General Motors is one of the largest car manufacturers in the world and owns a variety of mainly American brands such as Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC, and so on. GM is very successful, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. Over the years, they’ve made many best-selling cars.
However, GM has unfortunately also made some very bad decisions over the years, which in turn has ruined a few great car brands. Whether it’s badge engineering bad cars or completely ruining the reputation of established car brands, we’ll take a closer look at ten car brands that GM has ruined.
The GM Saab story is quite sad. If you know your cars, you’ll know that Saab was quite a quirky brand. They made cars that were well-built, safe, and quite revolutionary. The 99 Turbo was one of the first mainstream, affordable production cars to have a turbocharger fitted as standard. In 1989, GM invested $500 million into Saab and controlled 50% of the company. By 2000, Saab was 100% owned by GM.
In 1994, they launched the new 900 which was a huge success and caused Saab to have a profit in 1995, the first time in seven years. That car was based on the cheaper Vauxhall Vectra. GM made many badge-engineered Saabs, usually based on cheaper Vauxhall or Chevrolet cars. By 2008 though, due to the recession, things were bleak, and by 2010 they had sold Saab to Spyker. GM basically took all the good out of Saab, made awful badge-engineered cars, bankrupted them, and then sold them off.
GM was yet again foolish here. Pontiac was one of the more sporty brands owned by GM, and in the 1960s they made some of the best cars ever. But by 2000, they were far from what they once were, and things got even worse when they launched the hated Aztek in 2001.
Pontiac eventually went bust in 2009 due to GM’s restructure due to bankruptcy. By 2009, Pontiac had made some awful badge-engineered cars such as the Matiz, the G5, and the Vibe. Build quality was pretty awful too, and all of this was down to bean-counting accountants who knew nothing about cars or customer service.
Recently deceased Holden is the next brand on this list. Australia’s car brand lasted from 1856 till 2020 and was replaced by GM Speciality Vehicles, who will be responsible for selling the new Corvette C8 in Australia. Holden made some awesome cars such as the Commodore HSV, the Monaro, and many more. In 1931, GM took over Holden.
Holden did make quite a few of its cars such as the Commodore, Ute, Senator, etc. However, they also had many badge-engineered cars. By their final year in 2020, almost all of their lineup was badge-engineered Chevrolet’s, GMC’s, or Vauxhall’s. The reason why GM closed Holden is that they stated they were going to stop all RHD vehicles globally, even though they want to make an RHD Corvette C8 in the next few years.
7 Daewoo Motors
Daewoo Motors was a South Korean brand that did make some woeful cars. Originally, they did make re-badged GM-owned Vauxhall vehicles. In fact, up until 1996, all Daewoo cars were based on GM vehicles. By 2002 though, GM had purchased Daewoo for only $1.2 billion.
Daewoo had potential. They could have ended up like Kia and Hyundai today, but instead, GM ruined them. They started to make awful badge-engineered cars and by the mid-2000s, many Daewoo cars were not even badged Daewoo anymore, they were badged Chevrolet. It was all a mess and by 2011 Daewoo Motors went bust.
To help combat the competition from cheaper imported economy cars, GM created the Saturn brand. A no-nonsense haggle-free car brand aimed at the masses. It was set up in 1985 and ran until 2010. They mainly made poorly-built economy cars however, cars like the Saturn Sky were pretty good.
By the late 2000s, all Saturn offered were re-badged Chevrolet’s and Vauxhall cars. They were cheap, and you got what you paid for. The brand was very uninspiring, and it was obvious by the late 2000s that they had no future. As a result, they were dissolved due to GM’s bankruptcy.
Once the third best-selling car manufacturer in the US in the 1970s,and the first car brand to ever fit a production car with a turbo, Oldsmobile is now no longer with us. They made brilliant cars, such as the front-wheel-drive 385hp Tornado. Oldsmobile was once on top, but by the mid-1990s they had seriously lost their place as one of the main automobile manufacturers.
Oldsmobile was still revolutionary, though, being the first US car manufacturer to have an in-car navigation system back in 1995 on the 88 models. By the year 2000, things had gotten so bad that GM decided to make plans to pull the plug. By 2004, Oldsmobile was dead, and the final models were the Bravada SUV, the Silhouette Minivan, and the Alero sedan. The final car to roll off the production line was an Alero, signed by every Oldsmobile production worker.
The only brand here that still pretty much exists and is still very successful. Vauxhall was purchased by GM in 1925 whilst Opel was purchased by GM in 1931. Vauxhall and Opel for years made separate cars until 1972 whereby GM decided that Vauxhall would now use German Opel designs and that some Vauxhall models will be made in Germany.
This did ensure longevity in the pair. However, build quality has never been great on Vauxhalls and Opel. GM’s bankruptcy in the late 2000s caused massive issues for the pair as they were almost sold off to Candian firm Magna. In the end, Vauxhall and Opel were sold to PSA in 2017, which is now known as Stellantis.
Although Hummer is now back, they are not their own brand. Hummer was a brand that could have become a massive competitor for the likes of Jeep. The original H1 was an outrageous vehicle, but it was cool. The H2 and H3 on the other hand were not cool in any way shape or form.
The 2008 recession killed Hummer as a standalone brand. Hummer was going to be sold to a Chinese brand, however, this deal fell through. Hummer then was offered to an American company and that didn’t work out either. In 2010 the Hummer brand died but in 2020 ten years later, the name was revived as an electric truck model by GMC.
Bedford could have been something bigger if it was managed properly. The brand was shut down back in 1987 and all Bedford vehicles were rebadged as Vauxhall, since they owned and founded Bedford. The vans made by Bedford towards the 1980s were all badge-engineered from Vauxhall and Isuzu.
If Bedford had developed its vans with GM, they would likely have survived. It just feels as if GM did not put as much effort as they should have done with the Bedford brand.
Geo isn’t a brand that is sorely missed, but most Geo owners love their cars. The Geo brand was made to take on the cheaper import economy cars in the US. Think of Geo as a car brand like Saturn, but worse. They mainly made cheap, economical, no-nonsense cars. Geo did make one somewhat sporty car, the Storm coupe.
Geo eventually merged with Chevrolet in 1997. Did Geo need to exist? After all, they only made badge-engineered cars. Couldn’t these cars be badged as Chevrolet cars at the start?
The Subaru Legacy is perhaps one of the best and most practical family cars money can buy.
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