Some of the greatest classic cars are part of now defunct car manufacturers. The Pontiac GTO, for example, is one of the most iconic vehicles of its time, and one of the most desired classic cars for collectors. However, Pontiac is one of the many car brands that was hot for decades, and then suddenly stalled out. While they may be in good company with some other heavy hitting brands, like Saturn and Oldsmobile, the question of what happened to these companies remains. Where did they go and why were they discontinued? If these car companies can disappear, could it happen again?
While some of the manufacturers on the list are no surprise, as success cannot exist solely on the production of one specific type of vehicle with several different models, some of them were pretty huge manufacturers in their day. The decision to close the doors on these automotive companies couldn’t have been an easy one, but how was the decision made, and what factors went into discontinuing an entire line of vehicles. While some of the manufacturers had a subtle phasing-out, others seemed to be there one day, and simply were gone the next.
- Oldsmobile – By the far, the largest and oldest of all the defunct brands out there, Oldsmobile was founded in the late 1800s and produced over thirty million cars. When the decision came to pull the plug in 2001, GM made the announcement directly after the release of the Oldsmobile SUV, the Bravada to dealerships around the country. This would be the last vehicle they made, and as of 2004, production would cease forever. Oldsmobile closed their doors in April of 2004, and the only statement ever made regarding their demise was a quick explanation from GM, reporting a decline in sales large enough to warrant such a decision.
- Pontiac – The end of Pontiac’s line was a shocking exit from the automotive industry, and the decision seemed to happen rather quickly. General Motors made the announcement regarding the unsuccessful nature of Pontiac’s line in early 2009, and by the end of 2010, the brand was no more. For a brand that produced some of the most iconic cars every made, the departure was incredibly rapid, and surprising. For now, however, at least the collectors have the pursuit of the GTOs, Trans Ams, and Firebirds of their wildest dreams.
- Saturn – When they burst onto the scene in the late 80s, as yet another branch of General Motors, Saturn had a whole new and impressive concept. They boasted dent proof bodies and were offered at a reasonable price, but things never panned out for the modest car. The eventual demise of Saturn happened in the midst of the bankruptcy and bailout of General Motors, when they ceased production in late 2009. At one point, there was an offer on the table from Penske Automotive Group to buy Saturn, but when it fell through, it was curtains for the never-successful brand.
- Hummer – The loss of Hummer wasn’t all that surprising given that they had limited models, and they produced only gas guzzling vehicles in the midst of the oil crisis. General Motors didn’t have much of a choice when gas prices reached a dramatic high, and people could no longer afford to drive the oversized vehicles. As of 2010, GM announced that they had no intention of continuing production on the Hummer line. Once again, this is another line that had an offer to purchase that fell through. GM had enough issues during this time, that they couldn’t take the flak from keeping up with such a non-green vehicle.
- Geo – Though never particularly revolutionary in terms of sales, Geo was a small line of economical and affordable vehicles that was an offshoot of Chevrolet. General Motors decided they needed to compete with the foreign imports that were quickly becoming popular in the eighties. When they disbanded after lackluster sales in their target market, all of Geo’s models were turned over to Chevy models and then were eventually discontinued, although the Tracker lasted well into the 2000s. The Geo line may have been good in theory, but lasted for the shortest period of time, even by General Motors standards.
Considering that the majority of discontinued brands over the past fifteen years have been subsidiaries of General Motors, their disappearance isn’t necessarily surprising. Given their massive financial troubles during the recession, GM had to trim the fat, so to speak, and did so by ceasing production on some of their most unpopular models. Some detractors still question some of the decisions, like Pontiac and Oldsmobile, because in the midst of making several difficult decisions all at once, GM failed to fully explain their decisions. With the parent company being back on its feet, there doesn’t seem to be any further discontinuations in the works, but if the aforementioned defunct companies prove anything, you just never know.