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General Motors wasn’t the only company to have its financial frailty exposed by the 2008 financial meltdown, but it was among the corporate giants that very nearly didn’t survive the crisis. Saddled with more brands than Mike and Carol Brady had kids, it became clear that Sophie’s Choice-level decisions needed to be made.
We at Consumer Guide often let major anniversaries slip by unnoticed, instead paying undue attention to lesser milestones. In keeping with that fine tradition, we honor the introduction of the poster child for wasteful motoring. And yes — it really has been ten years since you first saw a Hummer H2.
History has been unkind to the Hummer brand, and for the most part, rightly so. It would be hard to point at any General Motors project that better demonstrated a culture of commercial crassness, environmental tone-deafness, and just plain shortsightedness.
The Chevrolet Vega was meant to be a technical and efficiency tour de force. The good-looking, lightweight little car featured a number of cutting-edge features, and was positioned to prove that the Bow-Tie Brand—and on a broader scale General Motors—was in a position to take on the low-cost and fuel-efficient imports that were starting to show up in dealerships at the beginning of the Seventies.
One relatively easy way for an auto manufacturer to spur the sales of a given model is to play around with the trim levels offered.
Americans tend to enjoy their engine cylinder counts in even numbers. Engines of 4-, 6-, and 8 cylinders have powered an overwhelmingly large majority of the vehicles ever sold in the U.S, and for good reason.
Illustrations by Frank Peiler
Since the turn of the century, U.S. car sellers have been shedding brands faster than the cable TV networks have been creating reality shows.
At a Volvo press-event dinner many years ago, I chanced into a conversation with one of the brand’s product-planning executives. We chatted pleasantly on the topic of wagons, and of the American market’s declining interesting in the body type.
Pontiacs were always a little cooler than Chevrolets, at least at Fremd High School in Palatine, Illinois, in the early Eighties. My take, and the take of my gearhead buddies at the study-hall table, was that the Firebird was a notch above the Camaro (thank the 400-cubic-inch V8), the Ventura was a bit better than the Nova, and the Grand Prix had it all over the Monte Carlo. On the subject of Bonneville versus Caprice, we were divided. Police versions of the big Chevy were cool enough to break down the barriers of brand loyalty.
If you attended at the Chicago Auto Show back in 2003 or 2004, you might have seen a Hummer-like SUV with “Studebaker” stamped on the liftgate. Posed by some rugged-looking rocks in a small Avanti Motor Corporation display, this hulking behemoth was a Hail Mary attempt by struggling Avanti Motor to cash in on the then-booming mega-SUV market. How did such a bizarrely branded vehicle ever come to pass?