Reader Question: The Death of Oldsmobile?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Todd asks: Thanks for the article on Cadillac – loved it! I tend to drive large GMCs, Escalade and Suburbans. I agree with you completely. We buy them because they are big and obnoxious.

I alway wondered where Pontiac and Olds went. In a MSNBC interview one day, I saw the VP of GM telling the host: “As part of the government bailout (over ten years ago) The president asked GM to drop all of its lines except for a regular line (Chevy) and the luxury line (Caddy). Getting the bailout money was contingent on this” I was stunned. Our laissez faire (in theory) policies are now dictated by the president? Interesting fact.

My reply: Well, it’s not laissez faire when the government steals money from the people and hands it over to a company that failed. It would have been laissez faire if market forces had been allowed to function. GM would have gone out of business, but probably reorganized, with the sound parts purchased by investors and the rest sold off for whatever it was worth.

Instead, taxpayers were forced to subsidize failure – and here we are, with GM now effectively a subsidiary of the government.

On Olds and Pontiac: It is my opinion that GM killed them decades earlier, but it took them a while to die. On the advice of various shysters, GM “consolidated” its formerly very independent divisions – Pontiac used to engineer cars, not badge-engineer them; the same was true of Oldsmobile – and turned them into marketing arms of generic GM vehicles, most of them mechanically identical, with minor trim differences only.

A good example of this is what happened to the once hugely successful Pontiac Firebird. After 1981, this car became a Camaro in Pontiac drag. It no longer had (as it once had) a Pontiac engine. Instead, it had the same – identical – engine that the Camaro had. So why buy a “Firebird” that was essentially the same thing as a Camaro?

This happened to virtually every model Pontiac and Olds sold.By the 2000s, they had almost nothing in their lineups that wasn’t also being sold at Chevy and Buick stores, with maybe a different grille.

GM is still doing this, too.  What is GMC? Everything it sells is a slightly nicer Chevy, but not quite as nice as a Cadillac. Functionally – mechanically – they are identical, or nearly so.

Fun fact: In 1979, Pontiac sold more Firebirds than Cadillac sells cars today.

Fun fact 2: In 1970, Chevy division had more market share than all of GM has today.

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. “What is GMC?”

    Funny you should ask. Back in the mid-1970s when I worked at a Chevy dealer, we had a pickup come in on the transport that said “Chevrolet” on one side and “GMC” on the other!

    I think it would have gotten sold that way if I hadn’t pointed it out to the new car setup guys.

  2. There were the Kappa twins, but they died with the bailout

    What a damn shame too, would of been a fun thing if they refined and tweaked it for Chebby to use


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