10 defunct automakers that we hope will make a comeback
The automotive industry is currently estimated at $2 trillion, a figure that experts say will continue to grow in the years to come. It’s a big pie to share, but with several automakers striving for a bigger slice, the competition can be fierce.
Some companies like Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari found ways to compete and are still going strong today. Sadly, countless others have failed and died, only to be remembered in the history books or when gearheads see one of their surviving models. These defunct automakers fell victim to bankruptcies, infighting, changing market tastes, and other factors beyond their control. Let’s explore ten legendary defunct brands that we hope will be revived in the future.
GM established the Pontiac division in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until the ’60s that the sub-brand became the performance-driven automaker we remember. Pontiac’s rise is entirely due to the legendary GTO, which is widely regarded as one of the greatest muscle cars of all time.
Pontiac had several other fantastic models, including the Firebird Trans Am and the Fiero. Unfortunately, its market share steadily declined after the oil crisis of the 1970s, and GM finally had to shut it down in 2008.
Saab is widely regarded as one of the greatest European automobile manufacturers of the 20th century. The Swedish brand had a reputation for building quirky, well-designed luxury cars that gave brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz a hard time.
Saab’s main problem was that it couldn’t escape the luxury market, which meant it couldn’t sell enough cars to stay afloat. Things got even worse for Saab in 2000 when GM bought it and compounded its problems. Saab was finally discontinued in 2016 after several failed takeovers.
The decade of the 1980s was a difficult one for many American automakers, and even more so for GM. The proliferation of inexpensive Japanese cars had led to a sharp decline in sales for GM, which therefore created the Saturn sub-brand to compete directly with the Japanese.
Although Saturn was a GM brand, it operated quite independently and even had its own workforce, dealer network, pricing structure, and manufacturing plant. Saturn was very successful, but was not immune to GM’s struggles in the 2000s. GM eventually shut down Saturn in 2009 after a failed takeover attempt by Penske Automotive.
Founded in the late 1800s by Ransom E. Olds and acquired by GM in 1908, Oldsmobile is one of the oldest automakers in history. Oldsmobile built over 35 million vehicles in its lifetime, including icons like the Cutlass, 442, Toronado and more.
Oldsmobile was also among the pioneers of some key automotive technologies, including a fully automatic transmission, speedometer and automatic choke. Oldsmobile’s best years were from the 60s to the 80s, after which it began to decline. GM finally pulled the plug in 2004.
When Chrysler started in the 1920s, it only produced luxury vehicles. To be able to compete with GM and Ford, Chrysler decided to create Plymouth in 1928 to build economical cars. Plymouth found success with its range of affordable and stylish family sedans and wagons. Plymouth has also entered the muscle car market with iconic models like the Hemi Cuda, GTX and Superbird.
Plymouth’s problems came in the 80s when it lost its identity. Many of his models were designed with badges and did not interest Americans. Chrysler finally pulled the plug from Plymouth in 2001.
5 American Motor Corporation (AMC)
In the early 1950s, Nash and Hudson merged and formed the American Motor Corporation (AMC). AMC needed a good strategy to take on the Detroit Three, so it decided to focus on the economy car market from the start.
AMC found great success with its strategy and went on to produce several iconic models, including the Javelin, AMX, and Eagle. Unfortunately, massive losses and quality issues eventually forced AMC to close in 1987 and Chrysler took over its assets.
In the early 2000s, Toyota needed a new way to appeal to younger customers, so it created the Scion sub-brand. Scion’s job was simple – to build stylish, inexpensive and fun compact cars that would appeal to young people looking for a first car. Scion also wanted to simplify the entire process of buying a car by offering fixed base prices and a unique trim level for each car.
Scion’s strategy worked at first, as it sold several units of the tC and xB. However, the vast majority of Scion buyers were not in their target group, as they were mostly middle-aged people. Toyota finally decided to discontinue Scion in 2016.
Gearheads are sad to see Holden go, especially those living in Australia. Holden started in Australia in the mid-19th century as a manufacturer of saddles, moved on to building cars in the early 1900s, and was purchased by GM in 1931. Holden was successful for many decades, largely due to models like the Monaro and Commodore.
Unfortunately, the 21st century has not been kind to Holden as it began to lose market share to Japanese brands like Toyota. The Australian government tried to save Holden with a $270 million lifeline, but it just wasn’t enough. Holden eventually ceased operations in 2020.
If you wanted a car built by the Ford Motor Company in the 1930s, you could either buy an entry-level Ford or pay a lot more for a car built by Lincoln – Ford’s luxury division. Ford noticed that there was a huge price gap between regular Ford and Lincoln models, so it created Mercury to fill it.
Mercury was hugely successful at first and even became the sixth most popular car brand in the United States in the 1950s. Mercury’s woes began in the late 1950s when the depression hit and got worse. in the 70s when the oil crisis hit. Ford tried everything to keep the Mercury brand, but finally gave up in 2010.
1 Jensen Motors
Jensen was a British manufacturer of utility vehicles and sports cars, most notably the Interceptor. Jensen’s greatest achievement came in 1964 when he unveiled the Interceptor FF – the world’s first all-wheel-drive sports car.
While the Interceptor was popular, Jensen could not sell enough units to stay afloat. The company went through various ownership changes from the 60s to the 90s, but nothing improved. A failed revival in 2001 was the final nail in Jensen’s coffin.
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