28 March 2007

The 10 Worst GM Vehicles Of The Past 25 Years.

The first of a series.

In no particular order, the vehicles that have brought out the worst in GM during the last 25 years, in no order:

The Chevy Cavalier that the Cadillac Cimarron was based on was a completely average car for its day. Ok, maybe a bit below average. And that works for a Chevy, especially when it tends to be cheaper than everyone else. The Cadillac Cimarron however, with its added 'Cadillac features', Caddy badge, and additional few thousand dollars in cost, was a complete joke. It would be like Lexus offering a Corolla based entry level sedan. This single product was enough to set back the 'entry level' Caddy market for years- some would say until the CTS debuted in the early 2000s.

Up first, the venerable Grand Am- specifically the most recent examples right before the name was axed from the lexicon of Pontiac. Sure, the generations preceding this one were probably worse cars, but in the end, they were dependable and ran pretty well compared to the competition. By the time this Grand Am rolled around, the world was filled with great midsize and compact sedans from Honda, Toyota, Nissan et al, and it was woefully overmatched. The first problem was that it took the Pontiac 'style' to embarassing extremes with body cladding everywhere (a problem rectified too late). The second problem was that the interior addressed the concerns about hard touch materials in GMs to a fault- it looked like the inside of a solitary confinement cell in a mental institution with it's puffy shapes and Fisher-Price design. The engine options were bleak, the quality even bleaker. Just a depressing effort in a key market.

Up next on the list is what should have been the highlight of the brand that was supposed to be the saviour of GM against the Japanese. When the Ion was released, it was to be indicative of a 'new' Saturn (haven't we heard that before?). It was bolted onto a new and better platform, and it was to be the perfect little runabout vehicle for Civic and Corolla owners. Instead, it got anemic powerplants, incoherent styling that looked like 3 different designers worked on it at once, and an interior that could arguably be the worst in the history of man. And I haven't even mentioned the center mounted gauges. Even the Redline couldn't save this baby.

In 2007, the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu is being touted as the saviour of the midsize segment for GM. Back in 1997, the 1998 Chevrolet Malibu was touted as the saviour of the midsize segment for GM. The parallels are chilling. After being thrashed about by the Camry, Accord and Taurus for years, GM decided to finally lift their snouts out of the SUV trough and fight back. Their solution was a vehicle that made the Toyota Camry seem like a Supra. The Malibu was atrocious in almost every way possible. The exterior was as dull as anything ever formed in metal in history. The interior was an ergonomic mess. The engines were dull and weak compared to the competition. GM basically tried to Xerox the Camry, and ended up with the equivalent of a 3rd grade tracing job.

One of the most amazing things about GM these past 25 years has been their utter inability to make a minivan that was competitive in the marketplace. Things have gotten so bad that they've more or less abandoned the segment. Everything started promisingly enough- the dustbuster minivans of the 90's were innovative in a lot of ways, and actually took the minivan paradigm in a lot of new and interesting directions. Sadly, somewhere along the way, someone at GM decided that copying was better than innovating, and we got the next generation, which were decent enough vans I suppose, but with horrific crash test scores. Predictably, vehicles meant for chauffering children around that had bad crash test scores did not play well with the soccer mom set, so a few years ago, GM refreshed their lineup and bestowed upon us the SV6/Terraza/Uplander/Relay combination of death. The elongated snouts made the crash tests scores reasonable again... but made them the most ungainly vehicles on the minivan market. It didn't help that GM called attention to the looks in their marketing, touting 'SUV looks, minivan utility'. Of course, even the latter portion of the advertising statement was a falsity, as the minivans had an interior seating arrangement from hell that made even removing the seats a chore. Add to that anemic powerplants and a chassis/platform that felt like it was from the 50s, and you had a recipe for disaster.

The next vehicle on the list is still out there. Amazingly enough the Lacrosse/Allure is still on lots. And it's being touted as 'improved' because GM is going to drop a V8 into it and call it a Super. Yeehaw. The Lacrosse doesn't make this list because it's an especially BAD car- it makes the list because it's an especially BAD car for the market it's supposed to cater to- which also explains why platform mates, the Grand Prix and the Intrigue, didn't make the list. Buick launched this thing as a Lexus ES competitor. They then proceeded to stick a 3800 V6 and a 4 speed automatic in the base models, and even offered a stripper model for the fleets. Inside had a pleasing dash shape surrounded by some of the cheapest feeling switchgear known to man and a floaty ride and handling that made you think of a mid 80s LeSabre. Even now, the notion of an OHV V8 equipped Lacrosse being a competitor to the Lexus ES350 is laughable.

The easiest vehicle to place on the list. In retrospect, the Aztek was a 'good idea too soon' vehicle- GM was on the right path with the crossover idea. It was the execution that stunk. The very first thing to note is how ugly the thing is/was. How it got past the focus groups of the time eludes me. Apart from the styling however, was just how unusable this vehicle was for its intended purpose- it was supposed to be a 'lifestyle' vehicle meant for people who liked nature, camping, etc... but the interior space wasn't utilized correctly, and in the end you were paying premium money for a funky looking minivan. And we know how well GM does minivans.

Before Art & Science, GM tried to take a different route to success with Cadillac. The idea was to use global design to save money for the company, and to import vehicles from other parts of the world for the North American market. Sound familiar? Anyways, when Opel sent over the Omega from Europe, there was a lot of hope for Cadillac as they tried to retake a market that had become dominated by the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, not to mention the market penetration achieved by upstart Lexus. The problem with all of this was that the Omega just wasn't a very good car. In addition, Cadillac saddled the first Cateras down the line with an underpowered and problem plagued V6 that turned off more customers than it turned on. In a market where Cadillac was trying to establish a foothold, they needed to come to market perfectly- with the Catera, they failed. It's interesting to note that the CTS, which came after the Catera, had a lot of the same problems, but because it didn't have anonymous styling, it succeeded in getting Cadillac back into this market as a player.

The Chevy Cavalier/Pontiac Sunfire twins are perfect examples of how GM has gotten to the point they are at in the market. Built off of old platforms that were outdated a few years prior to their introduction, they were bound to fail from the start. Oh, they sold well- very well. But almost all of those sales were the worst kind- heavily discounted, heavily rebated, and to customers looking for bare bones transportation who didn't care about their vehicles. By selling these pieces of junk on wheels, GM reinforced their image as a maker of thrift store vehicles, and that's probably the greatest damnation of these vehicles that I can conjure up.

Last but not least is the Hummer H2. Yes, it provided a lot of media exposure for GM. Yes, it was featured in every rap video of the last 5 years. Yes, it's distinct. Yes, it's a pretty good offroader. The reasons the H2 is on this list are two fold- first, it absolutely destroyed the idea of GM as a green company, and in effect allowed Toyota to take the position of a green company, and second, it truly is/was an awful machine. To the second point, it's an underpowered beast burdened by too much weight and far too high a center of gravity- not to mention the second worst interior in a vehicle ever (only behind the Ion). To the first point, the Hummer H2 brought in sales, yes, but it was also the final nail in the coffin for the image of GM as a company that cared about the environment or fuel economy. The juxtaposition of a Prius and an H2 should haunt GM execs forever, especially as they try to jumpstart the Volt project.

That's it for GM- up next, who knows. I'll take requests.


Shady said...

I really hate the two Cadillac rebadges.

Anonymous said...

How about a list of the 25 BEST cars GM has built?

Mags said...

That's a tough list. Especially if we use the same time criteria- 25 years.

Chris said...

Funny list and I agree with pretty much all of it. I've ridden in a few Cimarrons over the years, and they actually were the best Cavaliers out there. Not worth their asking price, but once they got the 2.8 multiport injected V6, they were at least an improvement. They SMELLED like a Cadillac inside, at least, if they had leather.

Best cars? I couldn't come up with 25, but the 1983-88? Pontiac 6000 STE, 1997-02 Grand Prix GTP, Corvettes, and 1991-93 Olds Calais/Achieva with the W41 Quad 4. Each of the "best" I named, though, had at least one fatal flaw. The 6000 STE was never significantly updated, the GP GTP had a transmission prone to failure, the Corvettes had cheap interiors, and the Quad 4s were Quad 4s and all their awful NVH problems and head gasket issues.

Ghrankenstein said...

You're going to have to shuffle some things around.

You forgot Chevrolet's GM10 "Monte Carlo" that looked suspiciously similar to its Lumina Coupe predecessor and wouldn't have held its own against the Pontiac and Oldsmobile GM10's from 11-13 years earlier. I don't recall if GM had yet given up on the quad-cam 3400 by then; decent until it came time to do any kind of regular maintenance, or until its appetite for timing-belt tensioners caught up with it. The "Lumina SS" oxymoron deserves mention. Yeah, I know you were stuck in a Lacrosse that one time, but this is enough to bump it.

Saab 9-5 3.0: I'll leave this one up in the air, due to GM's guilt by association only. Three cylinders turbocharged, the other three not, and separated by 54 degrees. Made the Catera seem reliable; at least it was the spawning bed of Trionic, which is still pretty darn slick in its swan song. Should bump the H2.

Hummer H1: Another guilt by association, but any criticism lobbed at the H2 is doubled in the H1. The 6.5L diesel made the H2 seem like a sports car in comparison, and the H1 was unable to keep up with speed demons like the old Geo/Chevy Metro. The H1's interior held four tiny seats, and the driver had no leg room and a steering wheel fixed to the dash. Differentials were housed in the wheel hubs, which is weird as shit, and the brakes required maintenance every 750 miles. Completely useless as an actual vehicle. The H2 is as good a livery vehicle as any, when all of them are 300 feet long and get 0.2 mpg.

2005 Cadillac Deville. The same type of laundry-list engineering that Hyundai employs, in a clunky, uninspiring vehicle that I was embarrassed to ask the customer to pay $54,000 for. By that time, the customer was used to $6000 rebates and $4000 discounts, so it didn't really matter if they were sold to fleets or not. The DTS is way better for obvious reasons, and it's going through some long-due corrections in its now notoriously cheap customer base. Fleet vehicle "Program Car" sales have been cut, and the $30,000 DTS is becoming increasingly rare.

Keep in mind, that we're talking about a freaking Deville in freaking 2005.

Oh what a place to rant this is...


Mags said...

I give leeway to the H1 simply because it has never pretended to be anything else- it was always an almost military spec vehicle that was sold to civilians. The H2 gets my scorn because it's a civilian vehicle that pretends to have a military association.

I know that probably doesn't make sense.

Good calls on the Saab and the Monte though.

Other options- Buick Sklyark and Caddy STS.

Ghrankenstein said...

> The H2 gets my scorn because it's a civilian vehicle that pretends to have a military association.

>I know that probably doesn't make sense.

When the Malibu and Lacrosse get your scorn for what they are, solidly reliable midpack performers with some distinctly good qualities, and far from what I see as GM's worst vehicles, no it doesn't make all that much sense. You probably know my thoughts already, but I can outline them if you wish.

Military authenticity or not, the H1 is a disaster on public streets, with public expectations of basic performance and reliability. I'm surprised that you, of all people, would excuse faults in a $140,000 H1 that you'd impale in a $25,000 anything else. I know you're not claiming the H1 to be the second invention of the automobile, but on apples-to-apples grounds it makes several of your 10-worst seem good.

Dude, the H1 sucked. This vehicle was for hillbillies with settlements, "soldier of fortune" types, and that's it.

I also have a soft spot for the old Corsica, which was Chevy's clumbering response to the Taurus when they didn't get a GM10. I get a real kick when someone misnames a Corsa exhaust as a "Corsica exhaust."

Not to be a thorn in your side or anything. My opinions on your grounds, plain and simple. And frankly, I appreciate it.


Anonymous said...

I would add the Trailblazer/Envoy/Bravada/Ascender/9-7x. They're still for sale, and pretty much completely forgotten about by the consumers. I would also not forget the Colorado/Canyon/I-Series, the truck that single-handedly took GM from a competitor in the mid-size truck class to just another has-been along with Ford and Dodge.

Old Dood said...

I would add a few more.

Anonymous said...

those are bad. But not the worst crs ever made by gm. They forgot all about the Chevy Aveo.

Anonymous said...

well, all of this crap is why I'm a Ford fan!!!

Brett Cannon said...

This is the (worst) worst GM car list I have ever read.

Brett Cannon said...

This is the (worst) worst GM list of cars anything I have ever read. Simply unsupported and stupid.

Brett Cannon said...

This is the (worst) worst GM car list I have ever read.

Cole Sutcliffe said...

Don't talk crap about Cavaliers, they are very reliable and tough cars. Mine gets 32+ mpg! But I will admit they are cheaply built. The interior mainly. But otherwise a great budget car. They aint nothing special but certainly don't belong on this list.

Cole Sutcliffe said...

Don't talk crap about Cavaliers, they are very reliable and tough cars. Mine gets 32+ mpg! But I will admit they are cheaply built. The interior mainly. But otherwise a great budget car. They aint nothing special but certainly don't belong on this list.

Unknown said...

What about Chevrolet Cobalt/Pontiac G5?