QOTD: Which Brand Has Lost the Plot?
February 13th, 2008 2:42 PM Share
Recently. 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.
Published February 13th, 2008 2:34 PM
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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....
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).
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.
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.