By on April 3, 2019

1998 Chevrolet Cavalier in Phoenix wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Ask this writer how he feels about the oft-derided Chevrolet Cavalier, and he’ll tell you it was only worth owning when offered with GM’s 60-degree V6 family (a second-gen coupe with a 3.1-liter is essentially the model’s zenith), though the 2002MY decision to plunk the decently powerful, low-maintenance 2.2-liter Ecotec beneath the hood wasn’t a bad one.

Besides those attributes, as well as, um, excellent secondhand affordability, there’s little praise that can be mustered for the model that bowed out of the Chevy lineup in 2005. Still, General Motors continues to see value in the Cavalier name. The model is still sold in China and Mexico, where it looks much like a smaller Cruze. And, in the U.S., GM just filed a trademark application for the nameplate.

Two trademarks, actually — “Cavalier,” and “Chevrolet Cavalier.” The filings were uncovered by The Drive, which mulls that GM could one day revive the nameplate.

It’s a long shot, to be sure. While the automaker doesn’t see much use in building its own small cars in the States (the Cruze is dead and the Sonic’s days are numbered), Chinese-built vehicles have to contend with a new 25-percent import tariff, and the current-gen Cavalier indeed hails from that faraway land.

As well, GM’s efforts to keep the Cavalier name alive are not relegated just to the two March 27th trademark filings. On September 9, 2015, the automaker filed identical applications for the Cavalier and Chevrolet Cavalier trademarks. While federal trademarks last 10 years, they actually have to be used to stay active. Companies that intend to use the trademark must file a Statement of Use (SOU) to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to show that intent, and to gain approval for the mark. Companies that aren’t ready to use the trademark can request a time extension for filing an SOU.

Extensions can be filed every six months for a period of up to three years, and GM, after having its application abandoned in October of 2016 for failing to file an SOU, has done just that. The application was revived the following month, kicking off a series of SOU extensions staggered in six-month intervals. The last extension approval was granted on February 7th. Essentially, GM’s running out of time and needs to file another trademark application to keep its grip on the Cavalier name.

Of course, during this time, it could file an SOU and begin using the name on a vehicle sold in the U.S., but GM’s trademark history points to this being a simple legal exercise to keep the Cavalier name in the company fold.

Sorry, Cavalier fans.

[Image: © 2017 Murilee Martin/TTAC]

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22 Comments on “GM’s Keeping That Hot Cavalier Nameplate Alive...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m not going to call the J-bodies *good* but the newest one is 14 years old and I still see them fairly regularly despite likely being on the 5th owner (or more) and having not been worth anything for a long time.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      they’re the cockroaches of the automotive world. no one likes them, but they pop up everywhere, and will be around until the Sun turns into a red giant and incinerates this planet.

      • 0 avatar
        NTGD

        There are a few of us nutcases out in the world with a soft spot for the J body. My first car was an 88 Sunbird that I liked so much that the first car I spent my own money on was a 2000 Cavalier.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    As much as we all rib on GM/Ford/FCA for not maintaining any kind of continuity with their small cars (like Honda with the Civic and Toyota with the Corolla), there’s a reason why we want to see names like Cavalier and Sundance die in the slag heap of auto history. They just weren’t good cars. I fondly remember being stuck on the side of the recently built I-485 in Charlotte, NC when my rental 1997 Cavalier with well under 1,000 miles on it decided to shred its transmission. The replacement was a Grand Am that when I went to lower the driver’s side window, the entire window switch fell into the door.
    They might make a decent truck, but when it came to nightmares like the Cavalier, let the name die…too many bad memories for a lot of drivers.
    (Show of hands – how many 2000-2003 era Cavaliers do you see still driving around? Compare that to that era of Civic and Corolla. ’nuff said.)

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      ” how many 2000-2003 era Cavaliers do you see still driving around?”

      Quite a few, around here anyways. They kind of start falling apart all around you, but the basic guts of them are remarkably resilient for the most part.

      • 0 avatar
        dividebytube

        I saw a rather minty one just last week. I mean it still looked brand new. I didn’t get a chance to see the owner but I would guess an elderly person. Given Michigan’s salt encrusted winter roads, it must have been garaged/washed for most of its life.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        That’s what I’ve seen also. I spend a lot of time on I-71 between Cincinnati and Louisville – which is Honda/Toyota/Ford country – and after awhile, you start keeping track of what you see on the road. I do see some of the last Cavaliers and Sunfires on the interstate, but it looks like their best days are long behind them, but they are running. If you’re lucky enough to avoid the Honda rear fender rot or paint issues, they tend to look a lot better over time.
        I saw all of the Pontiac/Canada posts and that jogged the old memory here. I used to take a lot of trips to Canada – especially PEI, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick – and I remember seeing Pontiacs as far as the eye can see. I swear Pontiac had to be the official car of Canada! Given the hellish winters and the vast amounts of salt and chemicals to keep the roads passable, I wonder how many of them still are on the road.

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          Pontiac *was* the car of Canada! I couldn’t understand if we had to keep Buick alive for China, our frenemy, we couldn’t keep Pontiac alive for Canada, our true friends!

          OT: I’ve had several J-bodies. Nothing fancy, solid transportation. My 97 Cavalier went 265000 miles before I took it off the road. It was still running fine, but the body was so rusty, you’d get tetanus just looking at it. Some of the electrical items were acting weird, I attributed it to aging wiring looms and the lack of decent grounds. If I lived somewhere where we didn’t bathe the roads in salt every winter, I’d still drive it. It was a good, inexpensive car to operate. I spent way more money on my other cars than that Cavalier.

  • avatar
    SavageATL

    I see a LOT of that generation cavalier and Sunfire. The people I know who had late cavaliers and sunfires got Voyager space probe mileage out of the things for pennies, and I think they only die when the owner just. Cannot. Take. Another day of cavalier Dom. Saturn s series also are still remarkably numerous.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    I aw one recently on the road, still looking good. By the end all of the bugs had been worked out of them and they were good basic transportation at the low end of the market, certainly better than what the Hyundais and Kias were offering back then.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Meh I’d take a late 90s (and especially early-mid 2000s XD gen) Elantra over a Cavalier, but you’re right, they had them well sorted by the end, plus there’s just not much to break.

  • avatar
    scott25

    Still one of the most numerous cars on Canadian roads, where they were a best seller through much of the 90’s. They never seem to die. Of course, you can’t go 100 feet without seeing a MKIV VW product here either, which probably isn’t the case south of the border

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Good grief! Why all the cavalier hate?
    I LOVED our 1988 z24 convertible. A real gas…and sounded fun as well.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    I and two of my daughters owned ’04 Cavalier 2-door 5MT’s (3 total). My youngest drove hers for around 90k oil-change-only miles before selling it and buying a G37x. The other daughter owned hers for 13 years and put 150k miles on it before selling it – she replaced both front struts herself during that time. I drove mine for around 65k before selling it to my youngest son (Sonny – I’m still waiting for the rest of the cash). He rolled it into a ditch a couple years ago, pounded the roof out, replace the windshield, and continues to drive it daily and has 152k on the clock. A lot of hate for these cars but they served us (and one continues) damned well. That lousy PPG paint on them really is the only major problem as it didn’t last very well.

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    How do you make a hot Cavalier? Add an ignition switch from a Cobalt and grab those ‘shmallows.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    My last memory of a Cavalier whose engine blew from years of neglect. I don’t see them often in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area.

    I’d take an Escort over a Cavalier, if only because the engines are non-interference as far as I remember. My 93 served me well.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    GM may be reserving the Cavalier name just in case they decide to slice the CUV pie a little more and introduce a Chevy that’s between the Equinox and Trax in size. There are a few inches to spare between the two.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    The DOHC 2.4L is my favorite. It’s strong everywhere in the rev range and makes a nice growl.

    My mother is still driving her ’99 Sunfire GT with that engine and 4T40E transmission. 17 years and it’s never stranded her. It has over 250k miles now and the only drivetrain/powertrain work it’s had – apart from fluid changes – are a water pump, a transmission output shaft seal, and a few sets of spark plugs. No body rust apart from the rear fender below the fuel door. It’s getting pretty bad there but not perforated yet.

    I find it more enjoyable to drive than many “better” vehicles. While crude, it has good visibility, decent steering feel, excellent brake feel (feel, not performance – no mushiness), and the cable-operated throttle responds consistently and instantaneously. It even handles quite well with the KYB suspension.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    We had a 1998 that was purchased from Enterprise with 25k miles on it. We sold it when we moved and it had 135k miles on it with only consumables and an alternator. As of a year ago it was still tooling around in SoCal. The seats in that car were very comfortable and the heat/AC worked very well in that car. I have no complaints on that car and it owed us nothing.

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    1) I couldn’t log in at all yesterday to comment on this, which is why it is late. It took me 7 tries today. What’s up with that?

    2) I had a 1998 2 door with the 5 speed manual (so, around 120hp?), and as others have stated, despite its reputation, it served me well for 181,000 miles and 9 years (2001-2010), including its first two years of life in the harsh winters of Erie, PA. With winter tires, it was able to navigate most typical snowfall conditions (up to about 8-9 inches of snow….27 inch lake effect squalls?? yeah, not so much.) As long as there was no ice, and the roads were at least marginally plowed, it punched above its class in winter conditions, IMO.

    I had to replace the A/C compressor at one point in California, but that was the only non-maintenance issue it had.

    It accelerated and drove well enough, got really good mpg. There are still some 3rd gens (I actually saw a remarkably well kept 2nd gen z24 last month) around…providing reliable cheap transport for many.

    Flawed? Yes. But not without its merits.

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