From Car and Driver: Brands Gained and Lost in the Aughties

Good quick review. Personally, I am saddened by what we have lost, and not terribly impressed by what we have gained. In terms of loss, I am pretty much focused on Pontiac (which for almost all of my life made terrible cars - yet I will miss it dearly) and Saab, as I grew up in two Saab 9000's.


Decade in Review: Brands Gained & Lost - Feature

All the marques that entered the U.S. market over the past 10 years—plus the ones that ate a bullet.

December 2009

Pages: 1 Photos

So many brands have received lethal injections in the U.S. this past decade, it’s hard not to get emotional. But then you remember that most of those brands made terrible cars and deserved to die. And then you remember that we’ve gained a whole mess of brands, too. Here, a rundown of all the newcomers and all the dead ducks with their periods of U.S. availability. (We’ve left out stuff that doesn’t/didn’t enter the U.S. fully assembled.)

BRANDS WE LOST————————————————————————————


It sold cars here? (Actually, you still can buy a Daewoo—you just know it better as the Chevy Aveo.)


VEHICross? Axiom? Those sound more like medications than vehicles, and American buyers abandoned Isuzu throughout the 1990s. By the end, relative successes like the Joe Isuzu ad campaign and turbocharged Impulse coupe were faded, decades-old memories, and the brand only offered rebadged versions of subpar GM products. (Isuzu continues to sell commercial vehicles here.)


As one of the first automotive brands, period, it was tough to watch Oldsmobile struggle to a wheezy end in the first half of the decade. That it meant the demise of products like the uncompetitive Alero and the badge-engineered Bravada SUV and Silhouette minivan made the medicine easier to swallow.


Has anyone really missed Plymouth? The brand ceased being relevant sometime in the 1960s, and badge sharing in the ’80s and ’90s eliminated all its unique products, save for the low-volume Prowler hot rod, which was soon shuffled off to Chrysler anyway.


The most lamentable of the killings on this list, the Excitement brand was just beginning to get its mojo back—witness the awesome G8 GXP—when GM’s bankruptcy forced a corporate culling. Check out our rundown of our favorite Ponchos of all time.


GM’s deadline to sell the brand rapidly approaches—a purchase by Spyker is Saab’s last hope—as does the grim reaper. If the sale fails, Saab will be dissolved. Although it didn’t completely disappear by the end of the year, the death of this quirky and iconic Swedish brand belongs on this list. Mismanagement, badge-engineered products without a lick of Scandinavian heritage, and market indifference are largely to blame for Saab’s almost-certain demise. Born from jets, killed by incompetence.


Like Pontiac, Saturn was just starting to become relevant as it was killed off, with class-competitive vehicles and lots of consumer goodwill leading the charge. But a lack of marketing meant that few buyers knew the final Saturns were any good, so sales never took off, and a bid by Penske Automotive to buy the brand fell through at the 11th hour.

BRANDS WE GAINED————————————————————————————


The long-dormant brand—there was a brief reappearance in the ’90s—was revived by Volkswagen and now peddles the world’s superest supercar, the Veyron. An equally super sedan is next on the docket.


Hummer technically existed before 2003, with AM General peddling the HMMWV—a.k.a. the H1—but the introduction of the GM-designed H2 was really the brand’s kick-off point in the U.S. After a meteoric rise that saw the General forcing Hummer dealers to shell out millions for stand-alone stores, sales have all but died, and the brand is in the process of being sold to a Chinese company.


The Swedish supercar maker has quietly been selling its righteous wares here for a few years now. The CCX is continually gunning for the Veyron’s title as world’s fastest production car.


If rumors are true, this Mercedes-backed brand—it is, like Bugatti, a revival of an early 20th-century marque—is close to joining the other, less-alive group on this list. Billed as a hyperexclusive competitor to Rolls-Royce, Maybach sales have lagged behind expectations.


The reborn Mini arrived courtesy of BMW in ’03 and has been the most welcome new addition during the Aughts. Plans for further lineup expansion have us worried about a dilution of the brand’s cheeky, fun-to-drive appeal—there’s an SUV coming, ferchrisakes—but there’s no doubt that Mini has been a home run.


It took until the 2007 model year for the brand’s sole offering, the MT900S, to be federalized for street use. Wild and raucous like supercars of yore, the Mosler was in development for six years and was bred on the racetrack.


Imagined as a way for Toyota to lower the median age of its buyers, Scion started off like gangbusters but has struggled as of late. Forthcoming vehicles like the iQ city car and a redesigned tC will look to reignite sales.


Imported by Penske Automotive, Smart has seen some success in America’s largest cities, but its cars remain little—har!—more than oddities in America’s heartland. Two seats, an obstinate transmission, and poor cargo room limit their appeal to the fringes.


With only 15 U.S. dealers, Spyker’s footprint in this country is small, but the visual impact of its hyperflared supercars most certainly is not.


There have been electric carts and small vehicles available for sale for years, but Tesla is the first in a century or so to deliver real, usable all-electric propulsion to the (relative) masses. The company has thus far survived financing problems—and teething pains associated with its only current model, the pricey Lotus-based roadster—but the future is far from certain. For what it’s worth, Tesla is promising a $50,000 electric sedan as the follow-up to its sports car.

Norm's additional notes for those still reading:
A bunch of the brands we "gained" are just garage operations or supercar manufacturers. I think C&D was trying to up the mood, as a bunch of these also died during the 00's and were not included as "lost." For example, Saleen and Shelby. Yes, they both still exist as tuning companies, but they no longer make cars. Such as the hideous, overpriced and generally terrible Shelby Series 1:
File:ShelbySeries1 Silver-RedStripe.jpg

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