Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ode to Oldmobile

Oldsmobile is one of the worlds oldest (no pun intended) automotive manufactures. As such, General Motors had to do a lot of explaining when the brand was cut from production in 2004. There was a general out cry when then new to General Motors Bob Lutz told everybody that he tried to save the brand, but was too late. It seemed as though the General had no real reason for killing the oldest General Motors brand.

There was a reason, but it is now understood as a very bad reason; Oldsmobile was selling less than 200,000 copies a year and that is grounds for immediate termination. Now that General Motors is on a fast track to being back in black, there are many vehicles now in production that would fit into the Oldsmobile line up that would bridge the gap between Pontiac and Buick.

The gap I speak of is the high performance (soon to be) rear wheel drive car platforms on the Pontiac side and the (also soon to be) high luxury front wheel drive car/SUV/CUV platforms on the Buick side. There is a huge gap there that can be filled with some performance cars, some semi-luxury cars, and the same in SUV and CUV forms.

Imagine a new version of the 4-4-2 based off of the upcoming Camaro (zeta) platform, or what about a Hurst/Olds Bravada based off the Trailblazer SS. I would have liked to see the Vibe and the Torrent moved from Pontiac to Oldsmobile when the rear wheel drive change over happens.

What upsets me the most; is that Saturn has for all intent and purpose taken over the void left by Oldsmobile. Some of you may not remember when Saturn was a sub-Chevrolet brand. A modern day comparison would be Toyota to Scion. When a Chevrolet Caviler sold for $12,000 a Saturn sold for $10,000. That is about the same difference between a Corolla, and a xA/xB (the tC sells for more than a Corolla).

Now, Saturn sells for just about the same cost as a Chevrolet, but with different designs. I tried asking Saturn salesmen where the Saturn brand fell in the General Motors line up and he did not know what I was talking about. I then explained that “back in the day” the line up was divided into the five main brands in order from lowest (least expensive) to highest (most expensive) Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac.

When I mentioned Cadillac, he told me that such a division of brands no longer fits in General Motors because the new Saturn Aura sells for sub $20,000 MSRP but has the same Cadillac v6 power plant. This is backed up with professional reviews from “The spirited 3.6-liter V6 in the XR is the same mill used in the Cadillac CTS…” Now, any idiot will know that General Motors now operates under the mass economies of scale business protocol, instead of the planetary brand isolation business protocol.

Simply put, up to about the 1980s, General Motors’ brands had all unique and very individual brand identities, “a car for every purse and propose.” After the Asian invasion of Mr. Honda and Toyota, General Motors streamlined everything and no longer was there a Chevy 350 and a Pontiac 389, or a Olds Rocket 88, or a Buick Nailhead, or a Cadillac v8.

Fearing that a mistake was made Cadillac, and for the most part Corvette, was excluded from the engine and platform sharing. Hence the Northstar v8 and the somewhat exclusive LT and LS engines. That all changed when the Northstar was planted (along with the whole platform) in Buick show rooms in the form of the Lucerne.

Well, the point is that Saturn is now taking the place of the former Oldsmobile. In the heyday of Olds, the brand was billed as the technology leader of General Motors. This was so Cadillac could have a launch platform for many of the standard features found in the upscale marquee. A good example of this is the 1966 Oldsmobile Tornado—the first full sized front wheel drive “personal car” which is the same as the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado.

As such if Olds was still around, I would like to see the brand go up against some of the most advanced technology out there. Things like the iDrive system in BMWs and the Navigation system in the Lincoln all the way up to the self parking Lexus LS 430—all for about half the cost. My imaginary Oldsmobile line up for 2007 would consist of the following vehicles (or platforms):

An entry level mid sized sedan Cutlass based off of the Epsilon platform

An entry level mid sized coupe Tornado based off the Epsilon platform

An entry level mid sized SUV based off the Theta platform

A special “halo” mid sized coupe 442 based off the upcoming Zeta platform

A mid level sub full sized sedan 88 based off the Sigma platform

A mid level full sized sedan 98 based off the Sigma platform

A mid level full sized sedan Aurora based off the G platform

A mid level full sized SUV Bravada based off the GMT 360 platform

Well that’s my rant for today; maybe I will post a second chapter on the ode to Oldsmobile. Let me know what you think.