By on June 13, 2019

Steph Willems/TTAC

On the way to meet a longtime friend for dinner last night, your author stopped off to gawk at old cars at a local cruise night event — a common occurrence when the snow isn’t flying.

Thank God for retirees with plenty of resources and lots of free time. I fear what will happen to these rides after the old guys lose their license. And, because this is TTAC and not one of those other sites, you’re not about to hear a bitter, angsty screed about Boomers and their undeserved money and opportunity, etc, etc.

Anyhow, one beauty beckoned to me from across the lot. A 1955 sedan with a badge that should prove unfamiliar to American readers urged me to take a closer look, prompting a bit of rumination about modern-day choices.

It was a Monarch. Specifically, a Monarch Lucerne — a mid-range trim of a mid-priced marque, positioned above the Custom but below the tony Richelieu. Monarch, to those unfamiliar with the brand, was a Canadian marque created just after World War 2 by Ford of Canada. Tempting buyers until 1957, and then again from 1959 to 1961 (following the Edsel disaster) the Monarch brand used Mercury as its basis, with Ford’s Canadian arm putting a special stamp on what were essentially Montereys and Montclairs.

This non-Buick Lucerne, the proud owner told me, was built in Windsor, Ontario and carried Ford’s two-speed Ford-O-Matic tranny, plus the automaker’s 292 V8.

Steph Willems/TTAC

The Meteor brand followed the same recipe north of the border, only with Ford cars — eventually moving to Mercurys after Monarch bit the dust. At the time, Canadians could buy Fords and Mercurys as well as Monarchs and Meteors. The Frontenac marque, comprised of a single vehicle (a rebadged Ford Falcon) existed for one year: 1960. Canuck General Motors fans in the 1960s could hop into an Acadian-badged model that was actually a Chevy but looked like a Pontiac.

Wild times.

We currently find ourselves in a time of contraction. The last couple of decades has seen the elimination of the Oldsmobile, Plymouth, Saturn, Hummer, Pontiac, Mercury, and Scion divisions of their respective parent automakers. Before that, it was Geo and Asuna, Imperial and DeSoto. Consolidation and reduced build configurations are the name of the game these days. Reduced choice, as prescribed by OEM beancounters. Sub-brands, on the other hands, are proliferating, with Mercedes-Benz’s EQ, Hyundai’s N, and Buick’s Avenir being just the latest examples of the trend.

While new automakers will inevitable join the landscape, adding new marques to shopping lists, it seems the head count of bonafide brands under existing automakers has long since reached its high-water mark.

Do you see any established automaker, domestic or foreign, adding a new marque under their corporate umbrella in the near future? Keep in mind we’re talking about brands offered here.

Steph Willems/TTAC

[Images: Steph Willems/TTAC]

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62 Comments on “QOTD: A Massacre of Marques?...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I kinda feel bad for my Dad. He was a Pontiac and Oldsmobile Man by nature and now he’s stuck driving Chevys again.

    ADDING a brand? No I don’t see that happening.

    https://imgflip.com/memetemplate/Boardroom-Meeting-Suggestion

    The above is what would happen to someone suggesting a new marque during a board meeting.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    The Corvette-as-brand rumors never seem to go away, especially when a new generation is about to be released.

    Not that I think that effort would be any more successful than the SRT brand was (RIP 2013-14)

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Personally, I’d like to see some of the old marques return. Imagine if FCA brought back AMC as a brand as well as AMC’s overall styling chops (unique, even if planted on otherwise staid platforms.) Imagine if Oldsmobile came back to fill the Pontiac/Olds hole with cars that came across as ‘luxury sports’ rather than ‘sports luxury’. (While we’re at it, revert Caddy back to pure lux-elite and stop trying to appeal to a younger set that doesn’t want it.)

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      (While we’re at it, revert Caddy back to pure lux-elite and stop trying to appeal to a younger set that doesn’t want it.)

      THAT is an idea I will endorse but I’m sure that GM/Cadillac leadership thinks that they need to keep building BMWs with American accents.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Buick should be the BMW-equivalent and put Caddy back up with Bently/Rolls Royce, where they started. There is no true American Luxury-Elite brand any more (Not even Lincoln.)

        • 0 avatar
          newenthusiast

          “Buick should be the BMW-equivalent and put Caddy back up with Bently/Rolls Royce, where they started. There is no true American Luxury-Elite brand any more (Not even Lincoln.)”

          THIS!

          If GM were serious about Cadillac reclaiming their heritage, they need to make vehicles that at the LOW end are competing with the S-Class/GLS/SL, and moves up. The Caddy V cars should be going head to head with Germany’s AMG, M, and S vehicles

          Buick should be what Cadillac is now, and then you could easily re-start Oldsmobile and position it between Chevy and Buick.

          This will never happen of course.

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        “…I’m sure that GM/Cadillac leadership thinks that they need to keep building BMWs with American accents”. But BMW’s, PrincipalDan, are probably what these people’s kids drive.

    • 0 avatar
      newenthusiast

      “Imagine if FCA brought back AMC as a brand as well as AMC’s overall styling chops (unique, even if planted on otherwise staid platforms.)”

      Given the success of the return of the Charger and Challenger, I would think that a Javelin or AMX retro return would have a market. It would compete directly with the Challenger, so that would be an issue, and probably why it will never return. Plus the AMX was a 2 seater

      But design it to recall the first gen’s rear and the second gen’s front, give the upgrade the historically correct “Go” package name, and call the top line Hellcat equivalent the AMX, and I will 100% buy a one…new, not used. I don’t a care if its manual or auto. I don’t care that will have to be a 4 or 5 seater (unlike the original AMX). I simply think the AMX, even now, looks great, and if I could find and afford (including maintenance) one of the few left in great condition, I’d already have one.

      The AMX trim also has to have the blue/white/red livery as an option.

      Or maybe I’m the only one who would buy it and have an irrational lust for an old hunk of crap. I’m too young to know if the Javelin/AMX was any good.

      In the real world however, bringing back something like the AMC Eagle makes more sense financially for FCA than a Javelin/AMX. It would be likely be branded as a Jeep sedan/wagon…but it could still use the Eagle moniker.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Yes the AMX was that good in that unlike many other ‘muscle cars’ of that era, it could actually corner.

        The Javelin however was a bit of a different story.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @newenthusiast: I always liked the AMCs but I worked for an Olds dealer at the time because of the Cutlass 442 (bought a Supreme brand-new in ’75.) Loved the Olds but sometimes wish I’d gone for the AMC at the time.

  • avatar
    smartascii

    As brands move upmarket and wages stay flat-ish, I could conceivably see a space for a Dacia-style, value-priced brand to fill the end of the market that Hyundai and Kia used to. Whoever starts selling the store brand equivalent of an F150, CR-V, or whatever other popular form factors that aren’t small cars seems like they’d be positioned to make a mint.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      That should be the niche of the Chinese brands, but i feel like it’s more likely they’ll jump straight in selling semi-discount EVs.

    • 0 avatar
      lstanley

      I wonder though, does a manufacture want to make one vehicle with $10,000 profit, or 10 vehicles at $1,000 profit. I’m honestly not sure.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        There have been times when the Big3 decided to make hundreds of thousands of cars at a loss rather than pay UAW people to twiddle their thumbs. I suspect it is much harder to make one car with a $10K profit than it is to make ten cars at a thousand in profit. Smart dealers would rather sell ten cars at a thousand dollars profit than sell one at ten thousand because then they will make far more in service and repairs. Smart dealers are sort of hypothetical though.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          “I suspect it is much harder to make one car with a $10K profit than it is to make ten cars at a thousand in profit”

          That is why the “domestic” manufacturers push pickups and CUV’s. Markups on trucks are 10-20k. I’m betting that CUV’s and SUV’s all have much higher markups than cars. Cars don’t make them money so they don’t make cars.

          • 0 avatar
            formula m

            Mark up is $2000 on a ’19 CRV LX with AWD, $1700 after lot-pack here in Ontario

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Lou, what I was referring to has nothing to do with the relative desirability of cars or trucks. I was merely attempting to point out that scale reduces unit costs. If you go through the trouble of making one vehicle, you’re unlikely to see a return on your efforts. If you make a bunch of cars, your unit cost will fall to the point where it is easier to sell them for enough to make a return.

            When it comes to the most profitable trucks, say Suburbans, they are able to spread the costs around to similar vehicles enough to keep costs low while keeping prices artificially high by limiting supply.

            formula m,

            The money Honda makes on a CRV is determined by invoice less holdbacks less costs of production, distribution, warranty and liability. The margin you’re looking at is the dealers’.

  • avatar
    MartyToo

    Long live the Beaumont. (What Mad Magazine dubbed the Cheviac.)

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    The only two automakers who sell in America that could add a “luxury” brand are Subaru and Mazda. Mazda was going to do this in the 90’s with the Amati division, but got cold feet.
    Subaru would be a tough sell, given the very pedestrian nature of the early models. But Mazda is already near-luxury and might just move the existing name upmarket. No one wants to build cars for poor people anyway.
    In a few more decades, it won’t matter. You’ll buy a skateboard electric chassis from one manufacturer, and then buy a body from another. This will most likely result in a small number of chassis manufacturers and a large number of body “coachbuilders”. Welcome back to 1911.

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      I don’t know what world it is some of you people live in where Mazda is near luxury, but they aren’t even close.
      Mazda gets good pub from car reviewers and car people because they are the closest to a ‘drivers car’ you are going to find today, but upmarket they are not.
      I’d put them in the same bucket as Nissan and Kia, no higher.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        It’s getting to be similar to how VW people see themselves versus how the rest of the world sees them. Mazda has far too long of a track record as being to Toyota and Honda what AMC was to GM and Ford to ever be considered upscale. They’re one bad credit promotion away from being another Mitsubishi.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          In much of Canada VW is still somewhat regarded as ‘slightly up-market’ from most mainstream Asian brands.

          Golf = the upmarket hatch.
          Tiguan upmarket from CRV/RAV4.
          Passat upmarket from Accord/Camry.
          Routan the upmarket mini-van.

          The exception being when they ‘dumbed down’ the Jetta, which previously was considered upmarket to Civic/Corolla.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            One problem VW has in the US is that they used to be pretty popular. Most people know just how bad they really are. There are always new people who’ve been deprived of tribal knowledge to buy them, but the overall perception of VW is that they’re lower quality alternatives to other mainstream cars.

            Remember the Phaeton? When they put VW badges on the cars, they couldn’t coerce people to buy them for $60K. When they put a Bentley badge on it, sales shot up while the price tripled. That illustrates the level of esteem the public holds VW in. They’re for people who want an Audi but can’t make the least payment.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            ‘German engineering’, which for some reason, still has still some cachet in some quarters.
            Others understand that in some instances they are an Audi for less money.
            And then there are the top of the line Golf R’s. The ultimate hot hatch.

            Or you can refer to James May’s conclusion in The Car of the People.

        • 0 avatar
          Robotdawn

          I almost put VW in that same bucket with Kia, Mazda and Nissan honestly. They have some nice cars, but their lack of reliability, pedestrian styling and long product cycles (here in the US), do make them an also-ran.
          FYI, not that I wouldn’t own any of these, I do own a Chevy, glass walls and all that.

          • 0 avatar

            What are “glass walls” about?

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            He’s probably referring “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.

            …Because the people at whom you throw stones might return in kind.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            VW’s styling is its biggest positive, IMO. When the industry standard is overwrought and angry-looking, simple and understated is refreshing. I actually dislike that the current Jetta design is busier looking than the previous one.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      “But Mazda is already near-luxury”. Mazda is “near-luxury” only in the minds of the Mazda executives in Hiroshima and in the offices of its advertising agency.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “But Mazda is already near-luxury”

      No, its not.

      “No one wants to build cars for poor people anyway.”

      Sixty three percent of Americans can’t cover a $500 expense. The majority of the buying public is poor people.

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2016/01/06/63-of-americans-dont-have-enough-savings-to-cover-a-500-emergency/#5f336b924e0d

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        How many new private vehicle sales are there a year? Ten million seems live a very high estimate. That’s a little more than 3% of Americans buying a new car or truck each year. I’ve certainly seen some people extend themselves to buy a new car, but that doesn’t mean product planners are worried about the working poor.

        OTOH, Mazda is on the C-squad of Japanese cars. They make better cars than Subaru does. but they didn’t have the marketing genius to position themselves as the no-brainer choice of protected groups.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Globally speaking, the number was some 16 million per year over the last 2-3 years. Can’t say what the US-only numbers would be.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Vulpine, by private sales I meant excluding commercial vehicle purchases and fleet buying including federal, state and local governments. Ten million private citizens buying new cars and trucks a year in the US is a reasonable guess.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        “No one wants to build cars for poor people anyway.”

        That was Volkswagen’s gig 75 years ago.

        Now they build poor cars.

        // Jaded former Volkswagen owner.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I love these cars from a parallel universe, Canada and more so Australia had all these cars that were similar, but not exactly like American cars. Kind of an automotive Twilight Zone

    With automakers consolidating and focusing on one world cars I don’t see regional marquis ever returning. Too bad, it was one of the things that made cars fun

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “all these cars that were similar, but not exactly like American cars. Kind of an automotive Twilight Zone”

      Word.
      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysler_Valiant_Charger

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Exactly! It looks so familiar, but you just can’t figure out what it is… Cue the theme from Twilight Zone

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        That’s just Australia. For Canada from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, Dodges were assembled with Plymouth bodies from the cowl back, and Dodge sheet metal from the cowl forward, with Plymouth instrument panels but Dodge badging. They did the opposite with Plymouths, using Dodge bodies and Plymouth front sheet metal. All to make the cars look unique to the Canadian market.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Monarch, who knew?
    Badge engineering, eh.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      My paternal grandfather’s next door neighbour had a 1956 Monarch. I was entranced by the marque specific emblems that were on each wheel cover, the front hood and trunk. Different from any other vehicle that I knew.

      Monarchs, Meteors, Beaumonts, Canadian Pontiacs, English captive imports, ‘Quebec spec’ hatches, ‘micro-vans’, the Canadian market indeed had different badge engineering than the USA. Free trade agreements have helped to homogenize global markets.

      And in reference to marques, what about GM with its Passport, Asuna, Geo and other short lived brands?

  • avatar
    FerrariLaFerrariFace

    We always seem to talk about the marques that we’ve lost over the past 20 years or so, but what about the ones that have been added? Ram and Genesis come to mind. MINI is technically new. Heck, Scion was new in that time frame but then went away. Maybach has been on-again, off-again.

    What else?

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      The reintroduction of Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Maserati might be considered entries. Tesla is about twenty years old. McLaren is new as a brand of US compliant cars. Smart was new.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Yeah.

      “last couple of decades has seen the elimination of the Oldsmobile, Plymouth, Saturn, Hummer, Pontiac, Mercury, and Scion divisions of their respective parent automakers”

      That kinda leaves out that Saturn, Hummer, and Scion were also “new divisions” in that same time period, that ran their course, not Old Standards that failed (Olds, Plymouth, Pontiac fit that).

      Frankly I’m just fine with badge-engineering marques going away.

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

      MINI is a strange case. Yes it is a new premium small car brand.

      But on the other hand, it is the remains of what was British Leyland through Rover group. Sold in the US in various stages as MGs, Triumphs, Austins, Rovers, Sterlings.

      Land Rover and Jaguar being the other survivors, and the various badges are spread across different brands because of corporate history (eg. BMW has Triumph, JLR has Rover, MG has Morris)

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    If it’s a ’55, I don’t think it’s a 2-speed. The shifter probably says PRNDL, but it’s actually a 3-speed that normally launched in second. Important in Canada where slick dirt roads and winter ice promote wheel spin. The 2-speed was introduced in 1959.

    To launch in 1st, you had to select low (L).
    To hold 2nd, you had to shift to D then back to L (D-L).
    To shift to 3rd, go back to drive (D).

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I like the current Skoda lineup and would definitely consider the Scala if it were on offer in NA. South American VW’s could be rebadged as Skoda, or perhaps some VW car offerings could alternatively be rebadged as Fords. I’m not against that. I doubt we’ll see many new brands though, except some Chinese ones eventually. It is more likely that existing brands will consolidate.

  • avatar
    James2

    Forget adding a new brand. Rather… how about exploring the outer edges of the color spectrum? Seeing a car in something other than black-gray-silver-white would be like seeing a ’56 Monarch.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I’ve seen most manufacturers will sell you a car in an actual color… if you’re willing to pay for the privilege. Whether dealers actually order them or not, is a separate issue.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    Over here in Europe, we only saw a few disappearances: Lancia, Saab and Daewoo in this decade, Talbot in the 90s, and Panhard, Borgward and DKW in the 60s come to mind. (Excluding everything British, which all went away, and also trucks.) There probably have been more additions than deletions over here.

    I think that in general, the trend of there being more additions than deletions will continue. I can’t think of any marque over here that seems on its last legs, except maybe Citroens upmarket division DS; but I feel sure that many Chinese marques are going to join the lineup soon, some even with revived old European names — the first of those being Borgward.

  • avatar

    Forgot – Tatra. It was a large luxury car.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    Given how much America is all about consuming itself with remakes and reboots, I don’t see a new as in “created from scratch” brand emerging unless it’s a Tesla type ego/niche product.

    I could see the resurrection of an old brand though if it seemed like a good way to target a particular market segment. Edsel notwithstanding, I think most domestic brand names have at worst neutral and at best positive feeling with the public at large.

    Another exception may be Hummer due to its polarization, but the kind of people who liked to post pictures of them giving Hummer drivers the finger were never going to buy one and those that owned them seem to have near Jeep-like perceptions so the negativity there might be a net plus.

    I also don’t forsee “AMC” being resurrected any time soon. Yes, AMC did a lot with a little and those in the know respect that, but the public at large sees AMC as the Pacer and the Gremlin, not the AMX and Javelin. Bringing back Rambler or Hudson might be a little more likely — especially as the kids who grew up with Doc Hudson from the Pixar “Cars” franchise become old enough to drive.

    Sidebar: How would that be for a tie-in with a hypothetical Cars 5? A new 2022 Hudson Hornet from FCA!

    Depending on how the market evolves I could see VW or Nissan bringing in a brand to slot underneath (eg, Skoda or Datsun) to try to push the mainline brand upmarket a bit.

  • avatar

    Does anyone remember Duesenberg? It was resurrected several times. Then Avanti – also was resurrected, I even saw one on parking lot at work. DeLorean – you can buy one right now. Tacker – we have one in local museum.


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