We often have to make tough decisions here at Used Cars On-Line about what Makes/Models appear in our search results. After all, if you include every single make and model made around the entire world, the search would be really cumbersome. Which got me thinking about the makes that are no longer with us.
In the early days of cars, there were tons of makes, and no one player dominated. In the 60s it got very consolidated (especially in America), but the Big 3 decided to use the various brands they acquired as a way of keeping customers throughout the value chain. Ie, you start with a Pontiac, then you buy a Buick, then a Chevrolet, etc…
Once the 80s came around, and “badge engineering” became the rage, it pretty much ruined the value of all of the individual brands (consumers could tell that the Cadillac Catera was essentially a marked up Chevy Cavelier), and as the American car brands began to gain huge amounts of debt, they started cutting makes.
Saturn – Saturn was a unique brand, which was designed from the ground up to not have the baggage of other GM brands. Their no haggle pricing and “Japanese-style” engineering made these very popular entry level cars. They had some of the best reliability of any GM cars in the 90s, but unfortunately, GM once again got lazy and started badge engineering these. Reliability fell, the thinks that made it unique went away, and Saturn very quickly became one of the first brands to get the ax.
Oldsmobile – If you had told my grandpa that Oldsmobile would go away, he’d probably say you were crazy. An extremely popular brand in it’s day, by the 2000s, there was literally nothing unique to it, and consumers had a hard time knowing why they’d buy an Oldsmobile over a Buick or a Chevy.
Plymouth – Chrysler did a much worse job differentiating brands than Chevy. To this day I can’t tell you if Plymouth as a cheaper or more expensive brand than Chrysler and Dodge. The one unique car Plymouth produced in the last 20 years was the Plymouth Prowler. Certainly a collectors item, but no one really noticed that Plymouth got the ax.
Isuzu – Isuzu was really ahead of the whole SUV boom. You couldn’t have been around in the 80s without knowing who Joe Isuzu was. Isuzu is largely an outsourced engineering company, making the first Honda Odyssey, the Geo Storm, and also Subaru, Toyota, and Mitsubishi all own part of Isuzu.
Saab – Saab was a very unique car in it’s styling. Essentially bringing Swedish “Ikea” styling to the American masses. It had interesting features like an ignition in the floor (because engineers identified a safety issue where drivers knees would hit the traditional placement of the ignition). Unfortunately like a few of the above, they got bit by partnering with GM. Even though GM had quite a few suitors, and Spyker eventually bought them, it all ended up in a debt filled calamity and Saab is no longer with us. Given it’s heritage and brand, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one come back some day though.