Not All Senior Citizens Want to Retire: GM's Lambda and Theta Crossovers Too Successful to Stop Working

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
not all senior citizens want to retire gms lambda and theta crossovers too

Nine years ago, General Motors began selling two different vehicles off its full-size Lambda platform, the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook.

Remember the Outlook? Of course you don’t.

By 2007, GM was also selling the Buick Enclave. By the end of 2008, GM added the Chevrolet Traverse.

Now it’s late 2015. GM is still selling the first generation of their Lambda platform crossovers. A lot of them.

GM also continues to sell the six-year-old versions of their Theta platform crossovers, as well. A lot of them. More than they’ve ever sold before.

People are living longer, healthier lives. Their 401Ks aren’t necessarily worth what they need to be. Their children won’t move out. As a result, people are working many years longer than their ancestors did.

We’ve become accustomed to the cyclical nature of a vehicular nameplate’s rise and fall: sales typically decrease as the vehicle ages and surge when a new generation is launched. But not all vehicles fall victim to the cycle. Just as your personal banking representative is a 68-year-old grandmother of four and not a recent graduate of a state university, GM’s five oldest utility vehicles don’t want to retire, either.

Benefiting from thoroughly established name recognition, appropriate pricing, a measure of fleet volume, and a boom in the SUV/crossover market, GM is selling boatloads of Acadias, Enclaves, Equinoxes, Terrains, and Traverses. (Not so many Outlooks.)

The year will certainly be the highest-volume year ever for the Acadia, Traverse, and Equinox and will almost certainly be the best year for the Enclave and Terrain, as well.

Combined, the Equinox and Terrain outsold the best-selling utility vehicle in America, Honda’s CR-V, by nearly 41,000 units in the first ten months of 2015. The duo’s sales have risen 14 percent, year-over-year, in 2015.

GM averaged fewer than 100,000 annual Equinox sales per year over the nameplate’s first six years, but more than 275,000 Equinoxes will likely be sold by the end of 2015. This year will be the Equinox’s sixth consecutive year of U.S. sales growth. The refreshed 2016 Equinox does not appear to be sufficiently differentiated, yet consumers have proven to be sufficiently appreciative of the way the current model looks and drives.

The Equinox’s fraternal twin from GMC, the Terrain, has grown its U.S. sales every year since its launch in 2009. More than 105,000 were sold in 2014, but GMC is on track to sell more than 110,000 in 2015. The Terrain’s Pontiac predecessor, the Torrent, topped out at 43,000 U.S. sales in 2006.

Despite the Lambda platform’s lack of a Saturn sibling — one wonders how the platform ever managed to survive! — more than 275,000 Acadias, Enclaves, and Traverses should be sold in America by the end of 2015.

GM’s six full-size, body-on-frame, truck-based, highly profitable SUVs are still relatively popular vehicles. GM should sell at least 230,000 Tahoes, Suburbans, Yukons, Yukon XLs, Escalades, and Escalade ESVs in 2015. But the size of their sphere of influence has waned. GM sold 210,000 Tahoes alone in 2002.

GM has made headway in the other direction. More than 120,000 Buick Encores and Chevrolet Traxes should be sold in the U.S. in calendar year 2015, a massive leap forward from not a single subcompact crossover sale just three years ago.

In addition to the mainstream Theta sales, General Motors also sold 56,732 Cadillac SRXs in 2015 so far, a year which will likely end with an annual SRX sales record. That vehicle, despite its age, outsells every other Cadillac by far.

What does all of this mean inside GM showrooms across America? The Lambda platform trio generates nine percent of GM’s U.S. volume; the Equinox and Terrain another 13 percent. The quintet accounts for more than one in five GM sales, precisely four times the number of Cadillac sales, and one out of every ten SUVs and crossovers sold in the United States.

In other words, they’re important. Maybe even, dare we say it, spry.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • Amca Amca on Nov 14, 2015

    We have a 150k mile Traverse at work. Remarkably solid vehicle for its age and the beating it's gotten.

  • Lemmiwinks Lemmiwinks on Nov 15, 2015

    Fast forward to 2018: "GM FAILS TO LEARN LESSONS FROM THE PAST Showing a keen inability to respond to the needs of a fickle marketplace (again), the GM Lambda CUVs are tanking, and they're tanking hard. The Equinox, Terrain, Acadia, and friends' sales hit the skids this January." Etc, etc. Insert several paragraphs about how they should have invested in forward thinking architecture years ago when the competition was making moves to ensure their future. Their aging platform simply can't keep up. Also a paragraph about how this seems to happen to GM every - friggin - decade. Or are we awaiting the day when "Lambda" and "Panther" are constantly mentioned in the same sentence?

  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"
  • ToolGuy When Farley says “like the Millennium Falcon” he means "fully updatable" and "constantly improving" -- it's right there in the Car and Driver article (and makes perfect sense).