Crapwagon Outtake: GM's Forgotten Wagon

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
crapwagon outtake gm s forgotten wagon

Not long ago, seemingly off-the-cuff comments by Mark Reuss, GM’s chief “car guy”, got everyone in a tizzy. Reuss lamented the lack of affordable station wagons on the market today, and suggested that GM ought to start offering one in the near future. The comments, of course, came at the Detroit Auto Show’s, and Reuss, who certainly has had ample media training, had nothing to lose by throwing a bone to the assembled enthusiast media, who are uniformly pro-wagon, no matter how poor of a business case the wagon in question may be.

From the way Reuss spoke, you’d think that GM hadn’t offered a proper affordable wagon since the last of the full-size B-Body wagons rolled off the line in 1995. It turns out there was one more that had escaped many people’s imagination. I can only assume that the Malibu Maxx had been collectively blotted out of our memories in the post-bankruptcy era. Like the Saturn Astra and L-Series, the Malibu Maxx was another ill-fated experiemnt in rebranding a European offering as something wholly American.

The Maxx was essentially an Opel Signum with a bowtie – the Signum being the hatch/pseudo-wagon variant of the Opel Vectra. In the run-up to its launch, the Signum was touted by the famously jingoistic UK motoring press as a new kind of “executive car” (their term for a near-luxury sedan). To nobody’s surprise, the Signum was a flop – fleet customers stuck with the sedan and families remained with the “estate” (what we’d consider a traditional wagon). The Signum died quietly after a few years on the market.

The Maxx never achieved a lot of traction in the North American marketplace either, despite the presence of a hot SS version offering a 3.9L 240 horsepower V6 engine. Compared to the current crop of GM wagons – whether it’s the Cruze, the Astra estate or the Commodore station wagon – the Maxx was a crude, odd-looking version of a rather uncompetitive mid-size car. Unfortunately, I am not sure that any of the three modern wagons would sell in greater quantities than the Maxx, even though they’re vastly superior.

Reuss may be a car guy at heart, but he also knows how to manipulate the media, and nothing gets the hacks going like talk of a new wagon. In the mean time, you can still buy a GM wagon. A Maxx will run you about $3,000, and you’re sure to be the only one on your block.

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2 of 152 comments
  • Buickman Buickman on Mar 19, 2014

    had I known this thread would be so popular, and full of irrelevancy, I never would have checked to receive posts. please stop already!

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Mar 20, 2014

    A guy I used to work with drives a Maxx, and it's been nearly perfect in the 10 years he's had it since his wife bought it just before they got engaged. It's only issue has been the stereo has twice decided to gobble up a CD and refused to play it, or spit it out. It just sits there. After a couple of days with the stereo in "limbo", it comes to life and plays the CD, or lets you eject it. The stereo was swapped out under warranty the first time, and the second time he just went and put an aftermarket head unit in it.

  • SCE to AUX How long until that $90k yields a profit for my grandchildren?
  • Ajla I do wonder what the legacy of the Alpha Camaro will be. It was higher performing than the Zeta but lacks the pop culture imprinting of that gen or the earlier F-body. And somehow it managed to be less comfortable than the Zeta. I guess it depends if this is really the last traditional Camaro.
  • SCE to AUX I'd admire it at the car cruise, but $20k gets you halfway to a new truck.
  • Lou_BC Panther black? Borrowed from Dodge panther pink? One could argue that any Camaro is a limited run.
  • SCE to AUX I much prefer the looks of the Tucson version, but either is a great value.How was the driveability, namely the electric/gas transition? I had H/K's first attempt in a 13 Optima Hybrid (now in my son's garage), and it was gruff and abrupt in that phase of driving.