By on July 24, 2019

Today marks the first entry into a two-part Question of the Day series where we’ll step back in time. The purpose of the journey? To fix the mishaps committed by automakers. First up are the missed opportunities.

Think back to any historical time period you desire, and pick out one instance where an automaker really messed up and missed an opportunity. A decision which would affect the company’s fortunes and/or product offerings in the years to come; if only they’d done that One Simple Thing! Your author volunteers to go first.

1986: Honda offers a V8 in the Acura Legend

Honda sold Acura vehicles beginning 1986, when they beat Lexus and Infiniti to market by four full model years. Perhaps they were quicker on the front end than Toyota and Nissan because they didn’t put in as much effort as their Japanese competition. In ’86 Acura had a single car — the Legend sedan. It was joined in 1987 by the coupe version, which donated its larger 2.7-liter V6 (161 hp) to the sedan version for 1988. The Legend marked Honda’s first full-size entry into the North American market, as well as the first production car from the brand with a V6. It wasn’t enough.

Legend development was in conjunction with Rover, who jointly created the same-yet-different Legend called the Rover 800 (and Sterling). It was probably daring of the small engine people at Honda to develop a V6 for their new luxury car — but they should’ve dared harder. Coming to market with a front-drive V8 full-sizer (common in the Eighties) would’ve put the brand in a better position to compete with American luxury brands, and made Acura more of a threat for Lexus and Infiniti. The other Japanese premium marques came to market with V8 engines and rear-drive for their full-size sedans, which were also more full-size than the Legend.

That first offering set the stage for the relative floundering Acura stands for today. Apart from the occasional bright spot in the form of an Integra here and an RSX there, the Acura brand has never been a real threat to Lexus, or really any other luxury brand. It’s now a crossover company, and its largest sedan (the RLX) is very sad indeed. Quite a missed opportunity then, in those hazy, smoggy early Eighties. Even a borrowed V8 would’ve been better than nothing.

Let’s hear your selections for automotive missed opportunities.

[Images: Acura]

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275 Comments on “QOTD: Alternative History of Missed Automotive Opportunities?...”


  • avatar
    jack4x

    There’s so many to choose from but the one that comes immediately to mind is the aborted second-gen Fiero. If GM hadn’t abandoned mid engine development in 1988, it might not have taken until 2020 to see the mid engine Corvette.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      It didn’t help that the Fiero only got its own front and rear suspension designs in 1988, and cast off the Chevette front suspension and X-Body-front-suspension-as-rear-suspension.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Building an all new Corvair in 1970 would have left GM with a Porsche competitor and give GM with a mid-rear engine sports car.

      A better built Vega with a durable engine say: Opel, Chevrolet 151-4 or Pontiac OHC-6 with two cylinders lopped off wouldn’t have soured many Americans on Detroit iron.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Even Chevrolet admitted during the first gas crisis “If we had a million Corvairs right now we could sell everyone of them.”

        • 0 avatar
          JoeBrick

          In the late 40s or early 50s Chevrolet was developing a car called the Champion. It was a small low-priced 4 or 5 passenger 4 cylinder front engine rear wheel drive car and could have potentially blunted the popularity of the Volkswagen beetle.
          Speaking of which, at the end of World War II, the British government offered the Volkswagen company to Ford, who declined the offer.

          • 0 avatar
            JoeBrick

            My mistake- it was called the Chevrolet Cadet. And it was a 6 cyl.
            http://gmauthority.com/blog/2019/05/the-chevrolet-cadet-was-the-genesis-of-modern-suspension-design/
            My mind is going…Dave, my MIND is going…would you like to hear a song ? It’s called “Daisy”…

          • 0 avatar
            JoeBrick

            ^^^ FTW ! if I do say so myself…

          • 0 avatar
            MRF 95 T-Bird

            Like what Hudson did with the Jet and of course Nash/Rambler which led to the American.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I’ll reference Ate Up With Motor for the second time in this section. Per Aaron Severson, GM correctly forecast a decline in the MR2/Fiero market, so one could argue the General’s bean counters got it right on that one.

      But to your point, I think the counterargument is that GM hurts itself long-term with its unceasing axing of models and nameplates; it reflects a lack of institutional confidence. Case in point: The Cavalier-Cobalt-Cruze. Was the Cavalier as good as the contemporary Corollas and Civics? No, not really. Was it as awful as internet pundits would have you believe? No, it really wasn’t. I had one or two as rentals and various times, and a couple of friends had J-bodies back in the day. I’d categorize them more as cheap-and-cheerful than as bad. In dropping the nameplate, GM was waving a white flag and saying, “You’re right, scribes and internet commenters! We’re going to totally disavow that model. But this one, this one is good.”

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I believe they were also trying again on a mid-engine Corvette in the mid-late aughts, just after the release of the C6, but suspended development when they went under in the economic crunch.

  • avatar
    NoID

    If I had a time machine and the Mind Stone:

    Chevrolet offers a 350 V8 and 4-speed manual in the 1983-1988 Monte Carlo SS. This was available for the 1984 model year, but only in Mexico and only for one year. At the very least they could have thrown the L98 V8 into the car for the ’87 and ’88 model years, as they did on the Camaro.

    • 0 avatar
      NoID

      Back in 2015, when the writing was on the wall for the Dart and 200, FCA expands their partnership with Mazda to include branding the Mazda 3 as the Dart and Mazda 6 as the 200 (names could be changed to protect the guilty) for the 2016 or 2017 model year, and in addition to the 124 Spider, badge the Fiata as a Dodge Copperhead or Chrysler Crossfire and drop in the new corporate “Hurricane” I4 (~100 HP more than the Fiata).

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Corey, I am going to disagree with your premise. Will play devil’s advocate and will probably be shot down in flames for it.

    The 1st generation(s) of Acura were well respected and sold relatively well. The Legend, the Integra and yes even the Vigor.

    The foretold what ‘higher end’ cars would look like. How many RWD V8 cars are sold now?

    How much experience did Honda have with RWD or V8’s? In the mid/late 80’s we had ‘peak Honda’ because they stuck to and tried to perfect what they did best.

    It was the follow-up generations that sunk Acura. And their major weakness is/was styling.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Comment Of The Day, Arthur.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I agree, it definitely wasn’t the lack of cylinder count that in any way hampered the Legend, which as Arthur points out did very well and built up the model name into a very respected nameplate. Walking away from the “Legend” name and offering very staid boring styling in an increasingly heavy floppy car is what did that car in.

      • 0 avatar

        If you didn’t want to compete fully with the other two newcomers, don’t play. Sell it as a Honda and skip the luxury branding. At the time, rear-drive V8 cars were foundational flagships. The Legend didn’t establish anything upon which to build.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Corey: How many RWD V8 cars are sold/on the market today? Acura created a new category, ahead of most other manufacturers (FWD, less than 8 cylinder, ‘premium’ cars), then allowed themselves to be overtaken.

          If they had continued to upgrade and build ‘better’ Legends and Integras, (and if the styling of next generation Acuras was not downright pathetic) they could still be a force in the marketplace.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “How many RWD V8 cars are sold/on the market today”

            Not many. But how many were sold between ’86 and ’14? I don’t necessarily agree with Corey, but there are nearly 3 decades in between that you’re hand-waving away.

          • 0 avatar

            I dunno, it would’ve made a difference to the brand between 1986 and 2004-ish, when large sedans still mattered.

            The front-drive full-size V6 was not new in 86, other people had been doing that for years. It was only new to Honda.

          • 0 avatar

            There is nothing premium about Legend. It was sold in Europe as Honda Legend and did not really compete with The Germans, other than Opel Omega or Ford Scorpio. I would prefer Scorpio with DOHC V6 any day, even today. It was rare too. While Scorpio and Omega were common place (I know that Omega is actually Cadillac in America so do not wonder that Americans considered Honda Legend as a luxury car, it just tells you how bad American cars become).

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I don’t agree with that take at all. Acura was a very successful brand with very distinct identifiable cars (Integra, Legend) that are known by just about everyone even decades after being discontinued. They were distinct from Honda, and they were distinct in their mission from Lexus/Infiniti. Lexus was the cushy Mercedes-aping brand and did it very well. Infiniti was the one that was ill defined and ill positioned IMO. Acura was its own thing: lighter/sportier/sharper than a cushy Lexus, more interesting styling, maybe a bit more of a ‘Japanese BMW” sort of positioning.

          • 0 avatar

            How long did that brand identity last? What was the most recent year? 1995?

          • 0 avatar
            dividebytube

            I don’t think Infiniti came on to their own until the G35/G37 was seen as a good competitor (and cheaper) than the BMW 3-series.

            btw -my wife is now driving a 2008 Infiniti M35x. I’m honestly surprised how nice the car is (minus the rotten city mileage). I don’t have much interest in their current lineup, but for a short spell Infiniti was on to something.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Precisely, the last year they made a good looking, fun to drive car carrying the LEGEND name.

            Their fall from relevance was their own doing, a function of diluting their own cars with bland styling, bland driving dynamics, and bland branding/naming.

            In the early 90s though it was no contest. The G20 was a big nothing compared to the Integra, the J30 was a soft heavy underpowered thing that most people mistook for an Altima. Q45 after the first few years was massively in the shadow of the LS400 and almost a non-entity.
            Infiniti found their mojo with the G35 and FX, Acura maintained existence thanks to the MDX.

          • 0 avatar

            On your M, that tidy 93-octane 16mpg city will fall to 15 in the winter. Be ready!

          • 0 avatar
            cprescott

            Except that what was sold by A-cure-uh was really a Honduh Accord (European version). There is little respect to a company that rebadges low rent cars and passes them off as high end cars. After all, the Lincoln and Caddy haters have told us this is true.

          • 0 avatar
            Dave M.

            I fully agree that Acura (even with rebadged vehicles from other markets) had its own distinct flavor, and was very aspirational in the late 80s and 90s. To me their last interesting design was the 2004-2008 TL and CL.

            The plenum beak was their Titanic moment.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            “Except that what was sold by A-cure-uh was really a Honduh Accord (European version)”

            No you’re thinking of the TSX, brain-dead.

          • 0 avatar
            buffaloboxster

            That “brand identity” was still going strong in 2003, when I traded in my ’97 Integra GS-R on an RSX Type S.

            I was one of those who did opt for the Integra over the Eclipse. Why would one do that? An 8,000rpm redline, better handling – best FWD handling ever, best 5-speed manual I’ve ever driven, a better interior, and a cheaper price tag. At the time I was 23 and buying my first new car and I figured I owed it to myself to drive them all even though I thought I wanted an Eclipse. I drove that car like I stole it for 120,000 miles and all that broke on it was the power antenna.

            The RSX wasn’t quite as good. The handling was a little less sharp, the styling not nice to look at. It had more power, and the 6-speed manual again was the best around at that time, besides the S2000. The Eclipse had already turned into a Dodge Avenger knock-off.

            Acura’s big mistakes were “beak” styling and chasing volume sales in the mid 2000s. They failed to anticipate that SUVs would wind up as the volume players by the end of the decade, and they watered down their cars to chase my parents’ money instead of mine. They should have stuck with smaller, sharper, more fun to drive cars that were better built than the Germans, almost as luxurious, and contrary to other posters’ claims they were several thousand dollars cheaper in the 2000s.

            Also – we’re talking a lot of trash about how Acura went wrong, but the formula is actually still working. RDX and MDX are both excellent vehicles offered at discounts to their German competition with better reliability, more content and similar levels of luxury. Acura’s problem today is that Lexus is better than they are at their own formula.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Corey Lewis: “If you didn’t want to compete fully with the other two newcomers, don’t play. Sell it as a Honda and skip the luxury branding. At the time, rear-drive V8 cars were foundational flagships. The Legend didn’t establish anything upon which to build.”

          1. There were not two other newcomers in 1986.

          2. The Acura Legend didn’t compete with any V8s that were as good as Acura’s V6 in 1986. The BMW 528e and 535i were inline-sixes, as was the Mercedes-Benz 300E. The Audi 5000S was an inline-five. Peugeot had fours and V6s. Volvo’s sixes of the time were pathetic. Saab was in the target market with fours. What did that leave? An Alfa Milano on a tow-hook? Cadillac? Their engines were worse than Volvos, and they weren’t RWD. BMW had no V8s at all in their line. Mercedes-Benz had the V8 S-class, but those were a two to three times as expensive as anything Acura competed with. People still cared a bit about fuel economy in 1986, especially compared to 1990.

          3. Acura was initially more successful than anyone expected. They’ve made huge mistakes since, but they were going from strength to strength right up until they renamed the Legend as the RL. The still rocked the market with the first MDX and sold impressive numbers of TLs as recently as 2008.

          4. They could have built anything on their initial success. They were able to sell the original NSX in strong numbers until the novelty wore off and they’d spurred Ferrari and Porsche into building cars that were as fast as they looked and started when you turned the key.

          Acura might have built the cars we wanted them to if not for the economic collapse a decade ago. They had RWD sedan prototypes, a V8 sports car on track, and had only begun to guillotine their brand with silly styling and the inexplicable RLX.

          • 0 avatar
            JoeBrick

            The Acura Legend was sold elsewhere as the Honda Legend.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            “Alfa Milano on a tow-hook”

            Yes, I’d take that all day and twice on Sunday. Ever heard a Busso V6 at full song? Try it, then you’ll understand.

            I owned some of these back in the 90s in Italy. They are like old Ferraris…they don’t like to putter around. They are happiest when flogged and I was happy to beat on them. Wonderful engines.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Heck, my former 2013 Accord Touring had LED headlights, not available on any contemporary Acura, in addition to adaptive cruise control, which wasn’t offered on anything but the highest trim levels of the day.

        And my new 2019 Accord Touring 2.0T is 7/8ths Acura at a Honda price!

        I would expect a larger four-pot with the gerbil wheel, or a small V6, in any brand calling itself “luxury,” however! The K20C actually trumps the F22 in the favorite Accord version on this site, the 1990-1992 4th-Gens, IMHO! However, in a larger vehicle, probably even the RDX, it’s going to be a bit underpowered!

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      I totally agree that the following generations sank Acura. The first series of Integra, Legend, and then Vigor absolutely nailed it.

      • 0 avatar

        Do not concur on Vjgor. It was too small, too expensive, and rode too hard. It was in the middle of nowhere, just like the J30.

        • 0 avatar
          EquipmentJunkie

          My friend had a Vigor and I thought that it drove like it was a sporty car. Good power and handling…a tad harsh. I don’t believe that it was any smaller than a E36 BMW which was probably its biggest competition.

        • 0 avatar
          pragmatic

          Yes the crappy J30 which Infiniti improved as the G35 and had a hit then rested on their laurels. Acura rested on their laurels from the get go then decided the model names (Legend, Integra) were better known than Acur’s name so they canned them and had nothing.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        How Honda/Acura failed to continue with the Legend, Integra, & Vigor I have no idea. These were great cars, I always liked the Vigor if for the name only. They came out of the gates with great product and successfully made them worse with each iteration to the point of insignificance, the exact location Acura is now. Why Honda has not shuttered this operation yet is beyond my ability to comprehend, move the remaining product over to Honda, put a name on it vs the letter soup and have a great day.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          The Legend was a very good car – maybe even great – but its’ key virtue was that it was first to market with the “reliable, economical, sporty luxury car” concept. In the end, the Legend was spare inside, and it was obviously a Honda. It just wasn’t luxurious.

          Meanwhile, the ES might have been a Camry under the skin, but damn, was it nice inside.

          Lexus took Acura’s schtick and made it passe, and meanwhile, Acura never changed its’ act.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            I think you’re entirely ignoring the superior dynamics/driving engagement that the Acuras offered over the Lexi, and all the car mags sang their praises along with Bimmer (and that’s a non-trivial thing for sales IMO). Between that and excellent styling (better than copy-cat/bland Lexus) I think Acura had a very real identity beyond “first reliable premium car.”

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Yes, they were good performers. Problem is, BMWs and Audis drove even better, and at the same time, you had a whole slew of FWD performance cars coming on the market. I mean, seriously – it’s the year 1989, and you want a small performance coupe – do you buy an Integra, or a Mitsubishi Eclipse with a turbo and AWD?

            Acura was kind of a neither-nor – not high-performance (or prestigious) enough to really compete with BMW, not luxurious enough to compete with Lexus.

            If they hadn’t brought out the MDX, I think the brand would have died LONG ago.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Audis did not drive better than Acuras or Hondas. It wasn’t even close, and I had a 1984 Audi 4000S quattro and a five-speed 1985 5000S as my daily drivers in the period. I also compared a new Audi 90 quattro to the 1988 BMW 325 I bought instead because the Audi 90 drove even less impressively than the cars it replaced. Keep in mind that every Honda has had better engine placement than every Audi that isn’t a rebadged VW or Lamborghini and that Audi has rarely had the money to develop appropriate engines for their flawed layout.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            “it’s the year 1989, and you want a small performance coupe – do you buy an Integra, or a Mitsubishi Eclipse with a turbo and AWD”

            IIRC Integra sales dwarfed Eclipse/Talon twins throughout the 90s. It’s not just the hot-performance crowd you need to consider, the Integra was sold much more often in base RS and mildly-luxurious LS trim than the GS-R, let alone Type R. And even back then, I think the Integras were known for rock solid reliability, Diamond Star Motors somewhat less so.

            Acura offered every bit the tactile/fun factor of BMW if not ultimately the ride or RWD balance, and like Todd said I don’t think Acura gave up anything whatsoever to Audis of the era in terms of driving engagement/handling.

            No I will stand by the point that Acura had carved out a very smart niche for itself in the early 90s with a pair of well loved and very highly regarded cars. It was then through their own folly that they started to screw up, but this also coincided with SUV Boom (MDX became huge profit center for them). The 99-03 TL and then the ’04-’08 TL are still excellent driver’s cars and even pretty handsome, should have kept calling them Legends in the US though.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            It wasn’t just the Eclipse, gtem – there were a BUNCH of cars in the Integra’s class by the early ’90s – Ford Probes, Geo Storms, Mazda MX-3 (all six they sold, anyway), you name it. And that’s why Integra sales dropped badly during that time. Of course, the whole “small sporty coupe” thing was dead by the early ’00s anyway – the Eclipse was the last man standing.

            I agree with you that they had a niche, but the question is why they lost it. Again, I’d say it’s styling – as good as something like a TL or TSX was, I don’t think people who weren’t gearheads ever saw them as anything more than fancied-up Hondas.

            (BTW, the MDX didn’t come along until 2000 or so, as I recall.)

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            “Ford Probes, Geo Storms, Mazda MX-3”

            I don’t quite see your point, aside from the Probe, which perfectly tracked along with declining Integra sales, the Integra vastly outsold the rest of these relatively bit players.

            The larger scope of things was that yes the sporty coupe class was on its way out. They did sell sedan variants of the Integra but I think you and I will agree that the bulk of the cars and its raison d’etre was being a “sporty” coupe (with good fuel economy, reliability, and some hatch practicality).

            IMO they could have just as easily (and should have) sold the RSX and TSX as the Integra Coupe and Integra Sedan respectively.

            I think you’re right that the loss of distinct styling was a factor, although I will say I think the ’04-’08 TL looks great and is perfectly proportioned, the gen 1 TSX is also handsome. I will argue that sales of these two would be better if they were called Legend and Integra respectively, and they should have never gone the big fat RL route, all the way back to the Legend days I would never cross-shop a smaller sportier Legend with a full sized LS400 or Q45.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      I agree with Arthur, and the only point I would add that Acura might have addressed earlier was poor rust proofing.

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      I still think Acura’s worst enemy is Honda itself. The Honda brand is so well respected it’s almost premium itself. Second, the aspect most Honda buyers seem to value; resale value and maintenance costs.

      Value and premium cars don’t go together. Depreciation is a bitch.

      This coming from someone who thinks Hondas are the most boring cars in America.

    • 0 avatar
      psychoboy

      I can’t disagree with much of this (except that the 2nd gen Legend is a fantastic car in its own right). Honda is a motor company that also builds things to put those motors in. They weren’t going borrow a motor to launch a new brand. Nor should they have.

      What happens when Honda follows the crowd or does what the media thinks it should? The 95 Accord V6. The 94 Honda Passport. Acura’s Scrabble-tile naming shift. The 2001-05 Civic. The 2012 Civic. The Insight. The CR-Z.

      Is Honda better off for any of those adventures?

    • 0 avatar
      saturnotaku

      My best friend in high school (late-90s) had an ’89 Legend coupe with the manual. It had more than 150,000 miles when he acquired it, but it looked and ran like it had 15,000.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        @ saturnotaku – 1st-gen Legends were great cars for their era. The first Acura owner I knew was the widow of a great-uncle. She was a conquest sale from Mercedes, trading in their sometimes problematic W123 for an ’86 Legend. She greatly preferred the Acura, which had a good semblance of the Benz’s pluses in terms of build quality and driveability but few of its minuses in terms of cost of ownership, etc. (Maybe theirs was a bad one; I know W123’s have a great reputation, and another family I know with a W123 wagon had better luck.) Part of her experience reflects that cars got better between the mid-’70s and the mid-’80s, but part of it reflects how good her Legend was.

        It’s funny to think of someone born ~1910 as an Acura evangelist, but she was an early adopter and, in my mind, was a good ambassador for the brand.

        Dumb move to discontinue the Legend nameplate, IMO.

        • 0 avatar
          saturnotaku

          @ Featherston – another one of my classmates was a brat with daddy’s money, and he received a brand-new Chevy Monte Carlo. I’d have taken my buddy’s Legend every day of the week.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Agree with Arthur, and I’ll take it a step further: the interior styling was the real problem. You could have put a V-8 in a Legend – like Corey says, it couldn’t have hurt – but it’d still have been austere inside, and worse yet, it would still obviously be a Honda. Lexuses and Infinitis didn’t look or feel like Toyotas or Nissans.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        How was a Legend any more austere than a BMW of the era? And yes, my ES300 felt exactly like a Camry of the era, for better or for worse, except for a bit of (real) wood trim on the lower console. Ditto Infiniti, just standard good quality bland but easy to use layouts. Hondas of the era were praised for their quality and ergonomic interiors, having a slightly luxed up version of that in an Acura was hardly turning people off from them IMO.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          I’ll give you an example, gtem –

          Back in the day (late ’80s or early ’90s), I was with my dad, shopping for cars. By this point, the guy had been buying luxury cars for almost 20 years – Benzes, 7-series BMWs, Caddys, you name it. We checked out a Legend.

          His appraisal (as I recall): “It looks just like your mom’s Integra in there.” No sale. He ended up with a Q45.

          Maybe BMW could get away with a “spare” interior…because, BMW, I guess, but I think Acura’s competition was always Lexus and Infiniti, and their stuff was awfully plain (and obviously Honda-sourced) in comparison. It made more sense to buy an up-level Honda than it did to buy an Acura.

          (BTW, Mom’s Integra was a terrific car, but it shared a driveway with my Civic and my brother’s CRX, and all the shared interior and exterior stuff was way too obvious.)

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Mid to late 80’s = peak Honda.

            The Old Man purchased Mom an Integra. I had a top of the line Accord sedan. Blue on blue with pop-up headlights and a MT, still my wife’s favourite of our many cars. She had an AWD Honda Wagon.

            My brothers had a Prelude and a Civic ‘Special Edition’.

            All came with the dealer installed A/C because that is how Honda still did it.

            As @psychboy posted, ‘Honda was a motor company that also built things to put their motors into’.

            No problems with any of the interior materials or switchgear. Far superior to that in the D3 vehicles that my co-workers were driving. Even Honda’s velour seating material was ‘better’.

            Of course The Old Man insisted on sticking with Cadillacs for himself.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            I had a driveway full of premium Germans and anything but admiration for Honda in 1990, but the second generation Legend’s interior blew me away. It looked nothing like an Integra interior. Meanwhile, Infiniti was falling all over themselves trying to glue wood to the plastic bin that was the Q45s launch interior.

            No offense, but your father wound up with a car that was roundly criticized for every aspect of its appearance. The Q45’s engine sounded magnificent, but its interior couldn’t hold a candle to that of the Legend released the same year.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I suppose you could chide the old man for his taste in cars if you have a Quija board handy.

            In any case, the market pretty much made its’ judgment on the Legend in the ensuing years – sales dropped like a rock by the mid-’90s. It was a great car – no argument there – but a top of the line luxury car has to be luxurious to sell, and the Legend simply wasn’t. By the end of its’ run, you could buy an Accord with leather, a V-6 and a roof, and the Legend just didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            “By the end of its’ run, you could buy an Accord with leather, a V-6 and a roof, and the Legend just didn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

            A hurriedly cobbled together 5th gen Accord with the C27 V6 shoehorned into the nose is hardly a serious 2nd gen Legend competitor, let’s be real. To any lay person, just the exterior styling alone sets the Legend apart. Larger 3.2L longitudinal motor with minimized torque steer, a lot more power, much better interior. I can see the argument comparing the current nondescript RLX to an Accord V6 now, but that does not apply to a 5th gen CD5 chassis Accord versus the gorgeous 2nd gen Legend IMO.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Average car buyers ain’t like the folks on this site, gtem – they don’t know chassis numbers and engine types. They knew the Accord and Legend both had a V-6, leather seats, sunroof…and a big difference in price. It may not make sense to you or I to compare them, but the market did.

            I have no doubt that the V-6 Accord (and probably the V-6 Camry, which could also be optioned up with leather and what-not) put the last nails in the Legend’s coffin.

            All this begs a question: if the V-6 Accord killed the Legend, then why didn’t V-6 Camry kill the ES? Answer: the ES had an overtly luxurious interior and the excellent Lexus buying experience going for it.

          • 0 avatar
            onyxtape

            The nail in the coffin for the Legend was the strength of the yen. I think the MSRP in 1995 for a Legend was almost $80,000 in 2019 dollars.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Regarding perception my Old Man would never allow his wife to be seen driving an ‘economy’ marque. Previously Chrsylers, Buicks, etc with the exception of a Caprice Classic.

            But once Acura was launched, allowing her to drive a Japanese vehicle was OK. Even if was only an Integra, it still did not have Honda badging.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            I’m starting to see the validity of your argument, but this bit of it is nonsense:

            “All this begs a question: if the V-6 Accord killed the Legend, then why didn’t V-6 Camry kill the ES? Answer: the ES had an overtly luxurious interior and the excellent Lexus buying experience going for it.”

            You said yourself above, a ES300 interior is nice, but is almost the same as a (likewise nice) leather Camry LE V6 interior.

            The issue is as simply at looking at MSRP: a ’96 ES300 started at $29k dollars (unadjusted for inflation), a ’95 Legend started at $38k. So the bump from a $24k Camry XLEV6 to a $30k ES was doable, but a jump from a $25k Accord EX-V6 to a $38k Legend just didn’t sit well with folks. I think Acura tried to position the Legend in between a full tilt fullsize luxury sedan like the Lexus LS and their more “entry level luxury” ES in price and prestige, and that turned out to be a mistake.

    • 0 avatar

      Styling was god for original and 2000s TL and TSX (Euro Accord).

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

      “How much experience did Honda have with RWD or V8’s?”

      Probably little, to answer your rhetorical question.

      HOWEVER – this was developed in a tie-up with Rover, who wanted a car to replace their *RWD* *V8* SD1 (aka 3500/2600/2000etc.).

      They could’ve pushed for the 800/Sterling and their own Legend to be RWD, learning from Rover’s expertise. They could’ve borrowed the Rover V8 which was a known quantity (itself derived from an old Buick engine and federalised when the SD1 was sold in the US)

      And Honda did learn from Rover. Look at how their interior ambience improved between the early 80s and the mid 90s.

  • avatar
    brettucks

    I think when Ford let Hal Sperlich go to Chrysler with his minivan idea they dropped the ball. While I personally hated the Caravan it made a lot of sense and it sold well. Ford let it slip away.

    • 0 avatar
      misfit_toys

      I agree. I’ve never understood why Ford (and GM) messed around with a body-on-frame based vehicle (Aerostar and Astro) rather than design a front-drive based minivan from the start. It was a formula that obviously worked very well for Chrysler. In the case of Ford, a minivan based on the Taurus would have been vastly superior to the K-car based Chrysler.

      • 0 avatar
        TR4

        I can’t speak for the Aerostar, but I spent enough time underneath my Astro to know that it is NOT a body-on-frame. It had a front subframe which carried the front suspension, engine, and transmission. The whole center and rear part was unibody.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          It was based on the Ranger platform nonetheless. Basing a minivan on a fwd car instead of a truck is still a mistake if you ask me.

          The Taurus trans was fully defective anyway, so I’m sure Ford considered the Ranger chassis a better choice. Except its auto trans was just as bad.

          Today you’ll spot a million Astros before you see one Aerostar. Same thing with S10s vs Rangers of the era, unless they’re stick shifts

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “It was based on the Ranger platform nonetheless. Basing a minivan on a fwd car instead of a truck is still a mistake if you ask me.”

            Yeah, but that’s what makes it a minivan. If you base it on a truck then it’s a van. Well, sort of. It depends what you want out of the vehicle- do you want a big car to tote kids to soccer games and dance recitals, or do you want a small truck that has more seating room than a truck and a dry space for cargo.

            I think it’s about 50-50 and there’s room in the market for both approaches.

            Speaking of the Ranger and the Aerostar, didn’t both of them have the Twin I Beam front suspension? *That* was a mistake to put on a family vehicle- hmmm buy back to school outfits for the kids or get new front tires… again?

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The Aerostar didn’t get the TIB, but minivans are used as trucks and they’re not so “mini” anymore. Some more heavy duty parts and drivetrains would be nice, may a small V8.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @DenverMike is correct in that I cannot remember the last time I saw an Aerostar, yet I see Astros or their GM/Pontiac siblings on a daily basis.

          • 0 avatar
            dtremit

            @DenverMike

            Don’t forget that the Aerostar came out slightly before the Taurus. Using the DN5 platform would have probably meant a significantly later introduction; the first derivative didn’t come out until MY88.

            Astro was built until 2005, which is probably why you see so many more. The last Aerostar was sold in 1997.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The Plymouth Prowler debuts with a 340hp supercharged V6 and optional manual transmission. This makes it a legitimate (& successful) Corvette competitor rather than an interesting styling exercise.
    The *second generation* Prowler is then designed to take the new “HEMI” engine family and the Crossfire never happens.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I’d go with an even bigger IF on that one, that Chrysler decides to stick it out, drops in the 4.7L after a few years (as seen in the Howler concept), and proceeds from there. If the Corvette can have gotten to where it is, starting with a weedy I6, no reason the Prowler couldn’t have done similar (especially with an engine that was pretty decent for the time), and it sticks with the heavy parts bin usage in developing the thing. Plus, I can’t see them supercharging the 3.5 just for the Prowler, and as much as I’m excited about the possibility of a supercharged LH, the Ultradrive could barely hold up with 214hp.

      Of course, this is probably all contingent on DaimlerChrysler never happening (letting Chrysler go do more great weird things with their cash surplus), and leads to a ton more missed opportunities.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I’d read that packaging/weight was an issue with a V8 in the Prowler, and that a supercharger on the V6 would indeed have been the most realistic solution. Definitely a missed opportunity.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          It was a bit of a packaging issue, although I think the transmission was the bigger issue. I leaned towards the V8 being a stronger option down the line since they did have a V8-powered concept at SEMA once they started moving past the old Magnum V8’s. I’m not sure if that not getting explored any further though is to be blamed on the DaimlerChrysler merger (because that did ruin a ton of things), or just Plymouth going defunct.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      “and the Crossfire never happens.”

      Yeah but MB had to have somewhere to dump those engines with only 6 cyl but 12 spark plugs.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      That’s a bit more of a Camaro competitor- although both cars aren’t far behind the Corvette (both cars being the Camaro and your fictitious super Prowler).

      Chrysler *did* have a Corvette competitor until a couple years ago… a 2018 Viper derivative with the Hellcat engine would have been really something, wouldn’t it?

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        It would have offered very little that the current Hellcat doesn’t already.

        The Hellcat V8 is too wide to fit in the 2013-17 Viper, and weighs hundreds of pounds more than the V10. So to make it fit, the car needs to grow larger and heavier, and an iron block up front throws off the 50/50 weight balance. So now you have a 3800 lb 2 seater with a front weight bias vs a 4400 lb 5 seater with a front weight bias. Would it sell? Maybe. But it would be slower than a ’17 Viper both in a straight line and on a track.

  • avatar
    cicero1

    GM and Hummer – It never should have been its own division. It should have been the GMC-H series. Existing dealers would have had a unique lineup. The line could have been cut to one product during the 2008-2010 period, then expanded again and could now be GM’s creditable real SUV lineup offering Wrangler and Wrangle pickup competitors, raptor competitor, land cruiser competitor. Instead Jeep and Toyota print money.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Hummer might have held on if the HX concept had been advanced to production as the H4, to compete with the Wrangler.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      I agree 100% – this is the biggest branding mistake GM has made in the last 50 years.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “GM and Hummer – It never should have been its own division.”

      If they’d stayed true to the H1 and brought unique vehicles to market then, no, it should have stayed its own division. But after the H2 and GM-ized hummers, what I irreverently like to call the “poseur hummers,” or arguably starting with the H2, then they were badge-engineered vehicles based on minor changes to common corporate platforms.

      Badge engineering does sell more volume… for a while. It worked for as long as it took consumers to finally notice that a lot of Olds and Buick products had become practically the same thing.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Explain how the AM General and GM co developed H2 was a “poser Hummer)
        The H2 used parts from the corporate parts bin but no other vehicle used a frame made up of a 3/4 front section (1 ton in 06-07) a all new 1-1/4 ton mid section (which Ford should have developed to prevent the raptor frames from bending) and a HD reinforced 1/4 rear frame section. Hummer pushes out 3 vehicles very capable of off-roading and created the Gladiator 10 years before FCA.

        Repeating GreenPeace lines 15 years later doesn’t make them any more true than they were when they were originally stated, any other off-road vehicle made with a GM LS engine would have been praised and had a religion created after.

        I’ll remind you that Jeep has a single off-road vehicle in their entire line up, a Mercedes vehicle, and a bunch of Fiats that can’t even go off-road.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Well, maybe the H2 was very tough and capable off road – I’ll take your word for it – but how big is the actual market for giant off-roaders?

          Jim’s right, and he’s not spouting “greenpeace” lines at all – the folks who bought these were all about stylin’ and profilin’.

          In other words, they were pretty much posers.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Jim seems to me to be inferring that the Vehicles capability (or lack there of to him) making it a poser vehicle rather than the demographic.

            Market for giant off-roaders was enough to support the Bronco, Blazer, and Ramcharger for numerous years, the number of vehicles that filled that niche in 2003? iirc 2, and both came from the Hummer brand.

            GreenPeace certainly did everything they could to demean the vehicles and owners they determined were not kosher, lying was certainly in the playbook. Regardless if owners were styling and profiling the vehicles were not simply badge jobs as GreenPeace and Jim have stated.

            Similarly where do you draw the line of posers, is everyone buying a Muscle car and not doing burn outs posing? The BMW M-series doesn’t even seem to appeal to enthusiasts any longer but rather the “posers”. That phrase has lost any meaning today when auto manufacturers are selling boatloads of 2.0T and 3.0T cars as “luxury” or “premium” as there is absolutely nothing luxurious about having an engine that small in a 4 wheeled vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            @Hummer, I’m not spouting greenpeace lines- no matter how much you’re inferring that I was. Kindly re-read my original post but this time pay attention to it instead of thinking of what you’re going to say about greenpeace… or whatever ulterior political motives you’re imagining. You’ll see that I was *only* talking about product development and marketing. @FreedMike picked up on all that just fine.

            The H3 was most definitely a badge job- it shared a platform with the Colorado, Canyon, and Rodeo and it was styled to look like a kinder, gentler baby hummer.

            I don’t think that the H2 was a badge job but I can see how someone argue say that it was. That’s why I said “arguably.”

            I’ve said it before on here that sports cars that never see a track are similar to bro trucks that only ever go offroad to park on the grass at the beer ball league… it’s all image and that’s perfectly fine by me.

            Here on TTAC we often laugh at the old car commercials from the 1980s and poke fun about the marketing maybe being about coke-fueled high society. Someday soon we’re going to look back at the SUV/giant truck/man step/tow a 10,000 pound boat uphill at 80mph era and laugh at its ridiculous imagery too.

            Cheers!

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            “then they were badge-engineered vehicles based on minor changes to common corporate platforms.”

            This is what I was refuting, however I would like to delve slightly into badge engineering.

            In the 80s GM, Ford, Chrysler all created cars and shared them between brands with only badge changes, same awful cars under all the brands. H3 sharing a (modified, yes there are structural changes) platform with the clearly badge engineered Colorado and Canyon is quite a different deal. It’s more in the same level as saying that a Camaro is a badge engineered Commodore, or a Challenger is a badge engineered Charger is a badge engineered Mercedes.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            “Similarly where do you draw the line of posers, is everyone buying a Muscle car and not doing burn outs posing?”

            You’re right, you can make the same argument about a 60-year-old guy whose first purchase after his divorce is a Corvette, bought for one reason and one reason only: to reassure him that he’ll someday have sex again. Ditto for a very, very large chunk of Corvette sales.

            Doesn’t change facts, though – I’m sure that a small percentage of Hummer (and ‘Vette) owners use them to do what they were designed to do, but the overwhelming majority of them were bought by posers.

            Nothing wrong with that per se…it’s their money.

            And for the record, no, I don’t think the H2 was badge engineered at all – it’s obviously a very different vehicle than the Tahoe.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            What about the relative lack of interior space in the Hummer?
            A lot of exterior packaging with very limited passenger or cargo capacity.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Arthur not sure what vehicle your pointing to,
            The H1 has a transmission and associated driveline (look up Hummer H1 brakes) running between the passengers. I have a factory available jump seat between the two main rear seats in my open top that can hold two more people.
            The H2 is fairly large inside if not lowish on leg space, this is due to the very short nature of the truck. Shortest full-size GM made. About 12 inch thick doors+panel combinations don’t kill room but the overall length of the truck shows up, add in space so that 38s can fit on the rear at stock truck height and the rear wheel wells do intrude on the cargo (not horribly but they do take a small hit.
            The H3 is a very small truck, the fender flares and front hood width fool onlookers but if you remove those fenders then the truck looks surprisingly tiny. You can only do so much with exterior dimensions that small, still I find it roomier than a wrangler.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Hummer. My friend’s H3 is so small inside that we cannot fit our golf bags into the back, sideways. Something that we can in the trunk of most midsized vehicles. The back seat is also rather limited in space.

            My co-workers H2 is surprisingly lacking in back seat space and headroom.

            As to the jump seats in your H1, I am unsure as to their legality in Ontario (head restraints, 3 point belts, etc).

            When you compare weight (and mileage) to available interior space, there are few other vehicles with so much disparity. I will however allow that it most likely had superior off road capability and he certainly feels confident driving it in poor road or weather conditions.

            However due to its lack of interior capacity, when going on golfing trips, if there were 3 of us, we often take his Suzuki SX4 rather than the H3.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Hummer, meant to edit my reply but got timed out. :-(

            There is a lot that my friend likes about his H3, but it is compromised as a ‘family vehicle’.

            You mentioned the wheel wells intrusion and that is probably the primary problem we have in loading golf equipment.

            As I am not interested in off roading the Wrangler does not exist in my universe. Had to take a long trip in one, on a cold winter night and have refused to ride in a Wrangler ever since.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            H3 certainly has a small cargo area, but it is comparable to the Wrangler, the H3T with the GM accessory slant back is the sweet spot for space. I don’t doubt golf clubs would be tight, but that’s the price to pay to get the axles as close to the edge (F+R) as they did. It is a small truck with a large truck personality from a large truck brand, it’s just not visible u til you get in. The sweet spot is the V8 with the front and rear factory lockers. I also have a 5-speed Manual H3T, one of about 56 trucks to leave the factory, I’ve only ever seen one other. I don’t drive it any longer as I don’t believe it’s repairable if it gets anything more than light damage to the bed or the rear doors.

            The H2 rear seats are very odd, I call them stadium seating, they sit significantly higher than the front, and with the sunroof your oddly close to the roof, very strange setup. The seating issue was fixed in part in 08-09 with the reclining feature finally being added, being able to sit the seat back a couple degrees made a world of difference.

            There are lap belts on the H1 jump seat but the truck falls under the same guidelines as a very large trucks, it was never sold with airbags for example, laws in the US change with certain GVWR.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Hummer: Thanks. I appreciate your superior knowledge of this marque.

  • avatar
    Steve203

    Oh goody! Alternate reality.

    October 1954: Packard buys Studebaker in a merger entirely without synergies.

    Alternate reality: Packard buys Studebaker one year earlier: October 1953.

    Instead of Packard contracting with Lakey Foundry for castings, that work is put in Studebaker’s foundry.

    Instead of installing the new V8 line, and moving the transmission and rear axle lines into Packard’s Utica plant, those lines are installed in Studebaker’s South Bend works, and the Utica plant, warehouse and test track are sold.

    Instead of leasing the Briggs body plant on Conner and moving the final assembly line into Conner, the Packard assembly line is installed in Studebaker’s Chippewa plant, together with a modern body assembly and paint line. The East Grand complex is sold.

    Instead of trying to stand up Clipper as a midmarket brand, Studebaker would be moved back to it’s pre-war midmarket position and the models we know as Clippers would instead be the Studebaker Commander and President, built at Chippewa, along with Packards.

    Spin Champion off as a stand alone low priced brand, take a Sawzall to the existing Studebaker platform and create the car that later became the Lark, in 1955, as the new Champion, using the existing Studebaker powertrains and production facilities.

    The enterprise would still have massive problems, because the new Packard V8 and revised Ultramatic were woefully underdeveloped and troublesome, but it would be slightly less of a dumpster fire than what S-P turned out to be.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The Ultramatic in my parents’ ’52 200 4-door lasted 13 years before it gave up the ghost. What were the problems with the Ultramatic?

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >>The Ultramatic in my parents’ ’52 200 4-door lasted 13 years before it gave up the ghost. What were the problems with the Ultramatic?<<

        The early Ultramatic was designed to be run in high gear all the time, with the torque converter helping get the car off the line. Packard found that people were using Low to get the car off the line faster, then slapping the trans into Drive. In 54, they offered what they called "gear start" which automated the low-drive upshift.

        The trans was further modified for 55, again using the automatic Low-Drive upshift, but the trans could not withstand the torque of the new V8, and started smoking it's high gear clutch. On top of that, the new V8 has a serious oil aeration problem, so, between the trans and the engine, the Packard powertrain was a company damaging dumpster fire all on it's own.

    • 0 avatar
      NoID

      You’ve put a lot of thought into this…

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >>You’ve put a lot of thought into this…<<

        I grew up in a family full of Studebakers and Ramblers, so have an interest in digging into the histories of those companies. I came to the conclusion that Packard should have merged with Hudson and Nash should have merged with Studebaker.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Did you ever get to Kenosha during the 60s-70s? Talk about a surreal landscape, every single car in that city was some kind of AMC. Driving a Chevy or Ford through town made you feel like some “B” horror movie where the “outsider” is never heard from again. Spooky

          • 0 avatar
            Steve203

            >>Did you ever get to Kenosha during the 60s-70s? Talk about a surreal landscape, every single car in that city was some kind of AMC. Driving a Chevy or Ford through town made you feel like some “B” horror movie where the “outsider” is never heard from again. Spooky<<

            Yes I did. Took the tour of the main assembly plant. Didn't feel out of place at all, as I was driving a 74 AMC Ambassador wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      You general idea is sound, but I think Packard would have been far better off buying Hudson in about 1951-52 instead of Studebaker. Hudson was well-established in the mid-priced field and had their own body plant just down the street from E. Grand Packard plant (so Briggs body problem is solved). Hence the Clipper would instead have become the new Hudson Hornet, which would share chassis and underbody with similarly sized high priced Packards. Hudson also had no test track, V-8, or automatic transmission, so no duplication there. Packard-Hudson could have picked up what they wanted from Studebaker for peanuts when Studebaker inevitably went bankrupt in about 1954-55.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >>You general idea is sound, but I think Packard would have been far better off buying Hudson in about 1951-52 instead of Studebaker.<<

        I agree 100%. See my "alternate reality #2" posted below. imho, Jim Nance was one of the worst managers the US auto industry ever saw for missed opportunities and letting ego get ahead of necessity.

        As for Studebaker, see my "alternate reality #3" below.

      • 0 avatar
        JoeBrick

        Studebaker was still around until 1966, and the Avanti a few years longer.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      I would go one step further. In 1949 the chief engineer of Packard gets a Jaguar DOHC XK6 engine and directs his team to use it as a benchmark, double the displacement, then dial back the bore and stroke to just 1 CID bigger than the biggest Cadillac/Chrysler/Lincoln – leaving plenty of room for later expansion.

      Using their Packard V12 and R-R Merlin experience, they revise the design to use aluminum cast blocks and heads, make it anvil reliable, and manufacturable on the old Straight-8 lines. This would save a huge amount of capital, buy time for more advanced designs, and give them a turbine smooth engine that could drive circles around the competition. They could even introduce a supercharged variant on their high line.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >> the chief engineer of Packard gets a Jaguar DOHC XK6 engine <<

        An interesting idea, but would probably been rejected as "not invented here". The Packard V8 would have been OK, if only they had done proper testing, discovered and corrected the oil aeration problem. Packard tried to sell the V8 to the Army as a truck engine. The first stage of the Army's durability test was to run for some number of hours on a test stand. Every V8 Packard tried failed that initial durability test.

        The old straight 8 production equipment was probably woefully inefficient. The new V8 line was state of the art and highly automated. The new, automated line, would have probably paid for itself in increased efficiency.

        • 0 avatar
          Pig_Iron

          Sure, but from what I’ve read Packard got fat and happy on WW-II and Korean War contracts, and failed to see the writing on the wall until it was too late.

          • 0 avatar
            Steve203

            >>… from what I’ve read Packard got fat and happy on WW-II and Korean War contracts, and failed to see the writing on the wall until it was too late.<<

            Packard's big problem was George Christopher was fired in late 49. Hugh Ferry was acting President until he was able to recruit Nance. Ferry apparently had little interest in actually running the company, so opportunities were missed.

            Studebaker finished the war with a huge pile of war profits. Harold Vance had ambitious plans for a new assembly plant of, iirc, some 3Msqft located just west of the Chippewa plant, but the BoD, which had been packed with bankers since the days of Fred Fish, insisted on paying out the war profits in dividends, instead of investing in the company.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      “Utica plant.” In Michigan? New York? Utica Road?

      All I know about Packard was the complex on “The Boulevard,” where the bridge fell down earlier this year.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >>“Utica plant.” In Michigan? New York? Utica Road?<<

        Utica, Michigan. First facility at that site was the Packard Proving Grounds on Van Dyke Rd, built in the 1920s. After WWII, Packard built a service parts warehouse there. Then Packard landed a contract to build J-47 jet engines for the Air Force, and built the plant for the J-47s at the same Utica complex. With the end of the Korean War, the production rate for J-47s was cut to a trickle (Studebaker lost their J-47 contract entirely), so with a modern building that was mostly empty, it became Packard's new powertrain plant.

    • 0 avatar
      JoeBrick

      @Steve203- I salute your knowledge of Stupidbaker Studebaker and Packard. I am an old guy but I defer to your expertise on the subject of pre-mid 50s cars, of which I know diddley-squat.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    When GM first started with the personal luxury coupes such as the Riviera, Toronado and Eldorado, they weren’t offered up as convertibles. This was the early/mid 60s and just about every car had a convertible version, why not something labeled a “personal luxury coupes”?

    Later the Eldorado became a convertible and the others had aftermarket convertibles, but missing those early years to me was a missed opportunity

    • 0 avatar

      Agree here. People bought lots of convertibles then, might as well offer them.

    • 0 avatar
      Duaney

      Difficult to do with a limited sales total, and these are semi unibody as well.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I understand the unibody issue, so how did Cadillac overcome that and eventually build an Eldorado convert? Did the Eldo go back to being BOF?

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          Per Ate Up With Motor, the ’71-’78 Eldorado had a perimeter frame.

          You of course *can* build a unibody or semi-unitized convertible – lots of examples from the Germans, Saab, and Detroit. But you’re right that a BOF starting point in easier in some respects.

          Worth noting is that both the Eldorado and the De Ville started new generations in ’71, with Cadillac dropping the De Ville convertible but adding the Eldorado.

    • 0 avatar
      cicero1

      and more recently the Cadillac ELR should never have been an electric car. The design was perfect for a 3 series competitor and convertible. A small super expensive electric vehicle was never going to sell. They should have just designed the Malibu or Cruze platform to offer an electric version and had a viable 1 and/or 3 series fighter.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “…missing those early years to me was a missed opportunity…”

      True, but keep the era in mind – by the mid-’60s, A/C was becoming a bigger luxury than a convertible top.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        You can have both

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Absolutely, but keep in mind A/C basically replaced convertible tops as a cooling method, and it was a VERY expensive option back in the day. On a ’66 Toronado, A/C cost $421, on a car with a base price of $4585. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $3400 in today’s dollars. Makes sense that people would skip the convertible to get some ice cold A/C on a luxury car, if you ask me.

          http://automotivemileposts.com/toronado/toronado1966optionalequipment.html

          I’m with you – I’d have to think a droptop Eldo or Mark III would have been a no-brainer, but there’s a reason they didn’t get produced, and I think A/C and safety regulations (which they knew were coming down the pike) were the culprits.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Agree with @Freedmike. Convertibles were selling in declining numbers by then. A/C was becoming more common.

            And T-Bar roofs were the ‘in thing’ for PLC’s.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Olds teased a Toronado with *power* t-tops, but apparently it never made it past the prototype stage.

            https://auto.howstuffworks.com/1977-oldsmobile-toronado-xsr-coupe.htm

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            You all make valid points, but seeing that the Riviera/Eldorado/Toronado were flagships people were more willing to pay big money for those cars with all the options. Not to mention that the Riviera and Eldorado would have looked great as convertibles. The Toronado not so much

  • avatar
    Steve203

    Alternate #2:

    Reality: 1952 Jim Nance decides that Packard needs a stand alone mid-market brand, and wants to bring bodybuilding in house, but has no money for a body plant. 1953: Ed Barit approaches Packard about merging with Hudson. Packard brushes him off.

    Alternate reality: 1953 Ed Barit approaches Packard about merging with Hudson. Jim Nance has a rare moment of perception and realizes that Hudson is an established mid-market brand, and owns a body plant, achieving both of his strategic objectives in one stroke.

    The merger is done. Packard body tooling is moved into the Hudson body plant. Hudson models are moved onto the Packard platform, taking the place of the Clipper, as production is consolidated on E Grand and the Hudson assembly plant is sold.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Seeing as I am now a proud owner of a 1st gen Neon R/T and have been researching the hell out of them the last few weeks, that’s my pick:

    1st gen Neon: it was 95% there. The first domestically produced compact car to legitimately turn a profit, selling initially with little/no incentives. Contemporary styling, fun to drive with excellent handling and class leading power. Hampered by some bone headed cost cutting at a time when Chrysler was flush with cash. A few cents per unit for some higher quality head gaskets and a few other odds and ends and they potentially would have had much better staying power, and we’d never have been cursed with the Caliber.

    Speaking of which: Caliber: as much as I loathe the thing for any number of reasons (ugly inside and out, nasty interior materials, poor quality, crap to drive), it was a pseudo-tough-higher clearance FWD-only compact/subcompact crossover before they really took off just a few years later. With a bit more attention to detail, a Sergio-updated interior and modern drivetrain, it would never have gotten canceled like the Dart and would still be around today.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Following up with more Mopar thoughts:

      Chrysler Atlantic: I had a matchbox version as a kid in elementary school and thought it was the most elegant beautiful thing ever. I still think it’s a knockout and should have gone into limited production a-la Prowler. Just a total knockout.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve203

      >> it would never have gotten canceled like the Dart and would still be around today.<<

      In the back of my mind is the thought that FCA has figured out they can automatically charge a higher price for any SUV with a Jeep badge on it. That would be why the Caliber was dropped while the Compass and Patriot carried on, why there was no Dodge brand version of the current Cherokee to replace the Nitro, why there is talk there will be no new Durango when the 3 row Jeep branded version of the Grand Cherokee comes out.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        That’s a very good point. They’ve put their crossovers under one roof, the Jeep badge/brand has a lot of recognition/respect from consumers, and they can charge accordingly.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Having driven a Neon for one week, when it was less than 6 months old, (belonged to one of my co-workers who swapped it for my Caravan for a week) I have to agree that it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it much more than I thought that I would.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I rented a second generation Neon when they were new. I found it to be surprisingly decent with good ergonomics for my 6’2” self.
        I did find it odd that it had power windows in the front but cranks in the rear. Cost cutting? Or they couldn’t fit a motor in the rear doors.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I’m with you on the Caliber. It was a compact crossover 10 years before that was a thing. I compared its dimensions to either the HR-V or the Toyota version (CH-R?), and it was only an inch shorter, while being 10 inches longer.

      The Caliber was ahead of its time. It sold for cheap compact money when it was new, but compacts with those dimensions now sell with a crossover premium attached.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      I remember the excitement when the Neon came out. It was different. My then-GF-now-wife and I actually drove out to a dealership to take a look at them, even though, as poor college students, we were in no position to buy one. She was really excited about the car.

      Build quality – at least for the people I knew who did own them – was spotty. Lots of complaints about thin metal, unpainted surfaces, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        AS far as thin sheetmetal, I believe it. Chrysler set some very aggressive weight goals for the car as a way to hit economy and performance targets.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Dad’s cousin owns a body shop.

          Dad was looking at the 1st/2nd gen Chrysler minivans as a used car buy.

          His cousin told him that compared to the competition it was “some of the thinnest most rust prone sheet metal i’ve dealt with.”

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            For my purposes (circle track racing an old stripped out beater), the thin sheetmetal and resulting curb weight is a blessing, except for I suppose how easily it will dent in the inevitable contacts at the track.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      The three-speed automatic and the brakes (on the base cars at least) that screeched bloody murder when cold were certainly two cost-containment examples!

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Yep! I’ve also heard that over in Europe they somehow decided to saddle all of the high-spec cars with that acceleration sapping 3spd, in a market that still vastly preferred stick shifts at the time.

        I will say though, the silver lining of using the 3spd was that they avoided the reliability headaches of the Ultradrive of the era.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    Another alternative reality I’ve wondered about.

    The 70s gas crisis never happens. Oil continues on a slowly but steadily increasing price per barrel until the present day.

    Are we still driving full size body on frame OHV V8 sedans? Does the switch to SUVs never happen? I assume MPG standards in some form would exist but without the “light truck” classification, would our roads today look a lot more like the 60s? And if so, would the Big 3 still be in an overwhelming market position?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I don’t think this alternative history would have ever happened (after all, the oil “crisis” was actually just OPEC figuring out it could get away with being greedy, and greed is a human condition).

      I still think downsizing would have happened, but for environmental reasons. I think the handwriting for that was on the wall long before 1973.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Good question, jack4x, if supply was never an issue the push for more fuel efficient vehicles would never have been so desperate, though fuel economy was always somewhat of an issue in places other then North America. We probably would have a greater choice being that there’s a lot to be said for large V8 sedans as well as more efficient practical cars. Without the political pressure I think we would still have large luxury V8s

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        I mean for better or worse, the rise of the Japanese auto makers is basically directly attributable to the fact that they built great small cars when that’s what the market needed. Without that pressure, what happens? They would still have the quality advantage over the Detroit 3, but is that enough if gas prices stay low through the 70s and 80s?

        Does Toyota become something like Volvo, building durable cars fora small market of dedicated people outside the mainstream? Do any or all of the Japanese automakers get bought out by GM or Ford? And where is my 2019 model big block luxury sedan?

        Besides all that, what would intelligent, from scratch policy look like for minimizing emissions and CO2 in the modern world, as opposed to stacking more bricks on the rickety foundation of 1970s policies?

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          Well, the public would have discovered the build and reliability superiority of a Camry or Accord over a Celebrity at some point in time in the 80s, I guarantee it. I still shake my head at how the Big 3 killed the golden goose with shit quality in the 70s and 80s. Especially GM since they had the majority of the market.

          That said, it continues today, or at least recently. Our first domestic labeled car in 30 years was a 2010 Edge. And after 2 catastrophic cooling system breakdowns in 5 years we fled back to the Japanese.

          As I poke around for my next vehicle, I consider the GM ignition key debacle and the Ford transmission drama and just shake my head. Too many superior reliability choices out there to piss away my hard earned money.

        • 0 avatar
          dtremit

          @FreedMike

          If OPEC had raised prices slowly, they could have still been greedy but with a very different result.

          @jack4x

          Gas prices *were* low in the ’80s, once adjusted for inflation — easy to forget. In 2015 dollars, gas stayed between $1.50-2.25 from roughly 1957 through the *second* OPEC crisis, and returned to that range from roughly 1985-2004.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    GM could have kept producing the El Camino for many years with technical updates, the tooling was paid for, and the model was always a popular one. Wouldn’t have been difficult to give Pontiac a version as well.

  • avatar
    geo

    Ford had multiple opportunities to overtake ToyoHonda in the compact car war (Focus) and perhaps the midsize car (Taurus/Fusion) war, but blew them all for various reasons.

    The X-cars, which could have set the stage for GM market dominance for decades.

    GM had the opportunity and the budget to develop a w-body minivan that could go head-to-head with Chrysler. They blew it because of the styling. It was years before there was a proper competitor from any automaker.

    Other than ceasing develop of compact pickups (Nissan and Mazda) I can’t think of many missed opportunities from the big import brands. They are where they are because they have always taken the ball and run with it, where as the domestics routinely drop it in spectacular fashion.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Other than ceasing develop of compact pickups (Nissan and Mazda) I can’t think of many missed opportunities from the big import brands. They are where they are because they have always taken the ball and run with it, where as the domestics routinely drop it in spectacular fashion.

      Really?

      I take it you missed the whole discussion above about how Honda/Acura has absolutely p!ssed away market share on the Acura brand by totally mis-reading the market? I’m reasonably sure that if Honda was in a more precarious position financially, Acura would have been cut loose a while back.

      Whither Scion? You know that great marketing experiment from Toyota that was going do… something? Please, find me a 2019 Scion anything for sale. Nissan? The once Lady-in-Waiting to the other two dominant Japanese brands? They got bailed out by… RENAULT! Zut alors! Back in what? 1999? Their recent “alliance” with Mitsubishi portends great things. Like 120 month financing for everyone (who can fog a mirror). Mitusbishi was another company that took the ball and ran with it. Into a dark alley of non-compliance and durability issues, only to get strung out on cheap financing. Isuzu? Suzuki? Oh they’re tainted because of their association with GM in USDM. Oddly, they do well in other markets, but I think they try harder in other markets.

      What about Mazda? They’re trying to go upscale now. Good luck with that. They needed to do that about 10 years or longer ago. The mid and luxury markets are overstuffed with product, it’ll be difficult to crack that nut with a line up that doesn’t have great distribution, good lease rates and poor residuals. The whole Zoom Zoom thing lasted too long for them. They’re probably better off without pickup trucks derived from Ford, anyway. Ford is selling all the trucks they can assemble.

      I’d say some balls have been dropped…

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Ford had the mid-sized market with the Taurus for many years. When they brought in the Fusion, it should have been named the Taurus. Would have stood a better chance.

      I get that they couldn’t, because the Taurus needed a wind down period while the Fusion was being introduced, but grrr

      Also should have kept evolving the Escort (not the sillyness that was the last gen). Ford had some world class stuff. Just needed to keep going with it. Unfortunately, all the popular press cared about was Toyota / Honda.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Oh man, Henry’s Bull (the Taurus). When I was selling Toyotas in the early 90’s, that was one of the cars Toyota was concerned about. I lived in Atlanta at the time, it was pretty much the official car of Atlanta back then. I was in about 3 million examples of the early ones, loved every one of them.

        I think the 1996 version is a classic example of the overthinking and the echo chamber effects. I get that they wanted to drop a nuke on the competition, but that particular “Fat Boy” hit with a thud. The styling and most importantly the pricing was received poorly, even in the neighborhood surrounding the Hapeville factory. If they had attenuated either factor (the styling or the price), the car would have done well.

        WRT to the Escort, I would have loved to see the Euro Escort come over here in it’s entirety, NHTSA and EPA willing, not the USDM version that we ended up with. But that car, along with the Tempo/Topaz led Ford down the path to pushing out cheap cars cheaply. When it came time to replace them with better cars, there was no support for them (Mazda based Escort and the Contour)(although the Contour had it’s own issues), as folks didn’t see/recognize the upgrades. Really, the whole mid 1990’s were a horrible time for Ford cars. Luckily they had the Explorer…

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    After the success of the 1913 Chevrolet 171 Four – an OHV derivative of the Buick OHV cross-flow, Charles F. Kettering tried to leapfrog that technology with the 1923 Chevrolet Series M Copper-Cooled (air cooled) engine. It was an unmitigated disaster. Of the 50,000 cars planned for 1923, only 759 were built, 300 were shipped, 100 sold, and all but 2 were recalled and scrapped.

    I suspect adding an oil cooler and careful placement of oil jets at hot-spots could have saved it. If corrected, it would have been a valuable low maintenance asset in the upcoming Great War (WW-I), where motor ambulances saved the lives of so many who not have survived in previous wars without them.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Here’s one from ‘left field’ (pun intended).

    If rather than allowing Cerebus to purchase Chrysler, or continue to ‘bail it out’ and then right off the money, the Canadian government had done the right thing (which even Lord Black of Crossharbour recommended) and bought out Chrysler.

    After all the Caravan/Pacifica are made in Windsor and the 300/Charger/Challenger in Brampton. So Chrysler has a strong manufacturing presence in Canada.

    Marchionne as a Canadian would still have been the preferred choice to take over as CEO.

  • avatar
    ptschett

    I’m struggling to remember where besides GM were FWD V8’s common in the ’80’s? It was the ’90’s when Ford made the Taurus SHO a V8 and put the 4.6L sideways in the Continental.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Cadillac FWD V8 Seville and Eldorado up to 1985…

      V8 driving the front wheels and mounted longitudinally or in a “north/south” configuration as is colloquially known.

      • 0 avatar
        ptschett

        Yep, I remember those and the Toronado. But I’m struggling to think of any other manufacturer that had volume production of V8/FWD in either a longitudinal or transverse layout in the 1980’s.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          None, but of course who outside of Americans and the ultra-high end Europeans and Japanese were still making V8s for sedans?

          EDIT: The Aussies of course, but I don’t think they ever built a FWD V8

  • avatar
    NeilM

    The first photo reminded me what a good looking car the original Legend was for its time, especially in the 2-door form. The front end is dated by today’s free-form headlight standards, but the rear is very clean, and the overall proportions spot-on. And look at that lovely greenhouse!

    Regarding the Acura brand, AFAIK it was only used in North America. Those same cars, including the NSX, were sold as Hondas in the rest of the world.

  • avatar
    Steve203

    Alternate reality #3:

    1954: Nash needs a V8 for the Ambassador, so contracts with Packard for it’s new V8. Packard demands Nash also buy the Ultramatic, instead of using the Hydramatic Nash already uses behind it’s other engines, so Nash suffers the same powertrain disaster that Packard suffers.

    Alternate 1954: Nash contracts with Studebaker for it’s excellent and proven V8: bored and stroked to 289, fitted with dual exhaust, 4bbl carb and high compression, so it puts out more power than what Packard was offering. Nash also contracts for the Studebaker 259/2bbl for the Statesman, solving that model’s agonizing lack of power. Both V8s driving through a Hydramatic.

    The relationship between Nash and Studebaker blossoms into a merger, by virtue of the fact that Vance and Hoffman are willing to step aside and let George Romney run the entire show. Studebakers become rebadged Nashes as assembly is consolidated in Kenosha, while foundry and engine production operations are consolidated in South Bend as the Studebaker facilities are better than Nash’s. Packard and Hudson are left out because Studebaker provides useful technology, useful facilities and a large dealer network, synergies that Packard and Hudson lack.

    The Nash and Studebaker brands are retired in favor of Rambler in 57, and AMC continues on, still retaining the South Bend foundry and engine plant.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @Steve203: thanks. Really appreciate your alternate histories.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Yeah, Steve, had you been around AMC and Studebaker might still be here ;-)

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >>Yeah, Steve, had you been around AMC and Studebaker might still be here ;-)<<

        I was around, from late 53 on, and in metro Detroit too! George Mason or Jim Nance could have come to the house and asked my advice, but my language skills were not very developed at that time, so they might not have understood what I was saying.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          You were what, 10 years old? Understandable, but I admire your dedication to two dying auto companies, especially at such a young age.

          Back in the mid 60s I sent a drawing I had made to Buick that was essentially a boat-tail Riviera. Buick sent me a very nice letter telling me how much they liked my drawing. Five years later Buick builds the boat-tail Riviera, I never got credit, I was miffed ;-)

          • 0 avatar
            Steve203

            >>You were what, 10 years old? Understandable, but I admire your dedication to two dying auto companies, especially at such a young age.<<

            Har, har. I was born in the fall of 53, came home from the hospital in a 51 Studebaker Champion.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Amati isn’t dropped and is able to compete with Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti.

    I think this could have really been something. Acura was just a year or two away from making the huge (wrong) decision to rename their cars and make them really generic looking. Infiniti had turned the Q45 into also something generic, the M30 wasn’t a looker, but the J30 was still selling. Lexus was still being Lexus – conservative, smooth, but didn’t set pulses racing.

    And then along came Mazda. The Amati sedans were nothing that could be called conservative (especially given the styling of Japanese sedans of the mid-90’s), there was going to be a monster 12 cylinder engine in the flagship, and I thought there was going to be continued use of a turbo-rotary in their halo coupe. It was going to be a major shot across the bow of the Japanese luxury cars at a time when they were becoming more bland and the value equation was starting to suffer.

    But the bubble burst. The cost of starting up a new brand was too much for Mazda to bear. To me, it is high up there of the “what-ifs?” I think that if Amati got off of the ground, it would have forced Acura and Infiniti (especially) to not rest on their butts and serve warmed over versions of current or previous cars. I think given how Mazda was innovative with their engine tech back then, that it would have forced more innovation with other Japanese makers.

    I think it would have given Mazda more of an incentive to keep working with the rotary engine if they had several vehicles to spread it around in. I could see the MX-5 Miata being split between the brands and a more upscale version sold under the Amati brand. (Good thing? Bad thing? You decide.)

    My two cents – they really had some attractive cars ready to go. It’s too bad the only one that we saw in the US was the Millenia.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree on Amati. They put a lot of effort into the Millennia, and we were supposed to get the super luxury Cosmo as well. Sad!

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        Miller cycle engine, 4 wheel steering in a sedan, REALLY nice interior that could rival a Lexus in terms of quality. It had what it took to be not quite the flagship (that was going to get the 12-cylinder) but I guess the Lexus GS-type of the Amati lineup. And then poof.

        And now we’re supposed to get excited about another blob-shaped crossover with a turbo-4 that looks like the previous ones. For those younger readers here who might not fully remember the time, the late-80s to mid-90s really was peak-Japan and there was a lot of exciting things coming from them. This just is a massive “what if” and one I wish saw the light of day.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I don’t really get the Millenia. In either small V6 or Miller engine guise, they weren’t very sporting in terms of power, and proved to be not as durable as much simpler but higher performing mills like Nissan’s excellent VQ. I thought the styling was nice if not exciting.

          The plan was to brand the MK1 MPVs as Amatis too as I recall, that would not have ended well IMO. It was already very expensive as a Mazda, and the late 80s holdover 155hp 2.0L V6 was WAY underpowered for that 4000+lb van/suv (I’d know, we owned a ’98 Allsport from 2001-2017).

          • 0 avatar
            theflyersfan

            From what I was able to look up (and remember), it was a 2.3L V6 Miller cycle engine making between 210-220hp. It was smaller and lighter than a “normal” engine making similar power, which in the early-1990s normally meant a V8.

            Not sure about the durability – I still see some on the roads today so I’ll take that as a good sign.

            In 1992, the Nissan VQ made 160-190hp depending on what Maxima is was installed in and I want to say 222 hp in the 300ZX (non-turbo). So comparing apples to apples, the VQ was down a little power.

            I recall the Millenia’s price approaching Lexus territory – I want to say around $40,000, which for a Mazda was some serious money to spend in 1992-1993. So that didn’t help things.

          • 0 avatar

            Couple points on Amati/Millennia:

            -Believe late in the development they knew their luxury brand wasn’t happening, and cost cut it prior to introduction. Then with the refresh they put the hammer down. I think the same thing happened with the Enfini MS-9 which was our 929.

            -There was to be a large, high-end flagship Amati with a 4L W12 called the 1000.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Oops I had forgotten, the 2.3L Miller cycle WAS a tiny V6.

            That 210hp was an optional motor, the “regular” motor was a 2.5L V6 making 170hp, which I assume is the one you might still see trawling the streets with its 4th owner in the bad part of town.

            That optional miller cycle 210hp, by the mid 90s The Maxima had the 190hp VQ30 as standard, and in terms of actual acceleration performance, the Maxima/I30 proved superior, perhaps due to a lower curb weight?

            So a technically impressive motor on paper and the sort of neat engineering exercise the Japanese liked to engage in before the economic bubble burst over there.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Edit: to add to my comment; Millenia only came out in 1995 IIRC, by which time the Maxima/I30 had the 190hp VQ30 as standard.

          • 0 avatar
            theflyersfan

            gtem – Yup – my sister had a 1995 Maxima SE (with a stick!!!) and it had the 190hp VQ30 engine. It was light, fun, and could tear through a set of front tires with the best of them.

            The Millenia was quite a bit heavier – I want to say it was roughly around the same size or just a half-size up. All of that extra tech they threw in packed on the pounds!

            Corey – not sure about the Millenia, but I do remember reading that the 929 was cheapened a little bit for its last generation here. It’s a bloody shame because of all of the Japanese sedans in the mid-90s, that 929 was one of the most striking and attractive designs. That’s when Mazda could do no wrong with their designs (The MX-6, in these eyes, still looks good.)

        • 0 avatar
          JRoth

          The Millenia was gorgeous, the MX-6 was (and is) amazing-looking, and while the 626 and 929 tended a little swoop for my tastes, they were really well-proportioned and without cheesy details that marred many of their competitors (did any Lexus in the mid-’90s have good-looking headlights? IMO the SC came close, but hasn’t aged that well).

          OTOH, I don’t think any MX-5 between the original and the latest comes even close to those models in styling. They kept tweaking the original style, because it was iconic, but made it worse every time.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            “did any Lexus in the mid-’90s have good-looking headlights”

            YES

            92-’96 ES300 had twin projectors, very sharp looking, loved them on my ’96. The front end with the lower bumper “blades” is the most aggressive element of what is otherwise a comfy soft cruiser.

            http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/3/559/761/26395380001_large.jpg

          • 0 avatar

            Coach Edition!

            Also those chromes are baaaad.

    • 0 avatar
      NTGD

      I’m going to disagree on Amati just based on the Millenia, it was a nice to look at car and the interior was nice, but the power from the 2.5 was horrible. Accelerating on the highway was chore and very disappointing and underwhelming. And this from a guy whose car prior to the hand me down Millenia was an 88 Pontiac Sunbird sedan (4 cylinder even)! I often thought something was wrong with that car but shops visits turned up nothing! If that is what Amati was supposed to be fielding I don’t have high hopes for what else was slated!

  • avatar
    stingray65

    How about Cadillac going/staying upmarket in the 1960-80s and offering expensive, technologically modern, and well built direct competitors to Jaguar, Mercedes, Bentley, and Rolls. Buick follows the low tech, fake wood, and velour value for money American luxury model and competes with Lincoln and what remains of Chrysler. Olds shares modern FWD platforms with Buick, but with a sportier tuning and styling to go after Saab, Acura, ES Lexus, Mercury. Pontiac shares various platforms with Cadillac and Chevy, but with sportier tuning and styling to go after BMW, Volvo, LS Lexus, Mercury, Dodge. Chevy becomes GMs global value leader competing with Honda, Toyota, VW globally – i.e. stop wasting money on regional Holden, Vauxhall, and Opel. Corvette goes to Cadillac or Pontiac, and GMC makes military styled Hummers off Chevy truck platforms. In other words, each GM division has a distinct image and target market, and don’t waste most of their efforts competing with each other with mediocre clone cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      Oh, big one on Chevrolet. It’s like GM was completely unwilling to have it’s entry level brand compete head-to-head with the Japanese entry level cars. They did everything they could through the 70s and 80s to ignore the competition, with a couple half-hearted exceptions like the Citation and Monza.

      By the 90s they had got their act together but were too cash strapped to hit the quality and engineering metrics to make it work.

      They had separate brands to compete in separate demographics, but decided Chevrolet shouldn’t bother to compete in it’s own and instead step on everyone else’s toes? Baffling.

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    Acura, lexus, and Infiniti rocked the luxury car market when they arrived. However, the German competition woke up and eventually caught up and overtook the newcomers. I owned an Integra and previous generation legend but at some point the plain FWD chassis of the Japanese cars were no longer competitive. The only survivor is Lexus which built its reputation on quite, ride quality, and reliability. Infiniti did have a good run with the G series but lost it’s way and now Genesis is moving up. All car companies have opportunities but long term you have to have a consistent vision and great resources to be a long term competitor as opposed to one time wonder.

  • avatar
    Steve203

    Alternate reality #4:

    Reality: 1970: AMC buys Jeep. The Jeep/Buick V6 is deemed “not invented here” and dropped in favor of AMC’s 7 bearing inline 6s. The V6 tooling is later sold back to Buick. Buick develops the engine and it has a long and successful second career with Buick.

    Alternate reality: AMC is looking for a way to define a new market segment where it can avoid competing with the big three, the way the Rambler had a dozen years earlier.

    Dick Teague is proposing a bizarre bubble car designed around the GM Wankel.

    Others are looking at the Saab 99, Audi 100, Renault 12 and BMC ADO17.

    Someone notices that the ex-Buick V6 would be ideal for transverse installation. Borg-Warner has been willing to reconfigure it’s Type 35 automatic for a variety of installations, including a transverse installation for the ADO17. With the addition of a new crank to even out the timing, the V6’s operation is vastly smoother.

    With a nearly off the shelf front drive powertrain in hand, AMC styling sets to work on a new line of sedans in the boxy, European style with maximum interior space, while Teague’s bubble car and the aerodynamic Matador coupe that Mark Donohue wants are put aside.

    In 1975, the new, front-drive, Ambassador debuts in sedan and station wagon form, looking very much like a 1982 Buick Century, while the old senior platform is retired. Sales are encouraging enough that, in 1977, the Hornet/Gremlin platform is retired in favor of 2 and 4 door hatchbacks, built on the same platform as the Ambassador, but designed to be cheaper to build, and looking very much like a 1980 Chevy Citation.

    And AMC has a product line that would be competitive through the 80s.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Alternate reality 4.1: In the late 1970’s Jim Cole recently retired from GM is involved with the Checker Motor Car Company, with a plan to utilize GM X bodies for the next generation Checker Cabs. The folks at AMC get wind of this and want to jump in on the deal too. Not to produce taxi cabs, but to finally replace the ancient Concord/Spirit and derivatives in their lineup. This, of course, happens instead of the deal with Renault.

      Mr Cole survives his plane crash and goes on to create a “ruggedized” LWB version of the X car for Checker. AMC ponies up development money and gets a SWB variation of the Checker X-car, which would have different styling on the outside and would also carry GM components, but be assembled in Kenosha. The X-Concord and X-Spirit go on to live long lives, possibly well into the mid 1990’s (like the GM FWD A-bodies did) allowing for AMC to properly develop a Jeep line up to dominate the 1990’s and beyond.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        What would the new Checker be named? Would it be the Marathon II?

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >>Alternate reality 4.1: In the late 1970’s Jim Cole recently retired from GM is involved with the Checker Motor Car Company, with a plan to utilize GM X bodies for the next generation Checker Cabs.<<

        Cole was killed when his plane crashed south of Kalamazoo in 77, several years before the Citation came out. iirc, Cole was working on a stretched VW Rabbit. I lived in Kalamazoo in the 70s and saw a stretched Rabbit one day, and wondered if it was a Checker prototype.

        The tinkering with Citation bits would probably have been under David Markin, who was not all that motivated.

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          I’m a Checker Car club member in a Facebook group that has/had links to several articles on the internet outlining the connection between Checker and their usage of Citations for a version of the Marathon replacement. You’re right, Ed Cole died in 1977 (I mis-identified him as Jim Cole…) effectively killing the VW/Checker efforts. Apparently David Markin did have some interest in proceeding with the idea, but I think they gave up after realizing that stamping out parts is cheaper/easier than manufacturing a whole car…

          But this whole article is about alternate reality, right?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Scion.

    In many ways, my 05 xB1 was the best car I’ve owned. The Scion division filled an interesting market niche – Toyota quality with affordable no-haggle pricing, and some factory/dealer customization.

    They offered the xA for entry-level, xB for more utility, and the tC for a little sports flare. (no xC, thanks to Volvo’s use of that name…)

    But the xB2 was the result of focus groups who said they wanted a cooler-looking vehicle with more power, which produced a poor competitor to the Kia Soul.

    Instead, Scion could have become Toyota’s outlet for affordable, narrow-focus CUVs with limited options and high fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      Minus the horrible seating position, I generally liked the exterior design of the XB2. At least it was different than the average CUV. I got worse-than-advertised mileage; probably trying to push that 2.4L too hard since my previous car was a 2004 BMW 325i which loved to rev.

      I found out – the hard way – that Toyota really did beef up the side-impact safety on those xB2s. Took a ~55mph hit on the passenger side and I managed to walk away and go home without a hospital visit.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      Scion was my other “what if.”

      Scion reminded me of what happened when the “legacy” airlines tried copying the JetBlue/Southwest approach of discount airlines when they created “Ted” and “Song.” They tried putting “fun” graphics on the planes, had the flight attendants be Southwest-like with upbeat attitudes and have more fun on the flight, different entertainment, and so on…but in the end, they were still run by a large corporate overlord with crushing overhead, countless layers of middle management, and the inability to quickly change and adapt to a new market and reality. And so they all folded.

      Toyota took what could have been an excellent way to bring new, young drivers into their first new car by making them something special. And in a way, the first generation was something special with the new buying experience and all of the customization. And then Big Daddy Toyota stepped in, and the corporate layers and culture crept in (see Saturn as well), and what made them special and unique went out the window in the quest for more sales and “market driven research.” When your youth division has an average buyer age of over 50, something got lost in the translation!

      Toyota ruined Scion by taking away what made them special. I believe there is a market for small, cheap, efficient, and especially fun cars under $20,000. It’s what smart could have been if they actually had something that resembled an engine and transmission that belonged in an automobile. But in the end, super conservative, focus-group driven, bland driving appliance Toyota won out and bled Scion dry.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      xB2 immediately prompted me to do a prolonged facepalm. xB1 was successful precisely because it was cheap, quirky, and with that 1.5L engine, considered good on gas (although, in actuality, it was kinda thirsty!)

      The xB2 was not so cheap, was not so quirky, and used the larger Camry engine…all the core attributes buyers liked in xB1 were jettisoned. A total FAIL on the part of Toyota. Jim Farley, now at Ford, was behind that debacle.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        FWIW, my xB1 actually achieved its EPA ratings (31/35) with the 5-speed transmission. I can’t speak for the 4-spd automatic, however. The one automatic I test drove never seemed to like the gear it was in.

        • 0 avatar
          R Henry

          No doubt the 5-speed was the preferred version–for driveability and economy! My best friend had the auto and was shocked to learn he was only getting low twenties mpg in town, sometimes in the teens.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Genesis may turn out to be the newest entry in this story. Hyundai’s ongoing floundering in deploying the brand has nearly killed it.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Yes, Hyundai’s handling of Genesis is surprisingly bad. It’s not like there aren’t talented people out there who have done this before. I guess it shows that they were trying to do this on the cheap. They’ve managed to execute well on other things, I can’t imagine why this is going so poorly.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Ford came extremely close to putting the 5.8 V8 in the ’89 an up Fox Mustangs, but failed to pull the trigger. That’s a true missed opportunity.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Were they worried about “gas guzzler tax” or any of that?

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Most likely, they also came close to putting the 5.4 in the pedestrian Panthers. The 01-02 CV and GM as well as the 03-04 Marauders even made it to production with the brake booster designed to accommodate its greater width and height. But the CAFE bean counters nixed that.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        It’s interesting that you mention that because you might be more right than you think. Recall that’s when the redesigned Cougar and Thunderbird came out (the ones with the robo-belts.) They were really attractive and were getting all kinds of excellent press for their styling. I recall reading that behind the scenes, the Ford brass was RAGING against the designers and engineers because they came in several hundred pounds overweight and would make it harder for Ford to reach mandatory CAFE requirements without fines. That weight gain cost them a few extra critical MPG and could have had a ripple effect across the entire product line.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          The fines do suck but I would point to the M-body Diplomat and Fifth Ave as vehicles in V8 automatic form that had the gas guzzler penalty levied against them.

          Everything I’ve read is that the core customer didn’t really give a $hit. They bought them and paid the penalty anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            “Everything I’ve read is that the core customer didn’t really give a $hit. They bought them and paid the penalty anyway.”

            Anyone who’d pay the extra $1,100 or whatever it was – and that was actually something back then – would have just as well paid it to Chrysler instead of Washington. Consider all of the myriad ways that Detroit screwed customers up front and themselves later to squeeze a couple bucks a part out of the customer. Giving that much to Washington when they could have had it instead keeps an accountant up at night.

        • 0 avatar
          ptschett

          The Thunderbird SC won Motor Trend Car of the Year, the MN12 Cougar / Thunderbird program manager lost his job, and Ford ended up finding a way to stuff V8’s (first the 5.0, later the 4.6) in their “this only comes with V6’s” big coupe.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’ll go with the entire Chrysler lineup in the 2000s. Man, did they blow it.

    They could have changed the game with the 2005 300, which was a spectacularly good idea – an Americanized Euro-sedan with a big V-8 and cool “heritage” styling. What a car. Then they decided to put out a plain base model (mistake #1), and put an unforgivably cheap interior in the top of the line trim.

    The Crossfire was a great idea with insanely poor execution.

    The 200…well, the less said about that, the better.

    But the most unforgivable sin, for my money, was the Aspen – a full size luxury SUV should be a no-brainer cash cow, but just as it happened with the 300, a cheapo interior torpedoed the car’s appeal.

    And now the brand’s all but dead.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      A decade earlier the LH, Cirrus and Neon were great looking cars with impressive specifications that were built to standards more appropriate for promotional items.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Yes Chrysler had some excellent designs in terms of style inside and out, as well as performance. It was execution where it seemed things fell apart. I’ve read numerous times that the blame falls with the then-CEO (Eaton?) who insisted on cutting cost out of cars despite the company doing quite well at the time financially. I wonder how many people got burned on mid-90s Chryslers that could be traced to trivial cost cutting (neon headgasket issue for example).

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Alternate Reality 17A:
    – In 1950, W. Edwards Deming becomes a consultant to General Motors, instead of working in Japan. Toyota never becomes Toyota. GM cranks out 7 decades of reliable, well-styled, comfortable vehicles (because they focus on continuous improvement and refinement rather than jumping impulsively from one half-baked idea to another) and is still the clear market leader in 2019.

    Alternate Reality 17B:
    – Deming works for Ford instead. He is pushed out after two years due to family squabbles.

    Alternate Reality 17C:
    – Deming goes to work for Chrysler Corporation in 1950. By 2019, 70% of American households have a dead-reliable Jeep in the driveway.

  • avatar
    readallover

    Hank the Deuce wraps a T-Bird around a power pole and Lee Iaococca becomes President of Ford Motor Company.
    The Zombie GM Board of Directors has a moment of clarity and John Z. Delorean becomes President of GM.
    Cerebus passes on Chrysler and they are bought by China or Korea Inc.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Make it Hank’s personal Mustang and I’ll entertain the alternate history… ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Delorean gives all his assembly line workers top grade cocaine, GM doubles production

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Hank the Deuce takes a drag off his cigar and says,”Lido, Christina and I are moving to the Amalfi coast, I’m taking a Shelby with me, I want use of the corporate jet whenever I want and I expect some huge, I mean huuuuuuge checks in a years time. Oh, and talk to Hal about that people mover thingy”. Then Hank the Deuce grins and says, “think I’ll haul Enzo’s arse around Maranello in the Shelby”. Oh,oh, oh, one last thing;”my nephew little Billy? He wants to study wildlife or something like that. Have Ford fund his research, it’ll be cheaper than him being a car designer” Ciao, ciao Lido.

  • avatar
    geo

    After testing the Chevrolet Vega and encountering multiple major quality problems, GM decides to nix the vehicle and bring over the Opel Manta design from Europe, incorporating some Vega styling cues.

    While developing and testing the Citation, GM encounters problems with the steering, transmission, and brakes. They choose to delay the release a further eighteen months, tackling the quality problems in an all-hands-on-deck effort. The onslaught of Honda and Toyota is largely halted.

    The Fiero is released as per the original design. Though rather expensive, people are willing to pay the price for this stylish, fun vehicle.

    The redesigned Chevrolet Blazer is released in 1990 as per original plans, rather than 1995 as requested by the beancounters. This is a large risk for GM, which is facing financial problems. The new Blazer is a massive hit and sparks the SUV craze. Ford spends the next decade playing catch-up with their Explorer, which some say has safety issues.

    An ovoid Taurus is proposed. Ford accepts the bulk of the design, though tones down the most extreme elements and applies a modest amount of decontenting. Toyota is held at bay, and Ford retains the sales crown.

    The Getrag dual-clutch transmissions are not coming along as expected. Ford continues development, but used traditional automatics in their new 2012 Focus. Ford continues to improve the Focus and updates the interior (which had resembled an early 00’s cellphone). As people regain trust of Ford small cars, sales of the Focus eventually exceed those of the Corolla and Civic.

    • 0 avatar
      NTGD

      Taurus was my pick as well so many missed opportunities!

      1996 – Fully agree different styling and a lower price might have been a big difference!

      2000 – Not enough done to stymie the tide, but it was a nice enough car I enjoyed mine!

      2005 – 500 Should’ve been a new Taurus with better styling! They should’ve gone to the drawing board when the 300/Magnum were shown.

      2008 – 3 years too late, they should’ve just waited two more years and brought the Taurus name back on the completely restyled 2010 and not the lightly facelifted 2008, might’ve made some kind of difference.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Probably introducing the revised 1996 design without all the ovals in 1996 would have been better, especially without the decontenting.

      The mid ‘90s and beyond were really when co$t-cutting started to rule the day, IMHO, at least on the domestic front; the Japanese seemed to go into that mode around the turn of the century, though in that case, the devaluation of the yen also played a factor.

  • avatar
    Steve203

    Alternate reality #5:

    Reality: 1949 Kaiser negotiates a deal with Oldsmobile for 303 V8s, contingent on Olds being able to add enough production capacity to meet their own demand for 303s with enough left over for Kaiser. Korean War intervenes, with a government ban on new production equipment being diverted to civilian use, which prevents Olds expanding 303 production, so Kaiser never gets the 303s.

    Kaiser experiments with it’s own V8, a 288, but doesn’t have money to get the V8 into production.

    Alternate reality: Studebaker has enough money to develop a successor to the 1947 platform, or renovate Chippewa into a modern, integrated, assembly plant, but not both.

    Studebaker hears of Kaiser’s V8 dreams being frustrated, and offers the Studebaker V8, bored and stroked to 289, to Kaiser, in exchange for Kaiser licensing it’s more modern and competitive 1951 platform to Studebaker. Studebaker sells V8s to Kaiser and Kaiser sells frames and floorpan stampings to Studebaker on which Studebaker builds it’s own body.

    That saves Studebaker enough money on the 1953 models that it can afford to renovate Chippewa.

    All is well, until Kaiser exits the car business, and sells the Kaiser tooling to IKA, which deprives Studebaker of the tooling to make the frames and floorpan stampings.

    oops.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      OK, how about this? AMC buys the aluminum Buick V8, in time for the inevitable fuel crisis.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >>OK, how about this? AMC buys the aluminum Buick V8, in time for the inevitable fuel crisis.<<

        Seems I recall seeing Rover P6s with the Buick V8 by 1970, so AMC would have missed the boat.

        Alternate reality #4 goes into how AMC inherited the ex-Buick V6 when they bought Jeep in 1970, and could have used that V6 in a front drive family sedan in the mid 70s, beating the big three to market with that sort of car by years as everyone else would have had to develop their own V6 and, due to "not invented here", develop their own transmissions as well.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    Ford’s Premier Automotive Group.

    While Ford overpaid for Jaguar-Land Rover and Volvo, the acquisition was right at the start of a multi-decade boom in SUVs and luxury cars and could have worked…but of course, somehow Ford found anti-synergies between its motley crew of brands.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    1930s: Citroën’s new owner Michelin doesn’t cut costs as heavily as they did and still produces the readily developed 22CV Traction Avant with a V8 alongside its 7CV and 11CV counterparts. The cars get to be a big hit with the high society because unlike most other luxury cars at the time, they look modern and actually handle well.

    1950s: Citroën doesn’t need to rush the DS to market with a dated Traction Avant inline 4 engine but, earning money with V8 luxury cars, have the funds to finish developing the intended boxer 6 for it. They also make a boxer 4 to fit in both the ID (cheaper DS) and in a newly-developed midsize car, so that in the 60s they have a full lineup:

    * small (the utilitarian 2CV and the more stylish Ami both with the boxer 2, Ami Super with the boxer 4)
    * midsize (with the boxer 4 and possibly a sporty version with the boxer 6)
    * large (ID with the boxer 4 and the upmarket DS with the boxer 6)

    All these engines can share components and designs, hence cutting cost. Small cars use steel-sprung swing-arm suspension, bigger ones come with hydro-pneumatic of course. There is a visible design connection between different models and no huge gap in the lineup like there was in reality.

    1970s: The switch away from aircooled boxers necessitates watercooled ones if it isn’t to be made with entirely new cars. Such equipped, the new CX is taken more seriously in the luxury car market than with the inline 4 it had in reality. Maybe there’s even a boxer 8 for it. And a coupé and/or cabriolet.

    The fictional midsizer gets replaced with a car not unlike the real GS, but there are more shared components with the CX, even the boxer 4 and possibly boxer 6. Its successor however retains the boxer engines and the swing-arm suspension because, saving money and selling more and more upmarket CXs, there’s no need to sell out to Peugeot and share their boring everyday platforms.

    The small Ami’s successor, the Visa (which in reality debuted with a boxer 2 but never got the GS’s boxer four), also gets to keep the steel-sprung swing-arm suspension and the boxer engines. The Peugeot-based LN and LNA never happen, but maybe a shorter, two-door Visa instead. Maybe even the 2CV gets watercooling.

    1990s and following: Citroën, despite possibly having to eventually ditch the boxer engines (well, why actually? Subaru and Porsche didn’t either) remains unique and quirky to this day. Kind of like a French Subaru, but with style and outstanding ride. Even its minivans and later inevitable SUVs, with variable ride height due to hydro-pneumatics and low center of gravity due to boxer engines, tend to appeal to a certain kind of enthusiasts. The brand isn’t huge, but profitable.

    The End.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I am thinking about Mitsu. Remember when Galants, Mirages and Eclipses were everywhere? They decided to “go American”. Bloated Galant, rounded Eclipse. But they also destroyed their SUVs! I remember when they had really nice Outlander, v6 etc. They needed to improve interior, instead… They nearly lost US business.
    I feel, they have no idea what they are doing even today.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    Volkswagen never redesign the Bug or develop a successor to the Bus in ’68, because Mr Nordhoff lives a couple more years, and thus cease to exist with a whimper in in 1971, much like Borgward did a decade earlier.

    • 0 avatar
      Ermel

      Today, the Bug is comparable to the Morris Minor in the classic car scene. They used to be quite common, but hardly anyone remembers anymore. The few survivors are regarded with interest and respect, but honestly only the couple thousand die-hard fans actually care.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve203

      >>Volkswagen never redesign the Bug or develop a successor to the Bus in ’68, because Mr Nordhoff lives a couple more years,<<

      Ah, there is another interesting topic:

      Instead of VW sinking millions into the Type 4, which was a dead end, and millions more into the K70, another dead end.

      Realisty: When VW bought Audi from M-B, they put in an M-B designed 4 stroke engine and relaunched the car as the Audi F103.

      Alternate reality #6: the F103 is launched as a VW, putting VW on the front drive/liquid cooled road in 1965. The Audi brand is relaunched with the introduction of the 100 in 1968. Then the F103 would be followed by the Passat/Audi 80 in 72, with the rest of the liquid cooled VW/Audi line proceeding as it did, but without VW losing so much momentum in the early 70s.

      • 0 avatar
        Ermel

        There wouldn’t be a lot of space for the Audi brand in that scenario, or would there? The Audi 100 could well be an upscale VW too — they did think about flat-six-powered, rear-engined VW sedans at the time. So your scenario would be “what if Nordhoff had died sooner”, instead of mine being what if he’d died later.

        Both interesting of course.

        But about millions being sunk into the K70: that was an NSU development, adopted by VW, and NSU’s demise at that. In your scenario, with the “VW 1700” aka Audi F 103/Audi 60 probably replacing the VW 1500 Type 3 in 1966, there wouldn’t have been a niche for the K70 of course, so NSU might not have been acquired at all, leaving VW with a lineup of Bug, Bus, 1700 and the VW 1800 or VW 2000 that would’ve been the Audi 100. And all of the effort and money going into a Bug replacement that on principle couldn’t be FWD (google “EA 266” for fun) could have been spared.

        I agree that that would have been a much better starting position for the ’70s and the oil crisis than what they had in reality.

        • 0 avatar
          Steve203

          >>there wouldn’t have been a niche for the K70 of course, so NSU might not have been acquired at all,<<

          In the back of my mind is the thought that the NSU take-over was orchestrated by the German government, much as KIA's takeover by Hyundai was arranged by the Korean government, to "save jobs".

          Some NSU take-over advocates say Audi needed the extra production capacity as sales of the 100 were booming. For years, the division was called "Audi-NSU" and a few NSU models stayed in production for a few years.

          I am not totally convinced of the need by Audi of Neckarsulm as VW opened a new assembly plant in Salzgitter in 70. I have a photo of the end of the Salzgitter assembly line in the early 70s: showing both a Type 4 and a K70 coming off the line. Salzgitter assembly ended up being surplus to VW's needs and was converted to an engine plant in 75.

          As for the F103 replacing the Type 3, I don't think so. The Type 3 was well established and sold well, at least in the US, through the late 60s. The F103 would need to be priced higher, in order for VW to cover, by the reputation early Audis had, the warranty claims.

          Sticks in my mind I found a source for pricing of 1970 models and the F103 was priced very near a Type 4.

          In the US, the F103 was offered as the Super 90, in sedan and station wagon versions. While the 100, positioned as a luxury car, sold very well, I don't think I saw a Super 90 on the road until 1981.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Steve, I don’t know what you’re smoking, but I have a feeling we’re about to find out that you’re Mitt Romney’s illegitimate half brother

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Please do not disparage my Type 4. I can do that. Although I do have some very fond memories of it. Still it was “4 doors, 11 years too late”.

          • 0 avatar
            Steve203

            >>Steve, I don’t know what you’re smoking, but I have a feeling we’re about to find out that you’re Mitt Romney’s illegitimate half brother<<

            There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.

            Nope, not related to the Romneys at all. All these scenarios are the result of long, dark, Michigan winters with nothing to do but read books about cars.

          • 0 avatar
            Steve203

            >>Please do not disparage my Type 4. I can do that. Although I do have some very fond memories of it. Still it was “4 doors, 11 years too late”.<<

            The Type 4 would have been perfectly fine, in 1964. As soon as Toyota and Datsun showed up with liquid cooled engines and a chance of having a heater and defroster that worked, it was time for VW to change horses.

            Remember when the wires-in-the-glass rear window defrosters came out? There were aftermarket kits of foil tape that you could stick on the back window of a car to give it that rear window defroster function. That may not matter in Georgia, but it sure makes a difference in Michigan. One day in the early 70s I saw a VW bug with one of those aftermarket defroster wire kits installed on the windshield.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    Speaking of Borgward, they don’t develop their small-to-midsize Arabella from scratch in 1959 but instead do a shortened Isabella; thus they don’t lose millions fixing leaky engines and bodies and hence don’t go bankrupt in ’61. Today, they are quite similar to BMW in size and concept.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    Last one: BMW don’t let Rover do their own thing with FWD platforms and such, but decide to make Rovers simply redesigned RWD BMW platforms with lots of wood&leather Britishness on top. Both people who actually like wood&leather Britishness and people who’d secretly like to drive a BMW but couldn’t bear to be seen in one, which *both* match to this comment’s author, flock to buying Rovers in droves. Rover continues to be the BMW for nostalgics to this day.

    Maybe there’s even a wood&leather, traditional design version of the Z4.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      That’s a history I like. A wood, leather and wool carpet Rover, engineered and designed by and containing BMW components.

      Unfortunately they were somehow able to botch ‘peak Honda’ with the Sterling. :-(

  • avatar
    Ermel

    Okay, I lied about Rover being the last one, so sue me. This is even more obscure than the Citroën or Borgward ones, so bear with me. Or ignore.

    MAN (that’s the German truck maker “emm-aye-enn”, not a masculine human being), having aquired Büssing and its design of mid-engined, “underfloor” trucks in 1973, don’t give up on the underfloor design like in reality they did in the early ’90s, but actually produce their readily-developed UXT prototype mid-engined semitractor. The better handling, quieter cabin, and AWD option make it a huge success, leading both to underfloor MANs being still available today and the traditional cab-over-engine layout increasingly dying out. Today, only cheapskates like Renault or Iveco dare not to offer underfloor-engined big rigs.

    Driving a cab-over-engine Mercedes semi, I wish the above were real.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Acura screwed up when they went to the alphabet soup names. They were really starting to get their footing with the 2nd Gen Legend. That was a great car and those cars are still sought after nearly 30 years later.

    Instead, they threw away all of the Legend brand equity like idiots. They made it look like a Lexus LS, which was the anti-Legend, or the Legend was the anti-LS. However you wanna look at it.

    They did, however, introduce the TL and started making cars in America, which led us to the mid 2000s when they absolutely nailed it with the 3rd gen TL. Then, they ruined it, again, by ugly-fying the TL in 2009.

    Now, they’re killing it again with the RDX and MDX, with the latter due for a refresh soon. They have an opportunity to knock it out the park if they don’t screw up the MDX and they give us another Legend (please…?).

    Either way, Acura prints money for Honda. As long as they’re moving units and making money, I doubt they care about what could have been.

  • avatar
    jamespdx

    I had a 1990 Acura Legend 5spd sedan. Probably my MOST FAVORITE car ever! I could take 50mph corners at 90+ and it would get 30mpg doing it! I drove it to 250K miles with only ONE problem that was covered by Acura. I finally traded it for a 94 Legend which proved to be a HUGE disappointment – it didn’t have the same driving dynamics of the original, looked frumpy and had multiple repairs – I never bought another. The only complaint I had of the 90 was the crappy leather used – I had to have the seats redone.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Recent alternate reality: Frank Stronach (Magna International) wanted to buy a car company. Chrysler was up for sale after the Cerberus debacle. Frank wanted to have a Canadian car company, et voila! But would have the US Government allowed the sale of Chrysler wholesale to Magna, with their stated intention of making Chrysler a “Canadian” car company? In addition, Magna sells parts to other competing car companies, but for how long? If you were buying parts from Magna and competing against them in the market, would you continue to buy parts from them?

    More recent alternate reality: GM jettisoned Saab, Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer but kept Buick because of it’s popularity in China. I understood Pontiac to be very popular in the Great Lakes States and Canada. What if Mr. Stronach’s minions would have come up with a deal for these cast-off brands from GM to form his Canadian car company? Of course, the same issue with being a supplier and a manufacturer would still apply, but there would be some built-in acceptance of the company with Pontiac as the anchor, with Saturn, Saab and Hummer fleshing out the rest of the lineup.

    Never happened, never will. All but Pontiac were sold off and no longer exist. GM still owns the IP rights and copyrights to Pontiac.

    In reality, FCA became a thing and up until his death, Sergio did a lot right, much to my chagrin at times. But all the merger drama did get old. Here’s hoping for continued success for FCA and GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Of all the brands GM could have gotten rid of Buick was the most redundant and easiest candidate for the guillotine, GMC was close in the line but 250k easy sell high profit trucks took it out of the running. GM will come to regret going all in on China, if they haven’t already. Of course GMs current CEO seems to lack any direction so flailing in the wind may be the goal.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        “Of all the brands GM could have gotten rid of Buick was the most redundant and easiest candidate for the guillotine”

        I look at GM, and others, trimming its brands a different way. I think when they went to more and more commonality with platforms and engines then their divisions produced fewer unique cars.

        I know they thought they could save money on development and that the divisions were sort of competing with each other, but I don’t think that making several versions of one car was a better solution to making a few or more different cars that really were different from each other. I think that *overdoing* badge engineering is basically bad math if you want to maintain sales volume. If seven divisions want to sell seven different versions of one vehicle, then that one vehicle has to be a good enough product to sell many times the volume of each of the competitors’ offerings… and so it goes for *all* of the market segments. If the corporate compact happens a lemon and there is only one corporate compact then that’s a big hit during that whole product cycle. If there are two or three corporate compacts that are actually different from each other and they even compete for the same customers, well if one of them is a lemon then the corporation is still competitive in that segment with the other two.

        I thought when Oldsmobile had its resurgence in the 1990s that that was a good strategy- they had a couple products that were Olds-only. Same same with Pontiac when they brought over that Holden to the U.S. market and made it their own. The GTO probably lured away a few Camaro customers but I think that overall that’s a good move to make more GM customers. (I don’t know what the final sales analysis was though.) I think Buick should have been allowed to create some of their own cars instead of being just another division, but that ship sailed in the 1970s.

        All that said I’m not a corporate bean counter, I’m not in the car business, I’m just some guy on the internet, and if I my internet ramblings about how to sell cars turn out to be wrong then it doesn’t matter anyway- no angry shareholders and I don’t lose my job.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Good thing about the GTO was that the Camaro had died in 02, so the interim solution was the already available Aussie two door Monaro that allowed GM to compete with Mustang, from 04-06. Similarly the completely Aussie designed Zeta was brought over in 08-09 to fulfill a similar mission in GMs line up.

          GM in the 00s had a massive range of vehicles and platforms that I feel is massively under appreciated for what they offered. Yea if you were one of the poor bastards buying a Cobalt or a Aveo it didn’t look that great. But as an American car enthusiast in the 00s, the General had it all. Small 4 cylinder roadster? Check. Fire breathing V8 sedan? Check, full-size SUVs? Check. Off-road brand? Check. Hybrids? Check, crossovers? Check, cheap sedans? Check, midsize SUVs? Check, sports car? Check. European car? Check. El Camino? Import that sucker. Full-size truck? Midsize truck? Check, check.

          To say GM is only a shell of what it was 10 years ago is a huge understatement. They went from the top of the world to a bit player in a decade. Disappointment cannot be measured.

          GM is arguably in the worst shape it’s been since it’s inception.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “Good thing about the GTO was that the Camaro had died in 02,”

            Doh!! I forgot about that. So much for my example.

            Thanks for that correction- and also for naming off almost the entire GM product line of the 00s.

          • 0 avatar
            geozinger

            “GM in the 00s had a massive range of vehicles and platforms that I feel is massively under appreciated for what they offered…”

            … and every commenter in the internet lambasted GM for offering each and every model you subsequently note. They had all kinds of cars/trucks and all people did was to b!tch about them. It would make an (corporate) administration very conservative going forward.

            Between that and increasing regulation, we now have the current line up. As bonus, every third car is gray now, too.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            “… and every commenter in the internet lambasted GM for offering each and every model you subsequently note. They had all kinds of cars/trucks and all people did was to b!tch about them. It would make an (corporate) administration very conservative going forward.”

            Boo hoo. It doesn’t mean a thing. How many internet experts praise everything or anything Toyota sells? What matters is that they sell and they meet their buyers expectations. GM’s problem wasn’t that people said their products were inferior, it was that their constant market share contraction and inability to make a profit consistently reflected their inferiority.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        I still think that GM would have been better off keeping Pontiac in the US and killing Buick, even if it meant slapping a Pontiac badge on Chinese Buicks. Ten years out, and they have yet to make a convincing argument for what Buick’s point is in this country.

        • 0 avatar
          ToolGuy

          At the time the Pontiac decision was made, Pontiac was unprofitable and Buick was highly profitable. The U.S. government wasn’t going to support a brand with no viable/sustainable plan going forward.

          Straight from the VP of U.S. Sales:
          http://gmauthority.com/blog/gm/pontiac/why-did-gm-discontinue-pontiac/

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            It may have been unprofitable at the time but between the Alpha and Zeta platform cars they had in the works for the brand, Pontiac was about to completely revamp its lineup into a euro killer that would have kept all eyes on GM.
            Buick has not had a plan at all, its products are the stale leftovers that Europe couldn’t sell, its a mediocre lineup with products that appeal to a very slim set of the population. Buick has added nothing to the US fold in the last 10 years that either wasn’t already in one of the other divisions or wasn’t in a dying segment.
            You may not sell “hot” products to every customer but it’s those products that bring customers into the doors where you can sell them something that matches their paychecks.

            What does Buick sell to get anyone into the door?

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            (Addendum to my own comment)

            Now let’s go a little further, shall we?

            In late 2009 Susan Docherty stated on the record that “Pontiac had been unprofitable for several years.”

            Let’s pick 2008 model year as an example. I see the following Pontiac products:
            – G8
            – G6
            – G5
            – Grand Prix
            – Solstice
            – Torrent
            – Vibe

            Are you still with me? Take all the money that every customer paid for every one of those products during the entire model year. Let the dealers have their take. Pay the suppliers for parts. Pay your employees. Account for depreciation and amortization. Etc. Etc.

            Now add it *all* up… Revenue less Expenses. Ooops, it’s a negative number. Loss, not Profit. For the entire Pontiac portfolio, taken as a whole.

            Now be honest: Is this version of reality slightly different than the favor you thought you were doing to the world when you paid good money for your (for example) Pontiac Solstice GXP?

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Pontiac has the cache to sell sporty vehicles, Buick’s spent the last 30 years solidifying it’s place as people’s last vehicle. Buick cannot go anywhere with what they have established, a bunch of FWD V6s aren’t going to excite anyone, they have no way of taking the brand somewhere interesting. I accept Pontiac was not viable in 2009, but the brand image, though somewhat trashy, would have been much easier to turn around, we would certainly be seeing a better lineup from GM had they kept their original mission intact in regards to the brand.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “Buick cannot go anywhere with what they have established, a bunch of FWD V6s aren’t going to excite anyone, they have no way of taking the brand somewhere interesting.”
            “but the brand image, though somewhat trashy, would have been much easier to turn around”

            I don’t agree. For several years Pontiac largely offered the same kind of “FWD V6” cars that Buick did. Post 2002 their “sporty cache” consisted of a Kappa convertible shared with Saturn and then the two Holdens (of which only one was particularly well received). If you’re just looking for a place to drop a Zeta sedan, a nice Buick version already existed at that time; GM just didn’t have the nuts to sell it here during the gaspocalypse.

  • avatar
    nickyt89

    Cadillac has been one of my favourite brand’s since the first generation, the CTS has been constantly my favourite since the first generation, I believe in Cadillac but boy, do they know how to miss opportunities! I would start by bringing back the hybrid and the 3.6 liter V6 variant of the CT6. I would give the CT5-V the 404 hp 3.0 liter TT V6 it deserves, I would offer a hybrid variant with the same powertain as the CT6 and, I would make the rear-quarter ‘faux-window’ see through. I would install the 2.0 liter LSY engine in the CT4 as the base engine and would offer a hybrid variant with a detuned version of the CT6 powertrain with around 300 hp. I would use that same hybrid powertrain to spice up the XT4. I would offer the non-detuned version of the hybrid powertrain to also spice up the XT5. I would give the Platinum version the 404 hp TT V6 and a hybrid variant with the same powertrain as the CT6. As for the escalade, I would offer it with a 500 hp and a 550 hp Blackwing engine and a V8 hybrid variant withe same technology as the others. And last but not least, the hotter CT4- and CT5-V would be served with a 3.0 liter TT V6 with electrification with a total output of 475 hp and, a 550 or + hp Blackwing engine respectively. And above all else, I would create a highly customizable Eldorado high-end trim, similar in some ways to the Maybach trim at Mercedes and to the Autobiography trim at Land Rover.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Alternate reality: GM completely hits the reset button in 2000, combining these brands under one roof with limited models for each –

    Chevy – subcompact and compact value car, midsize car, minivan, pickup and suburban/Tahoe.
    Olds – compact, midsize and large Euro-flavored cars, midsize crossover
    Pontiac – subcompact and compact performance car, personal performance coupe
    Corvette – the usual

    Buick – compact, midsize and large luxury cars
    Saturn – subcompact, compact, midsize hybrid cars, hybrid minivan and hybrid compact crossover
    Cadillac – high performance midsize and large sedans
    GMC – the usual, with much more bling than Chevy.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    It wouldn’t have been that big a deal to us enthusiasts, but from a sales and marketing standpoint, the biggest missed opportunity had to be when Ford and Mazda jointly developed what would become the Ford Explorer, and Mazda only marketed the two-door version as the Navajo. Had they had a four-door, it probably would have added 50,000 to 100,000 sales per year (albeit some of them cannibalized from Ford), and put a lot more cash in their bank at the time.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    This wasn’t from the automakers; if it actually happened, it was from the federal government. I remember reading somewhere that, around 1944 before the war ended, President Roosevelt sat with the heads of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler and told them something like, “I don’t want there to be a big three. I want a big eight or nine, or I start hitting you with anti-trust legislation.” Unfortunately, FDR died the next year, Truman (undoubtedly having his hands full with ending the war) didn’t follow through on this, and the big three swallowed up Studebaker, Packard, Nash, etc. Had that not happened, maybe the automakers would have had domestic competition in the 1970s and made better cars themselves–instead of leaving that to Germany and Japan.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      namesakeone,

      You notice no president since Eisenhower has repeated his leaving-office “military industrial complex” speech.

      Tangentially-Related Alternative Reality #37E:
      – When Kennedy needs a Secretary of Defense in 1961, he looks beyond the President of Ford Motor Company and appoints someone other than Robert McNamara.
      – The M16 is introduced *with* a chrome-lined barrel (McNamara deleted the chrome lining for cost savings, because Whiz Kid). It performs better and malfunctions less in the jungles of Vietnam. That guy you know who lost his dad in Vietnam when his ‘plastic’ rifle jammed gets to keep his dad.
      – With McNamara otherwise occupied, the Vietnam war is managed differently and ends more quickly. Many more people get to keep their dads. (McNamara himself would agree with this assessment – look it up.)

  • avatar
    geo

    Alternate reality:
    Cadillac listens to the focus groups who said that the new 2004 SRX looked like an unappealing station wagon.

    They also realize that trying to make the dashboard console look like a desktop workstation was a bad idea.

    Cadillac revamps the exterior and interior design.

    The new crossover is a sales hit, coming close to matching the Lexus Rx in sales and exceeding the sales of the BMW crossovers.

    GMs massive investment into Cadillac starts to pay off. Because they listened and didn’t push bad designs through.

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    Alternative reality #99
    Ford added a Crew Cab to the Ranger by 1998 just like it did globally and beat the competition by at least 2 years. The next decade it was significantly updated with a new platform, powertrains and improved capabilities, It remains the best selling pickup in its class.

    Dodge updated the Nitro and Caliber based on the new Cherokee and Renegade respectively. Dodge is posting healthy finances

    Chrysler put better materials and thriftier engines inthe Aspen. In 2011 it was updated like the Durango. Chrysler is posting healthy finances

  • avatar
    volvo

    Alternate history.

    Late 1960s the big 3 commisions a study on the demographics of who was buying those relatively unknown BMWs and MBZs and why they were buying them.

    Then acted on the information.

    Same for Japanese brands in the mid 80s.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve203

      >>Late 1960s the big 3 commisions a study on the demographics of who was buying those relatively unknown BMWs and MBZs and why they were buying them.<<

      The big three do that, have been for decades. They buy the cars and take them apart too.

      The results of the research run into top management, and die. US management seems to specialize in believing in it's infallibility. The company I worked for in the late 70s was typical: A competitor wins a big contract, management tells itself the competitor used unethical tactics to win. A market survey shows customers have a higher opinion of the competitor's products and customer service: management questions the survey's methodology. The German division of the company produces innovative designs that work and meet the customer's needs: management howls about the German division's diversion from established practice as laid out by HQ. Probably the same thing going on at the big three, every day, for as long as I can remember, and I'm 65.

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