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Thread: Who misses Oldsmobile?

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Who misses Oldsmobile?



    Does anyone miss Oldsmobile? Not what Oldsmobile was in its heyday -- but what it had become by the mid-late 1990s just before GM pulled the plug?

    Probably not.

    Same goes for Plymouth.

    Like Olds, there was a great history. Once upon a time, Plymouth had been a great brand defined by an exciting lineup of standout cars. But Plymouth faded into badge-engineered irrelevance -- re-selling the same basic cars sold under the Chrysler and Dodge nameplates. Just like Olds. And just as irrelevant.

    The same could be said today for Ford's Mercury division -- to say nothing of several of GM's divisions, whose continued existence makes ever less sense for an automaker whose share of the pie has dwindled from a high approaching nearly 60 percent of all vehicles sold in North America circa 1979 to around 24 percent today.

    GM keeps Buick and Pontiac mainly because it has no choice -- or faces choices as unappealing as ditching the brands themselves. It has the unions, of course -- and they seem determined to kick themselves in the nether regions rather than do what's in the long-term interests of anyone who hopes to work for GM in the future. As adamant as the president in his refusal to admit there might be trouble with the "mission" in Iraq, union leaders refuse to give GM any breathing room at all -- which may just leave GM on the floor not breathing at all. But they don't seem to care about that.

    And then there are GM's dealers. These are independent franchise owners -- not directly under GM's control. So the company can't just close up unproductive dealerships (or limit the number of dealers in a given geographic area, as Toyota does). And it is legally bound to provide "product" (vehicles) even if those vehicles aren't selling well. If that sounds odd, bear in mind that many dealers (perhaps most) don't make the big bucks selling cars. They make them servicing cars. So there's not much incentive for a dealer to close up shop -- even if he is selling a brand that has become an also-ran.

    This leaves GM in the position of having to dig deep and make generous buy-out offers (as it did with Olds). The money involved is enormous. GM can't afford to do it -- but it can't afford to keep on pouring money into unproductive, duplicative brands, either. Toyota is almost as big as GM in terms of worldwide sales (and awash in cash while GM is awash in red ink) and it does this with half the brands GM has (Toyota, Lexus and the new Scion small car spin-off vs. GM's six full-line divisions). Not one of the major Japanese nameplates has more than three divisions, in fact. Most have just two. A "standard" brand (Honda, Nissan, etc.) and a "prestige" line (Acura, Infiniti).

    That's all -- and it's probably just enough.

    GM's in a bind -- trying to eke profitability out of a structure that's too diffuse for the market it has -- while Ford is dead in the water and seems to have no clue what to do about Mercury, let alone its struggling Lincoln luxury division. Bill Ford fled the scene, abjectly conceding he was in way over his head. The "Way Forward" appears to be a blind alley with a bricked-up wall at its terminus. The company is riding on the fumes of its retro-themed Mustang -- one of the very few bright spots in an otherwise dismal product portfolio. GM, at least, has managed to resuscitate its Cadillac arm -- but the union/over-capacity issues loom large, waiting to crash over GM"s Renaissance Center HQ like a mega-tsunami.

    Of the "Big Three," it is Chrysler -- now an arm of German firm Daimler AG -- that seems most seaworthy now.

    Could it be that DaimlerChrysler has trimmed down to just Chrysler and Dodge? No one seems to miss Plymouth -- and Chrysler doesn't appear t have lost anything for having bid the brand adieu. There's a "standard" line (Dodge) and a "prestige" line (Chrysler) and that seems to be just about right.

    The fast food industry may be the best example of how this works -- and why. Everyone knows the menu at McDonald's. Taco Bell, too. These joints focus hard on their core product -- and try to avoid being all things to all people. (Yes, there are now salads and so on at McDonald's, but this is a sop to political correctness and the food police. People go to McDonald's for burgers and fries and shakes. Providing these staples of the American diet with amazing efficiency and consistency is what McDonald's and the fast food industry in general have honed into an art form). The most successful imports hew to the same philosophy -- and that coherence (along with good value and pleasing the customer) has made them into the juggernauts they have become.

    There are lots of very smart people at both GM and Ford who know all this stuff -- but their hands are tied by institutional barriers, legal/contractual ukase and the same sort of lethal inertia that kept the Titanic speeding toward the iceberg even after the ship's helm ordered hard to port. By then, of course, it was already too late.

    Not many of us miss Olds. Or Plymouth. At least, not what they had become in their final decade. Ten years from now, another generation may be saying the same thing about Mercury, Buick and Pontiac.

    Maybe even Ford and GM too.

    END

  2. #2
    mrblanche
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    Re: Who misses Oldsmobile?

    Our first new car was an Olds Omega, 1975. But it could just as well have been a Nova, since it was built in the same factory by the same workers.

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Who misses Oldsmobile?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    Our first new car was an Olds Omega, 1975. But it could just as well have been a Nova, since it was built in the same factory by the same workers.
    The mid-late '70s marked thebeginning of the end; this was the time when GM needed to fix its underlying problems - but elected not to - and didn't project its business model farther out than the next quarter.

    Toyota and Honda, meanwhile, we're thinking about 1995 in 1975...

  4. #4
    DonTom
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    Re: Who misses Oldsmobile?

    Does anyone miss Oldsmobile?

    Our 1984 Oldsmobile Cutless (V-6) was the most reliable car we ever owned. It was also the only car we have owned long enough to have a low oil pressure problem. We junked it at 385,000 miles when the oil pressure got low. The was the only engine problem this car ever had. The tranny was replaced once. I think that was about all, IIRC.

    -Don-



  5. #5
    mrblanche
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    Re: Who misses Oldsmobile?

    It probably wasn't worth the money, but odds are good that for $500 or so you could have fixed the low pressure problem with new lower end bearings, which can be replaced without removing the engine. Of course, that would only be a halfway fix. You could also have gotten either a high-volume or high-pressure oil pump.

    But 385,000 miles is certainly getting your value!

    Oldsmobile actually had a long history of tech research and innovation.

  6. #6
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Who misses Oldsmobile?

    "Our 1984 Oldsmobile Cutless (V-6) was the most reliable car we ever owned. It was also the only car we have owned long enough to have a low oil pressure problem. We junked it at 385,000 miles when the oil pressure got low. The was the only engine problem this car ever had. The tranny was replaced once. I think that was about all, IIRC."

    GM's 3.8 liter (Buick-sourced) pushrod V-6 is one of the most bulletproof engines ever made....

  7. #7
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    Re: Who misses Oldsmobile?

    I have something of a soft spot for Oldsmobile - the first American car I drove was a 1978 Cutlass Supreme:


  8. #8
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Who misses Oldsmobile?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Brand
    I have something of a soft spot for Oldsmobile - the first American car I drove was a 1978 Cutlass Supreme:

    Me also... my folks had one after another when I was a kid. Three 98s - two sedand and a coupe... the last one was an '84 - last of the rear-drive/V-8 versions, too.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Who misses Oldsmobile?

    Does anyone miss Oldsmobile? Not what Oldsmobile was in its heyday -- but what it had become by the mid-late 1990s just before GM pulled the plug?

    Never marketed in NZ during my lifetime but I do remember a couple of Toronados that were in Christchurch. Owned by property developers. They just looked different so stood out like the proverbials
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  10. #10
    mrblanche
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    Re: Who misses Oldsmobile?

    The first generation of Toronados, while real barges in size, were certainly bold in styling.



    Never as nice as the Riviera, however.


  11. #11
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Who misses Oldsmobile?

    Oh I totally forgot about the Riviera...also nice.

    Every carthese days looks the same...almost
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  12. #12
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Who misses Oldsmobile?

    Not many of us miss Olds. Or Plymouth. At least, not what they had become in their final decade. Ten years from now, another generation may be saying the same thing about Mercury, Buick and Pontiac.

    Maybe even Ford and GM too.


    Will that just leave us with Toyota, Nissan, and Hyundai along with some Europeans...

    What boring showrooms we will have
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  13. #13
    mrblanche
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    Re: Who misses Oldsmobile?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kwozzie1

    Every carthese days looks the same...almost
    It has been said that if you send 100 engineers to the wind tunnel, 98 will get the same results. One of the remaining two works for Chrysler, and the other one misread his slide rule.

  14. #14
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Who misses Oldsmobile?

    The original Toros were stunning cars; here's a quick story for you:

    At the 1999 (I think it was '99) NY Auto Show, the Olds display area had a late '60s Toronado (restored beautifully) alongside the new models; it completely dominated the display.

    The only car worth looking at, really. It inadvertently highlighted just how weak Oldsmobile had become by then. How bland and derivative the styling of the newmodels was etc.

    It made me very sad.

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