1999 Buick Riviera Page 1

Oldsmobile faces death — again

Once again the future of Oldsmobile has been placed in doubt. About eight years ago, a highly placed GM insider contacted a Washington Post business writer trying to create some movement that could have undermined GM’s oldest brand. Now a similar article has appeared in USA Today, and it appears that some internal politics are being played out in the media. In the interim, Oldsmobile sales have dropped to around a quarter-million units, numbers that were insupportable for Ford’s Contour, which was recently dropped.


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What critics have missed is that GM has killed the Eighty Eight and Cutlass series, once the mainstays of the brand. Also, sales for Olds’ European-influenced products like the Aurora and Alero are gaining.


The bottom line is that Olds is the Rodney Dangerfield of the GM lineup. Far in advance of the SUV fad, Olds introduced the Bravada with full time all-wheel drive, leather and anti-lock brakes. It was positioned against Range Rover, but priced nearer Explorer. With virtually no marketing support, it was a stealth product, and soon the Bravada’s advanced engineering was spread around GM like yard-sale bargains. The Bravada’s reward was near cancellation, and even when it was saved, the truck group made it continue for a year without the new swoopy badge, retaining the stodgy rectangular rocket. Olds preceded Cadillac in endurance racing, with little fanfare and much better results, winning championships in their initial years.

I have previously suggested (perhaps a little naively in light of dealer paranoia) that a logical combination would be Chevrolet/Buick for family value products, and GMC/Pontiac/Oldsmobile for upscale luxury and performance dealerships. Cadillac is floating some hints about taking Saab under their wing, and the GPO stores would be a home for soon to arrive Alfa Romeo.

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