want to spam by posting the same link again, but go to the second or third comment above, and there is background info on the SCX.  It had a bunch of stuff added to the SC, like a wider rear track, V-rated tires, electrically adjusted suspension, etc.  Cars equipped without A/C (likely no retail-sold cars) even came with an oil cooler.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Chris: My bad, I’m relying on my memory, when I should be using Google or Wikipedia. I went back and read your links, and it’s all coming back to me now. I remembered the bit about the car using the 14″ wheels and the wider tires, but I had somehow confused which model it was. I also remember now that it was IMSA, not SCCA. The Oldsmobiles that raced in SCCA were the W-body Cutlasses, although the ones I saw being raced in the late 90′s- early 2000′s were Paul Gentilozzi’s cast offs from Trans Am.
       
      Regardless of my bad memory, I’d still like to stuff one of those motors into my Sunfire…

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Its astonishing how long a major U.S. coporation has been able to pretend to compete globally by malingering in the post-malaise era product development purgatory of “it’s not that bad–but its not that good either.”

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      See: UAW.

    • 0 avatar
      ixim

      UAW? Try GM management. And, don’t forget all those people who bought so many of those crappy cars for so many years, for whatever reason[s].

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      No kidding.  The UAW can’t be blamed for leaving out the Quad 4′s much needed balance shafts, the reliable as a potato chip in the rain head gaskets, the crappy interior…yeah the union played a large part in the dynamics of GM and its decline but please place the blame where it belongs.  Assembly quality continued to improve as the malaise era ended, but GM never turned down an opportunity to cut costs wherever it could.  Blame the beancounters; they singlehandedly did more damage than the UAW ever could.  And if the decontenting of the Malibu indicates, they will likely continue to be the problem.  Note to GM:  Spend the extra $500, make the parts have the proper quality, and charge for it.  This is the last opportunity you will likely have…

    • 0 avatar

      A ton of money, that could have gone into product development, went instead into bloated UAW contracts… which is precisely why you never see a 1993 Achieva still on the road, yet you still see a ton of ’93 Accords roaming the streets.

  • avatar
    Derby129

    Olds had a history of early 90s forgettableness sprinkled with speed. How about the 1991ish *ahem*
    Cutlass Calais Quad 442 W41
    I don’t know if all those letters appeared on the trunk but if they did, you can be assured they were not on straight.
    Regardless, that thing had the same engine/5 speed as this SCX and they only made about 200 of them. Very boxy styling.

    Bonus points for anyone who knows the origin of “442″.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      4 doors
      4 wheels
      2 miles per gallon

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      44 warranty trips to deal in first 2 months of ownership?

      Bonus to whomever can tell me which cluster light is blocked by the electrical tape.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      1964: 4 barrel (carb), 4 speed (trans), 2 exhausts.
      1969: 400+ CI motor, 4 barrel (carb), 2 exhausts.
      1990: 4 cylinder, 4 valves per cylinder, 2 exhausts.
       
      BTW, it was the Cutlass Calais Quad 442. If equipped with W-41 suspension, those were called out with badges on the front fenders behind the side marker light.

      EDIT: that should read F-41 suspension…

    • 0 avatar
      rpol35

      Actually the 400 C.I. engine was first used in ’65 in the 442. The original 442 had a 330 C.I. enging and the designation meant 4 barrel carburetor, 4 speed transmission and 2 (dual) exhaust. From ’65 to ’69 the first 4 could have meant either 4 barrel carburetor or “4″00 C.I. ; don’t know what happens if you had an automatic that only had 3 speeds (432)?

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      @geozinger:

      The F-41 suspension package was the best-kept secret GM ever had. I think it was only something like a $40.00 option, too. This, back in the day where an AM radio was a $75.00 option! Go figure.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Zackman: My wife’s second car was a 77 Delta 88 Holiday Coupe with the 403 Olds and F-41 suspension. She bought it used in 1981 from a friend of her father’s family. I’m pretty sure the car was specially ordered, I’ve never seen another one like it. Yes, it was a great-handling, great-accelerating car, especially for the times. I’d love to have it back.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I had a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham SEDAN with the 307V8 and posi-trac.  I would wisecrack to my friends that it was really a 442 cause it had 4brl carb, 4 doors, and the posi-trac meant I could spin two tires at the same time (if only in the rain.)  :P

  • avatar
    DeadFlorist

    Happily, some people have found better uses for that motor than the general ever did:
    http://www.britishv8.org/MG/Bob.htm

  • avatar
    JasonH

    I always kind of liked the race cars, Quad4 powered even!
    http://www.competitionsource.com/index.php?a=2&b=153

  • avatar

    The styling on this car did absolutely nothing for me.  So bland, and ugly.  The Buick Skylark and Pontiac GrandAm looked much nicer in comparison.

    • 0 avatar

      The Skylark?  Ugh!  I liked the Grand Am at the time, but the Achieva coupe’s clean styling – forgetting about the Groucho Marx grille design – was the best-looking of the three, IMO.  That’s like saying you’re the skinniest contestant at the start of Biggest Loser, though.

    • 0 avatar

      Well you have to admit the Skylark was “different”.  I kind of liked it’s dopey beak grill, but yeah, there were no real winners in that bunch.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      My grandmother’s Skylark sedan was a paragon of reliability but then it did have the 3.1V6.  Pretty good tire squeeler.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      This particular side-thread just reminded me of an extremely nice Skylark a woman where I used to work owned. It was a very classy dark green-ish color upper body with a silver lower body separated by the beautifully executed 1968-style stripe trim along the sides. Very nicely cared for, too. It was a coupe, so it always got my attention.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        My 1995 Skylark coupe is one of only two coupe Skylarks I’ve ever seen, compared to four four-doors.

        Which just goes to show how uncommon the 1992-1998 Skylark can be. I see 20 Camcords a day.

    • 0 avatar

      @Zackman:  That dark green is the color I always picture when I think Skylark (writing that made me realize how boring my life sounds).  Regardless, in coupe form, especially, it was a pretty nice looking car.
       
      Further, I always appreciate any car, no matter how bad its reputation with the press, to be special when it’s cared for by its owner.  That says more to me about the person than someone who drives a fancy sports car.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      @carguy662:   I appreciate any car that’s well-cared for, too.

  • avatar
    carve

    I always thought the body sort of looked like a trailer-trash take on the BMW 8-series…particularly the nose.

  • avatar
    Morea

    After about 10 years of people complaining about rough running didn’t GM eventually add balance shafts?  Too little too late to save the engines reputation I guess.

  • avatar
    cfclark

    This is the first of these featured cars I’d have no problem crushing. My mother-in-law had an early-80s Buick Century that she kept forever (last car my father-in-law bought before he died), and when she finally ran it into the ground, instead of talking to me or anyone else somewhat knowledgeable about cars, let her favorite salesman at the nearby Olds dealer unload a used Achieva on her. A complete piece of crap. (Though not an SCX.)

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    Back when these cars first came out, the Olds dealer in our county in Florida took out a rather large ad in the paper. Our county paper, while not bad, Seem to have lacked a proof reading department. When the ad came out, it had a big picture of one of these, and in big letters above it, it read, “Introducing The All New ACHIVER!!!”
     
    On a different note, I always like the dash layout of these cars (but not with that dreadful red spray paint).
     
     

  • avatar
    jbeale53

    I wasin high school when the Achieva came out; I was reading Car and Driver, and saw a small ad for the “Oldsmobile Achieva 100,000 Mile test”, with an offer for a free video.  I figured what the heck, and sent it in.
    Basically, they had taken 3 of the cars, found a bunch of volunteers around the country, and passed the cars around, putting 100,000 miles on each of them in about a year.  Of course, it was a promotional piece, so they went on about how great it was, and that it got to 100,000 miles!!1!  Although one of them was wrecked at some point during the est, so really only two of them got there.
    Anyway, just brought back some memories of before-YouTube days.

  • avatar
    rentonben

    Raises hand tentatively….
    I had an SCX – I was 18 years old when my little software company let me buy it new, and got it to over 200K and enjoyed every minute of it.
    The shocks had a remotely changeable orifice that changed the dampening rate – and the dinky wheels made for great and predictable g-forces. The bad news? Replacement OEM TRW shocks retailed for $750 in the front. Each.
    The car was easy to “unsettle” but it was very predictable in how it did it.
    ….
    Still miss that car… it head a real honest to goodness oil pressure gauge and a volt meter. It made it easy to tell when the alternator was about to die – I rode with a spare and had the tools to loosen the serpentine belt and change it over. They died that quickly.
    It ate front break pads every 20K and needed new rotors at the same time. Maybe that was just my driving.
    Oddly… never a head gasket problem.

  • avatar
    jacksonbart

    I have been in quite of few of those, the Quad was at the time pretty powerful, but rough.  That interior wore badly and was prone to sqeecks.  I liked at the time the exterior look, narrow and long, really at the time it was more powerful and cheaper than some competitors. 

  • avatar
    DeadInSideInc

    Murilee, did you get all “heated up” standing behind that car and in a fit of pique upon reading the model name heave a tire, mounted on a rim, through the rear window?
    (Totally fine if you did, we’ll ignore the pick’n’pull ‘don’t break glass’ rule for an achieva (lower case, doesn’t deserve a proper noun).

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Oldsmobile had lots of models with lame names. I pick achieva as the second lamest, behind calais.  The paint shaker quad 4 was kinda like a harley shovelhead, it vibrated itself apart.

  • avatar
    KaneShadow

    The focus group was done in Staten Island.  The original name was actually Ova-achieva.

  • avatar
    zeus01

    Musta been difficult to find a ’93-vintage GM car at the wreckers—- usually they’re ten years newer than that, a dubious feat eclipsed only by that of Chrysler products…

  • avatar
    amca

    The coupe version of the Acheiva was actually a very nice looking car.  The sedan, however, was just fat and bloppy.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    @ Rob Finfrock, dunno where you live, but here in Ohio you almost never see a jap car from the 90′s still on the road. They rusted and crumbled away long ago. You may see one here and there from the late 90′s, and when you do they look like swiss cheese. Subarus rust the worst.

    • 0 avatar

      Disparaging (racist?) remarks about “Jap” cars aside (hint: the War is over) my point is those Marysville-built Accords have far superior parts and mechanicals under their rusted skins than contemporary Detroiters.

      You can still drive a rusty Honda; you can’t drive a Quad 4-powered Achieva with a warped engine block. GM could have used the money to design a reliable head gasket from the start; instead a lot of it went to the union (and couldn’t be recouped in the transaction price, as I doubt many N-bodies ever sold for sticker price.) But hey, at least the UAW got its Jobs Bank.

    • 0 avatar
      MoppyMop

      I don’t know where in Ohio you’re from, but around here (Cleveland area) early ’90s Accords, Civics and Corollas are still common as dirt.  Most of them look nasty, but the Detroit cars from that period are usually just as bad if not worse.

  • avatar
    zeus01

    “… dunno where you live, but here in Ohio you almost never see a jap car from the 90′s still on the road. They rusted and crumbled away long ago. You may see one here and there from the late 90′s, and when you do they look like swiss cheese. Subarus rust the worst.”

    Here in Canada’s maritime provinces (where the combination of the ocean’s salt-water breezes and the provincial and municipal gov’ts’ addiction to salt as a solution to icy roads conspire to reduce all vehicles made of steel to rolling piles of iron oxide in record time) there is, and has been for the better part of the last 40 years) a fairly even split in domestic vehicle sales vs. that of Japanese.

    And while there are not large quantities of any make or model older than say, 20 years, there still seems to be a larger percentage of Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans, Mazdas and even Subarus of that vintage still on the road vs. domestics.

    This is not to say that the domestics rust any faster than the Japanese cars do— they’re about even here. But people in these parts (where UAW members are few and very far between) tend to reward their more reliable cars (ie: Civics, Corollas, Camrys, Accords, Odysseys, Sentras, Maximas) by keeping them on the road rusty or not.

    As for the less reliable cars (Hello Neon, Intrepid, Caravan, Tempo, Cavalier, Grand AM and Venture!), we just junk them as soon as the combination of depreciation and something major cratering not far out of warranty achieves critical mass.

  • avatar
    beefmalone

    That’s just a low down dirty shame.

  • avatar
    Cole Balster

    Does anyone know what junkyard this is in? I would like to purchase the WHOLE car. My dad worked for Oldsmobile back in the day, and I remember driving a few of these when I was young. It would be cool to find another today as a daily driver that’s cheap on gas, and fun.

    It looks by the author’s other posts it’s probably in the Denver, CO area. However, I looked it up on Google and there are 6-8 junkyards in the Denver area. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Cole
    cole.balster@gmail.com

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Now I want one of these Quad-4 editions intact for a 3800 swap, this or the Skylark equivalent.

  • avatar
    DougYNDOT

    Wow, this takes me back. Had a ’92 SC, HO Quad4 with the 5 speed. It was pretty fast for its time, but did wallow in the corners if you pushed it. My biggest problem was it was quality reject…in the first year I had the following issues: bad ABS module, bad battery, replace rear brakes, split radiator, bad battery, and my favorite, the faulty keyless entry receiver that would randomly unlock the doors and trunk. All were fixed under warranty. After the 2 year lease was up, I actually got $1400 over residual because the dealer had a customer who wanted an HO/5 speed. It helped pay for the 95 Aurora I took home that day.


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    28-Cars-Later - Because that sort of behavior p*sses off customers, GM has been guilty of such stuff for decades. So say Toyota does this and disenfranchises the 15% or so of the...

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