Sometimes car companies get a bit carried away with a new idea that, for a myriad of reasons, doesn’t translate so well in its execution. Toyota (and other Japanese companies) did exactly this when they invested in the very unsuccessful line of WiLL cars and other consumer products in the early 2000s.
Today we look at a 1980s domestic example of an idea that fell flat. It was the time Cadillac thought applying lipstick to a Cavalier-shaped pig would make the BMW and Mercedes-Benz 190E customer come a’callin. It’s time for Cimarron, a J-body joint.
Barely a month has passed since Rivian’s CEO first posted pictures of the company’s fully certified, in-production R1T electric pickup rolling down the Normal, Illinois assembly line. The R1T is here, it’s real, and it’s got the blessing of the NHTSA, EPA, and CARB to prove it – but the fact that the R1T made it to production more-or-less as promised isn’t what I’m here to talk about today.
Instead, I want to talk about how a brash, spunky startup managed to beat not just Ford, and not just GM, but every single established automaker to market to deliver the first modern electric pickup truck … and the answer might not be what you expect.
The Rare Rides series is a friend to the General Motors J-body. In 2018 we featured a 2000 Sunbird from ’83, in 2020 there was the ’84 Oldsmobile Firenza Cruiser, and earlier this year a ’91 Cavalier wagon.
But we’ve never featured the OG J-body main event, a first-gen Cavalier. Let’s go.
All-electric pickup trucks are easily one of the strangest new vehicle segments of the day. Designed to appeal to a demographic of American motorists that normally wouldn’t give EVs a second glance, they’ve probably managed to get more tech nerds interested in pickups than anything else. Leathery dudes who have labored outdoors their entire lives remain dubious that fuel-deprived products will make ideal working vehicles. But there are outliers and their younger (or wealthier) counterparts seem much more willing to entertain the marketing push behind the sudden onslaught of bedded electrics. And one wonders where these trucks are supposed to belong.
On Thursday, General Motors announced that the Chevrolet Silverado EV will be making its official debut at CES 2022 — a venue that has become synonymous with highfalutin electrics both real and imagined. With traditional automotive trade shows being canceled left-and-right over pandemic fears, the event formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show may have been Chevy’s best option. But it also opens up questions about what kind of customer is being targeted by the manufacturer.
Today’s Rare Ride coverage was prompted when your author saw an unusual pickup truck on the roads of Cincinnati. The truck in question was a black Sierra Denali from the early 2000s, with a telltale feature on its rear fenders: little lights on either side. Let’s talk Quadrasteer.
There’s a new automotive trend afoot, one where industry giants alter their iconic corporate logos so they’ll play better in a digital environment. Shadows and color gradients designed to give an image depth don’t always pop on a cheap screen the way they might on the glossy piece of paper and have encouraged manufacturers to transmission to flat, monochromatic icons that look bad everywhere.
But consistency isn’t the only reason to change logos. It’s also an opportunity to signal to customers that you’re evolving as a brand, which is why so many companies have associated their new iconography with the pivot toward electric vehicles. General Motors, recently ditched the logo it’s been using (more or less) unchanged since 1964 for a Bizarro World alternative that swaps the color pallet and makes the letters lowercase. Now it’s modernizing the emblem to be used for Cadillac’s electrified products until they gradually supplant the entire lineup.
We’ve written about the lofty promises automakers are making when it comes to EVs, but regardless of whether you think they’ll make their targets or not, they’re at least putting plans in motion.
Ford has its Blue Oval City. Meanwhile, General Motors has plans to open a battery-cell lab in suburban Detroit.
In 1996, General Motors unveiled the first modern electric car: The EV1. Built to prove that GM could satisfy California’s then-new zero-emissions regulations, the EV1 was a quick, efficient, electric two-seater that could be plugged into a standard 110 outlet. By all accounts, the car was well-loved by its owners lessors, but wasn’t profitable enough for GM to make a business case for the development of an EV2. GM halted production after the 1999 model year.
What if they hadn’t stopped there, though? What if, instead of cancelling the EV1, GM had decided to build on everything they’d learned about EVs and doubled down on it, using economies of scale to drive down costs to a level that could have been profitable? What if they had a platform that they already knew they were going to make hundreds of thousands of, every year, standing by at the ready? And, finally, what if that platform had been sturdy enough to carry around an extra thousand pounds of battery without breaking a sweat?
They did, and the 1999 Chevrolet Silverado EV2 is the story of GM dominance that never was.
Cadillac’s instance that it be the first brand owned by General Motors to go entirely electric has resulted in a shrinking U.S. dealership network, though perhaps a healthier bottom line for GM in the long run. It may also foreshadow the trajectory of other brands committed themselves to EVs and give us a sense of what the dealer landscape might look like in a decade or two.
Over the last few years, American luxury brands have been attempting to grow in select markets they believe will bring in new, affluent customers by building experience centers that mimic high-end airport lounges. Cadillac even briefly moved its base of operations to New York City as a way to gain distance from its rustbelt background and ingratiate itself into high society. More recently, Lincoln introduced a Central Park-themed Navigator as both have been trying to lay down roots in parts of California after ceding a large share of the market to the competition decades earlier. But GM’s insistence that Cadillac become an all-electric brand (with Lincoln also targeting a glut of EV sales by 2026) seems as though it could create complications, even if the end result is a major victory.
Our recent Rare Rides coverage of the Chevrolet Citation made one thing very clear: We need more Citation content. Today’s 1982 Buy/Drive/Burn lineup was suggested by commenter eng_alvarado90, who would like to see all of you struggle. Citation, Aries, Escort, all in their most utilitarian formats. Let’s go.
General Motors now requires salaried employees operating in the United States to disclose their coronavirus vaccination status. As confirmed by the automaker on Thursday, the decision is supposed to help the company determine what percentage of its own workforce is vaccinated so it can make better decisions about which safety protocols to implement. But your author is under the assumption that “as many as possible” will always be the preferred answer.
Earlier in the month, GM forced all salaried employees to disclose whether or not they were immunized for COVID-19 using the automaker’s internal network. Those answering to the affirmative were required to submit proof of vaccination by last Monday. But it sounds as though the manufacturer is just getting warmed up for more invasive activities.
In Part V of the Rare Rides series on the Eagle Premier, I mentioned an abandoned project at Chrysler called Liberty. Announced in 1985, Liberty was supposed to be a direct challenge to GM’s recently announced Saturn brand. Or it wasn’t, depending on what day of the week Liberty was addressed.
Chrysler’s PR department and CEO Lee Iacocca seemed at odds on what the Liberty project was, but they were both sure it was very important and it would build something, probably.
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- 28-Cars-Later "I was thinking that service shops were the real cash magnets for the dealers not car sales."You are correct, service and used cars made the majority of dealer profit.
- ToolGuy Secret: Large automakers have some dealers which they really really like, and some dealers they would love to get rid of.
- 28-Cars-Later There is no and will be no "EV transition". The "transition" will be to a smaller auto industry with less production and higher prices.
- 28-Cars-Later $300 and its only because its a 5 speed.
- Bobby D'Oppo I'm a huge fan of Honda's legendary (no pun intended) golden era 90's products, but I'm troubled by Acura's inability to keep pace with the competition through the past few generations when it comes to performance drivetrain and chassis tech. They so rarely deliver anything that properly challenges the best from zee Germans or even Lexus. It's great that their volume models still tend to stand among the strongest in their categories, but the way Honda/Acura continuously fails to deliver anything remotely exceptional for the the premium buyer is incredibly disappointing. The sports/luxury market drives innovation and also happens to be where the margins are. That the millions of people who grew up with Honda cars have been left with so few options when they're ready to graduate to something beyond a Civic with a hot motor, or a warmed-over CR-V with a few extra bells and whistles seems absolutely tragic.