GM’s Unpopular Models

CutlassSome GM cars aren’t selling. Why that’s a news flash!

The Wall Street Journal reported today that General Motors has a large number of slow selling cars, including the Pontiac G5, Pontiac G8, Saab 9-7, Saab 9-5 and Saturn Astra. Apparently, they are pretty good cars, and get decent mileage. But GM can’t sell them.

But the Chevrolet Silverado and the Chevrolet Impala are doing well. Hmmm. Let’s see. One group has a bunch of unknown nameplaces, namely G5, G8 and Astra. And the other has names that are well known to consumers. Names like Impala and Malibu. Get it?

Duh. Consumers get it. For decades, GM sold a limited number of nameplates, and rarely switched around model names, and only dropped a model name when there was an extremely negative connotation (i.e. Chevette). The Olds Cutlass, Chevrolet Caprice and Buick Century were staples. And then GM started switching around all its models. It would be as if NBC switched around its programming all the time. Consumers wouldn’t know what to do. So they go with the familiar. Or go elsewhere.

That’s not to say it can’t be done. GM has done it with Cadillac, where it rebranded the company by eliminating Sedan DeVille, Eldorado and Fleetwood. But that is expensive, time consuming, requires incredible skill and sometimes doesn’t work. It helped to kill off Oldsmobile. Who wants to drive an Alero when you want an Eighty Eight?

So you can’t do it all the time.

This dropping of nameplates is ostensibly done to attract younger car buyers. A noble goal, but not a goal for the desperate car company. Furthermore, many of the folks who buy these future clunkers from General Motors are older. And more familiar with familiar names.

So they go into a showroom, expecting a LeMans. And they get a Pontiac Vibe. Now, a Pontiac Vibe is a great car, and I think is actually a Toyota Matrix. But it doesn’t sell like one. How about calling it something folks already know. Like a Pontiac LeMans.

News flash to GM. People live til they are 80 these days, and so you need to market to people over 50. People over 50 don’t want to drive a Vibe. But they do have disposable income, and might even want a Trans Am or Bonneville.

What are the top missing General Motors nameplates that might be known to an over 50 crowd? They are the cars sold during the late 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Bub, some of these nameplates had 30 years on them, minimum. Below are the most obvious.


  • Pontiac Bonneville
  • Pontiac Trans Am
  • Pontiac LeMans


  • Oldsmobile Ninety Eight
  • Oldsmobile Cutlass
  • Oldsmobile Eighty Eight


  • Buick LeSabre
  • Buick Park Avenue
  • Buick Century


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.


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