Home » Our Daydreaming Designer Imagines The Nightmares That Could Have Happened If Dead GM Brands Survived

Our Daydreaming Designer Imagines The Nightmares That Could Have Happened If Dead GM Brands Survived

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Do we miss the plethora of brands that General Motors used to offer? Thinking about that the other day, I was a bit torn in my feelings towards that alternate reality.

2006 Pontiac Gto

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sources: wikipedia, wikipedia, and wikipedia

I mean, it might be nice to have modern day GTOs or 442s sitting in Pontiac or Oldsmobile showroom, or even see a new Saturn Sky roadster launch. Could a reborn SAAB Sonnett sports car have appeared on retro-modern Darth Vader wheels? Thanks to economic downturns and the financial collapse of 2008, we’ll never know. However, as much as I might miss the what-could-have-been gems of these dead brands surviving, there is one thing to remember:

There is a potential dark side to this scenario.

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You see, for a dealer to actually want to carry a brand it needs to offer at least some semblance of a ‘model lineup’, so every cool enthusiast coupe needs to be complemented by some basic sedans or SUV in different sizes. To accomplish this, it’s almost certain that General Motors would do what they did for decades: do some tricky badge engineering. Use the same car again and again and again to save development costs and reap the profits.

Let’s say each brand needs a ‘small sedan’ competitor in the lineup. We can start with a Chevy Sonic, a car that is likely to come up if you just type ‘car’ into Google Image Search and a random four wheeled conveyance appears. For each brand, GM would merely make some cosmetic changes and possibly a few modifications to the suspension tuning.  Take a look below (it’s a busy week, so I apologize that these are a bit rough, but you’ll get the idea):

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source: GM

Despite this total ruse, General Motors marketing would use glowing words to make these essentially identical cars sound like unique representatives of their respective brands. Here is some of the vibrant prose extolling the unique virtues of barely different versions of exactly the same car:

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“Born from jets, the 9-0 is a remarkable new car from the European engineers at Saab”

(…if three spoke wheels count as European engineering)

“The Reeflex is just what you expect from Saturn- the unexpected”

(….unexpectedly dull)

“The legendary name of Sunbird comes back to bring Pontiac excitement to your life”

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(….maybe those red gauge lights inside? Is that exciting? I did add ‘Bandit’ wheels at least)

“Altair- because innovation is a tradition at Oldsmobile”

(…the large double-snout grille looks sort of Pontiac-like, but it is meant to bring back the double grille style of Oldsmobiles in the heyday of the sixties and seventies. Plus, it’s sort of like the latest BMW giant-snout noses that remind me of the dog grooming van in Dumb and Dumber, where the ‘most annoying sound in the world’ that they make is IDENTICAL to the noise of the seatbelt buzzer in my 1990 420SEL)

“Hummer presents the H-0: the small car with the huge sense of adventure”

(…warning: you might get stuck driving over wet leaves in this thing. Actually it would help to bring the fuel economy average of the brand down if Hummer had survived as a gasoline brand before being ‘reborn’)

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I’d like to think that this scenario wouldn’t have happened, but the temptation would likely have been too great. Admittedly, GM has been offering a bit more differentiation today where they had once simply done the bare minimum to add identity to nameplates, particularly during the seventies and eighties.

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source: Curbside Classic

Buyers can still be surprisingly ‘brand loyal’ to cars that were the same underneath, and they seem to believe some of this silly hype even today. For example, a person I know wanted to look at a GMC truck over a Chevy ‘since they’re really more heavy duty and the brand knows trucks’. Yeah, sure.

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Are buyers more sophisticated today than they were before the Finaciapocolypse? I’d like to think so, but nobody has ever gone broke underestimating the intellect of the buying public, and I fear that given the opportunity, The General might have tried again.

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Neil Hall
Neil Hall
11 months ago

That Hummer H0 idea is very interesting, because in the very early days of the Daewoo S100 project, that morphed into the T200 project that became the Kalos/Aveo, the predecessor to the Sonic, one of the styling proposals for the sedan was SUV-inspired. A full-size model was produced at Daewoo’s Worthing Technical Centre of a 4-door sedan with a slightly raised ride height, grey wheel arches, round headlamps, and I think even roof rails. Ultimately the Worthing proposals were rejected in favour of ItalDesign’s less-radical proposals, but it is interesting to see the same idea resurface here.

Burns_a_little_oil
Burns_a_little_oil
1 year ago

I’ve never understood the Corporate Face mentality. Line up all the Audi’s side by side and I still can’t tell them apart.
I could also design every Tesla by simply stretching or pulling a single photo.
Lame.
The people want cars with personality!

StalePhish
StalePhish
1 year ago

Well 3 and Y look the same (just vertically stretched), but 3 and S look very different. Basically just the fog light area became aligned within the past model year, but they have different faces, different headlights, etc.

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
1 year ago

Bishop, you know it’s not nice to make someone shed a tear just before a holiday, and showing a further degradation of what GM would do to these brands, much less my beloved Saabs, well it just hurts my heart.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
1 year ago

The original Pontiac Sunbird was available with snowflake wheels, so nice nod to tradition there.

Jay Miller
Jay Miller
1 year ago

I’d love a Sonic-based Saab 9-0, provided it were a hatchback and had at least 175 hp.

JDE
JDE
1 year ago

Considering the love affair with all things offroad, I am kind of surprised they did not keep with the H3 as the standard Hummer and then made a sport model with removable roof and doors. and then expanded upon the alpha models with a SAS front end. Honestly the Newer Colorado Diesel 2.8 and a 4 to 1 transfer case with a solid front axle and removable body panels seems very possible and competitive with the diesel Wrangler 4 doors.

Fawgcutter
Fawgcutter
1 year ago

Working at GM post Roger Smith era this would not happen as much. The Fortune magazine cover Autopian posted on August 18 woke up GM after that – if you can’t fool a business magazine, then you’re in bigger trouble with the car enthusiasts. For example, the GMT35X series of SUVs all had the same profile, but most of their exterior skins were stamped different (the most obvious: the Chevy and GMC versions had squared-off wheel openings while the premium versions had theirs radiused, plus there were differences in belt lines – one Jalopnik writer correctly remarked that it was the worst case of platform prostitution he had ever seen). Most of this was politics, starting with the dealers of competing brands wanting similar models (Yes! GM did a great job of poaching sales from their own brands). Excess production capacity tied with union agreements, creating models like the long wheelbase versions of the GMT35X (I had asked a GM manager, and gotten written up for it: Why? A few hundred dollars more would get me a Suburban or Yukon XL, proven and bigger machines). The other aspect was economic, to satisfy dealers on product, it was cheaper to change the plastic portions of the vehicle than metal (2013-2014 Chevy Malibu, actually a Opel Insignia knockoff with a different grille – one of the first GM products to use 3D printing for prototyping to revise – most of the sheet metal stayed the same). When a company does a major change, the costs can be significant. One GM engineer complained to me about the costs of adding the Olds Intrigue to the Pontiac Grand Prix assembly line over the fact that the designer insisted on a 12mm difference in wheelbase (hint: the change was in the millions of dollars and he had just gotten through with putting in his part of the Grand Prix line a year earlier).

Wolfpack57
Wolfpack57
1 year ago

I actually like the Pontiac. I don’t like that it sorta looks like an early 2010s Lincoln though.

Low_Cal_Calzone_Zone
Low_Cal_Calzone_Zone
1 year ago

This alternate reality involves much more than rebadged GM sedans.

Think of all the SUV’s!

The Oldsmobile Bravada/ Chevy Traverse/ Pontiac GX8 (Adding “X” since G8 was a sedan)/ Buick Enclave/ Saturn Outlook. You just know the Cutlass would be the Olds take on the current Blazer.

I guess the upside is the Trans Am would be the Camaro’s twin, like always.

Patrick
Patrick
1 year ago

My guess is this is likely the first of a series, like the ongoing what-if AMC articles..

Maymar
Maymar
1 year ago

The styling language might take more than just a facelift, but the last Buick Regal (being a turbo’d fastback) would be a great starting point if Saab had just hung on for a few more years.

Peter Nagy
Peter Nagy
1 year ago
Reply to  Maymar

Wasn’t that last Regal a rebadged Opel?

Maymar
Maymar
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Nagy

It was – the last two generations of Regal were rebadged Opel/Vauxhall Insignias, so yes, if Saab had carried on, they likely would have been related.

Hiram McDaniel
Hiram McDaniel
1 year ago
Reply to  Maymar

Unless I am misreading your comment, they were indeed related. The last generation Saab 9-5 was basically the same car as the Regal GS. Shared chassis, drivetrain, and most everything else. It was Saab-ized in a few cosmetic ways, Still a striking car, my nephew has a 2011 9-5, and loves it. Can’t say it is the most reliable car though, it always has a quirk or two happening. The latest is the trunk pops open randomly, which is less than desireable.

Huja Shaw
Huja Shaw
1 year ago

If Saab made budget fleet cars. How sad.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 year ago

OK. You want nightmares? How about a Hummerized Aztek? With its bastard half brother Saab too.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 year ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Saabztek!

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 year ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

With Inca rims!

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 year ago
Reply to  The Bishop

we got a Buick-ized Aztek that looked sort of like a deformed RX300

Yes we did. That gussied up Aztek looked to my eye the perfect living nightmare for aging “temporarily embarrassed millionare” Reaganite types who couldn’t float an actual RX300 because they had long ago blown through whatever finances they had on one upping the neighborhood and predatory megachurch prosperity preachers. To save face they told themselves over and over and over they were the better for it because they were buying ‘murican and not some “Jap crap”.

Clark B
Clark B
1 year ago
Reply to  The Bishop

There is generally a consensus that the Aztec if the ugliest car ever made, but I disagree. I think it’s the Buick Rendezvous. At least they were trying to be creative with the Aztec, but the Buick exudes the opposite of that. Complete and total apathy and mediocrity.

MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
1 year ago
Reply to  Clark B

The thing that bugged me most (aside from the Rendezvous existing) was the chrome “oval” where the plate and reverse lights went. Once I saw it I could never un-see it.

Razoe
Razoe
1 year ago

Not gonna lie. The Saab looks good ????

E Petry
E Petry
1 year ago
Reply to  The Bishop

The G6 and the 9-3 were very different though.

~=Daaan
~=Daaan
1 year ago

The H0 looks like a Polestar 2 badge-engineered by Jeep…and I don’t hate it.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
1 year ago

Speaking of Saab, the bankruptcy proceedings finally concluded… yesterday:

https://www.saabplanet.com/saabs-bankruptcy-is-finally-fully-finished/

Razoe
Razoe
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Pouring one out

BloggyMcBlogBlog
BloggyMcBlogBlog
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

I was sad when they had to liquidate all their cool cars from their museum.

Beer-light Guidance
Beer-light Guidance
1 year ago

I thought the city of Trollhattan bought the museum to keep it open?

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
1 year ago

That last one is the new WRX, right?

The Clutch Rider
The Clutch Rider
1 year ago
Reply to  The Bishop

but the plastic trim was always painted a different color, not just bare plastic on the sedans. Also, they were offered all the way up to 2007

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
1 year ago

“… a reborn SAAB Sonnett…”

I can’t take credit for the verse, but as the former owner of a ’69 Sonett V4 I do have to point out:

The one-N Sonett,
He’s a Swede.
The two-N sonnet,
Verse you read.
And I would bet
An Easter bonnet
There ain’t no
Two-N, two-T sonnett.

(Apologies to Ogden Nash.)

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Liked for Ogden Nash reference.

Addison Allen
Addison Allen
1 year ago

I see a first gen Pontiac Transport front end when I look at the Oldsmobile. That being said late 80s/early 90s Pontiac and Oldsmobile style wasn’t all that different, right?

jwarren
jwarren
1 year ago

As meh as most of these are I could see them being a thing. The H-0 made me puke in my mouth though. You know it’d have a cheap ass lift kit and some A/T’s the second it rolled off the lot.

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
1 year ago
Reply to  The Bishop

I… I… think I might be tempted by an H-O with a winch and basket roof rack, even if the POS is based on the Chevy Sonic. The idea is so hideous it circles back around to what I imagine to be attractive. It occupies the same mental space as the Impreza, which is an economy car, but looks good lifted as the Crosstrek.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 year ago
Reply to  jwarren

Imagine a Trax with that treatment. True GM style, the mechanicals with the 1.4T, 6 speed auto and AWD wouldn’t have been half bad. GM Korea at least taught other GM plants how to make a rattle free interior; say what you will about the materials.

Dumb Shadetree
Dumb Shadetree
1 year ago
Reply to  jwarren

Yeah, a real H-0 would be similar to a Jeep Renegade. Think Chevy Trax / Buick Encore with plastic body cladding to make it look more “rugged”.

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