Question Of The Day : What If You Could Resurrect A Dying Or Dead Brand?

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
question of the day what if you could resurrect a dying or dead brand

I made my first small fortune in this business selling old Volvos.

I started way back in the mid-2000‘s when I got downright militant about outbidding anyone on an older rear-wheel drive Volvo. In one year, 2007 to be exact, I managed to buy at least one Volvo every year from 1983 all the way to 2004.

I loved the Volvo brand as their rear wheel drive cars represented the perfect mix of comfort, safety and functionality. The discontinued 240, 740 and 940 were insanely easy to sell and cheap to buy; especially the wagons.

These Volvos usually had a history of conservative owners who took their cars to the dealership or Volvo specialized shops for service. Repairs were easy and reasonable thanks to long model runs and parts that were as common as kudzu at any Georgia junkyard.

The used car side of the Volvo brand represented a big fat target where young families, hipsters, Camry-oriented shoppers, and the still common Brick enthusiast could all find a Volvo worth keeping. I followed that tune of demand and soon became a daily reader at Brickboard, Swedespeed, and several other well known sites for Volvo aficionados. I was hooked.

Then I became unhooked.

The seeds of Volvo’s destruction started out as an opportunity for me. Owners began to trade in Volvo S70’s and V70’s from 99′ upwards due to a malfunctioning electronic throttle module. At the sales I would see these vehicles being sold AS/IS, buy them ridiculously cheap, and then take them to the Volvo dealer to get their software upgrade. Eventually Volvo did the right thing by extending the coverage to 10 years and 200,000 miles. However, as Volvos began to develop other issues such as lifetime fluids that weren’t so, and parts failures that were as cheaply made as they were expensive to fix at the dealerships, the marketability of these vehicles nosedived to the point of near irrelevance.

The Volvo S40 was a world-class blunder. The Volvo S60 and S80 were left to rot on the vine of Ford’s neglect along with the V70 and C70. The Volvo XC90 may have represented the brand’s only solid hit for the entire decade as the MBA marketeers at the Premier Automotive Group decided to make Volvo into a downright ridiculous alternative to BMW.

Volvo wasn’t alone in the quixotic pursuit for a more ‘upscale’ brand identity. Oldsmobile was positioned as an import fighter. Mercury tried to become a premium brand as well, and marketed heavily towards women, while Lincoln redefined American luxury in a way that no one outside of Dearborn could quite understand.

The list of failed brands stretches long since the Y2K era. Plymouth. Isuzu. Saturn. Hummer. As proof of their deadness in the retail marketplace, most independent dealerships that specialize in financing won’t even buy these brands… along with Volvo, Mercury and Lincoln.

You can’t sell a dead brand, unless you were maybe a successful overseas manufacturer trying to crack the American market. Or maybe the CEO of Ford or GM. Let’s assume that the perfect world exists. A place where you could choose your brand and launch your products without worrying about money. Consider yourself old GM, a newbie at Tesla, whatever you like.

What brand would you choose to resurrect?

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2 of 265 comments
  • Hummer Hummer on May 08, 2014

    International harvestor of course! Also have a well known love for Hummer, so that as well.

  • Pineycreek Pineycreek on May 08, 2014

    Nash, Pontiac, Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Mercury, Mazda truck - vehicles I've owned over the past 60 years that went bye bye and I miss!

  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.
  • Marvin Im a current owner of a 2012 Golf R 2 Door with 5 grand on the odometer . Fun car to drive ! It's my summer cruiser. 2006 GLI with 33,000 . The R can be money pit if service by the dealership. For both cars I deal with Foreign car specialist , non union shop but they know their stuff !!! From what I gather the newer R's 22,23' too many electronic controls on the screen, plus the 12 is the last of the of the trouble free ones and fun to drive no on screen electronics Maze !