We all make mistakes, car companies, too. Since car companies rarely admit to any, we must do it for them. Here’s my list:
: Keeping the old OHV 3800 V-6 as a basic engine. Many think it’s a great engine. I say this old pushrod antique has been a major reason for GM’s failure in the market. I say GM accountants love this engine because, with the tooling paid off, it must be the cheapest engine in the world to build, but , , or BMW wouldn’t take the 3800 as a gift.
It’s part of the strange engine history of GM, like building an all-new DOHC V-6 that fit only one car — the Oldsmobile Intrigue — and then killing that car. There also seems to be a problem with coordinating introduction dates between new car and engine teams. The new engine comes out a year after the new car. That just happened with the Cadillac CTS.
The Pontiac Aztek: Anyone can have a poor product, but Aztek has become a joke.
has made so many errors it’s hard to choose. Letting the Taurus, once America’s most popular family car, disintegrate into a rental-car special, is a big one. Ford surrendered the family car market to and and even now it doesn’t seem to know how to save Taurus.
Of course, we can’t forget the Lincoln Blackwood, the silliest vehicle I’ve seen in decades. Imagine a $50,000 pickup with paper stickum on the sides, no 4-wheel drive and a power tonneau cover that makes it impossible to retrieve anything from the rear of the truck bed. Givecredit, though, at least it killed it quickly.
Group: Eliminating Plymouth instead of creating a new Plymouth with a full line of PT Cruisers. And Chrysler’s incredible slowness in expanding the PT. No all-wheel drive, no panel truck, we’re still waiting for the convertible.
: It’s hard to understand its failure to build a low-priced small SUV off the Golf platform. VW has an AWD system that fits (used on the Audi TT), it has factory space in Mexico, and it has retro heritage from “The Thing,” remember that? They could call the new version “The New Thing.” The small SUV market is growing fast. I can’t believe VW, normally so tuned in to the youth market, hasn’t noticed.
Toyota: It doesn’t understand just how huge Americans like their pickups and minivans, and takes three or four tries to get it right.
Toyota also has this fear that young people consider it boring, so it plays the clown, thinking it will impress the children. Example: the new Scion. All Toyota has to do is keep building great cars and trucks and put a bit more style into the low end.
Honda: It’s difficult to find errors here, but the Acura effort in the luxury market is close. Can you successfully build luxury cars without a V-8 or rear-wheel drive? And remember those strange Acuras, like the Vigor? Yuk.
Long-time contributor Jerry Flint died suddenly Aug. 7. He was a fine journalist and dear friend who will be sorely missed.