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10 Discontinued Brands Car Fanatics Would Be Begging to See Again

Vukasin HerbezOctober 22, 2017

The car industry is one of most competitive fields in the business world. In fact, it has been that way since the dawn of the automotive age. If you are a major player in the car world, you may feel the pressure of constant innovations, future trends and feeling the market is always present. Since profit margins are small, car companies, no matter how big they are, can’t afford to miss any opportunities or build poorly-received models. Being successful in the car industry today is tough because it requires an enormous amount of work and dedication.

So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that over the years, countless companies have been forced to close their doors. Changing markets, economic downturns, outdated models and numerous other reasons were why once glorious brands disappeared from the world’s car scene. The Darwinist theory that only the strongest and most adaptive creatures survive is totally true in the car world.

From a car enthusiast’s perspective, this is an unfortunate occurrence since car lovers tend to attach themselves to certain brands and models. So they hate to see their favorite factory close its doors. The latest global economic recession in 2009 was particularly harsh on the car industry and took down several important names in the business.

Here are 10 discontinued brands that left the scene too soon and drivers have missed ever since. Car enthusiasts would love to see these brands again. Their departure left a hole in the industry that other car manufacturers just can’t fill. Keep reading to learn about the top 10 legendary, yet long gone car brands.

  1. American Motors Company – AMC

The American Motors Company (AMC) began in 1954 as a merger between two big independent names in the car industry, the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and the Hudson Motor Car Company. These two companies were forced to form an alliance since Detroit’s Big Three, Chrysler, GM and Ford were threatening to conquer the whole market. AMC was an economy car manufacturer from the beginning all the way to the end. To survive in the market, it was active in producing new models and exploring new concepts.

At the time when new car sales were dominated by big, chrome finned sedans, AMC offered a line of fuel-efficient, quality compact models. This is because they understood the trends of downsizing before any of the other major manufacturers. Their models were always sensible purchases because they were affordable and dependable. During the 60’s and 70’s, AMC produced millions of cars for the American and export market.

In fact, AMC owned the Jeep brand, so all Jeeps produced before 1984 are AMC products. In the early 80’s, Chrysler purchased a part of AMC, becoming a major shareholder. Eventually, they owned the whole company, discontinuing it in 1988.

Today, AMC cars are mostly forgotten, but true fans still remember the mighty Javelin, the quirky Pacer and the ultra-durable Gremlin. They may also pine for the interesting AMC Eagle, the first all-wheel-drive crossover model, produced some 20 years before that type of car was popular. There is no question that AMC would have many customers today with its combination of cool-looking designs and affordable prices being as attractive as ever.

  1. Pontiac

Not just in America, but all over the world, car enthusiasts were stunned when GM announced it was discontinuing the Pontiac brand in 2010. The global recession hit General Motors so hard, this mighty company was forced to file for Chapter 11. After the massive bailout from the U.S. government, GM had to reorganize to survive, so that was exactly what they did. Unfortunately, do this, they had to kill a few brands and Pontiac was one of them.

Started in 1926, Pontiac evolved from the Oakland Automobile Company, a manufacturer of economic models. All the way until late 1958, Pontiac was a Chevrolet clone. However, under the rule of Simon Bunkie Knudsen, it transformed into a performance brand, a unique position in the American market. In just a few short years, Pontiac singlehandedly invented the muscle car movement, sold millions of cars and promoted affordable performance.

This image continued through the 70’s, but later, the once exciting Pontiac was starting to fade. After a long list of mild models and some terrible cars, like the Aztec, the Pontiac of the 21st century was a tired brand with not much to offer.

On one hand, GM`s decision to kill it was logical and economically correct, but on the other, GM discontinued one of the best nameplates it had. The company had future if it had a proper CEO and appropriate funding. The legendary GTOs, Firebirds, Trans Ams, Bonnevilles and other famous Pontiac models will always remind us how cool this brand could be.

  1. Oldsmobile

It is always sad to see a once-proud brand end after 107 years of car making. Oldsmobile was one of the first American car brands, starting in 1897 and ending in 2004. During its century-old history, Oldsmobile was an important division of General Motors and one of the best-selling brands. During the 1950’s to 1980’s, Oldsmobile presented itself below luxury brands like Cadillac, but well above Chevrolet or Pontiac.

 

In those days, Oldsmobile research and development department was one of the best in the business. Oldsmobile cars possessed quite a few innovative solutions that other GM products didn’t have. For example, first production car with a turbocharger was the 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire. The first U.S. mass-produced front-wheel drive model was the 1966 Toronado. Unfortunately, bad engineering and a lack of funds for developing new and interesting concepts and models made Oldsmobile a boring and pale brand by the 90’s.

It seemed that General Motors lost any interest in this once respected brand and it killed it quietly in 2004. Oldsmobile’s style and luxury, paired with their advanced technology and power makes most fans think this brand could have success in today’s market.

  1. SAAB

The Swedish company Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget (SAAB) was first a successful aircraft manufacturer and it launched its first car in 1949. From the beginning, SAAB presented a unique way of thinking and producing cars, influenced by the aircraft industries, aerodynamics and specific materials. Always considered a quirky car brand, SAAB had a lot of fans. With the introduction of the 96 models, and subsequent 900 and 9000 series, the company expanded its customer base.

The best period for the brand were the 70’s and 80’s when SAAB was the best Swedish export product alongside Volvo. It produced high quality, interesting cars for upper-middle-class buyers. SAAB was even successful in rally racing and one of the pioneers of turbo technology.

So, what went wrong and why SAAB is no longer with us?

For starters, the production of SAAB cars was a specific, expensive process. Detailed quality control, specific components and materials were just too expensive in terms of sales numbers. When GM bought SAAB in the mid-90’s, everybody was relieved. It looked like General Motors had SAAB`s back and the future of the company was safe. However, SAAB missed out on the modern trends, refused to produce a cost-cutting model and didn`t offer anything remotely interesting to modern buyers.

 

Simply, modern SAABs despite being dependable cars were not interesting. Modern buyers wanted SUVs, roadsters, minivans and crossovers, which SAAB didn’t have. The company tried to invest in a new big sedan and even started producing them, but the end was inevitable in 2012. SAAB fans are quite vocal in asking their favorite brand to return from the dead.

Although there was some interest from a few big foreign corporations to invest in SAAB, nothing happened. It is sad to see such an innovative company disappear from the market. This just shows what happens when you don`t follow the current trends and let other companies steal your glory. SAAB was a rally champion, a big name in the U.S. It was also a turbo engine pioneer long before Audi. But, with careful product planning and marketing, Audi managed to thrive and prosper, while SAAB ended up in car history books.

  1. Imperial

People often make mistakenly call Imperials Chryslers, but in fact, this was a separate brand in the Chrysler family. They produced luxury cars from 1955 to 1975, and then briefly from 1981 to 1983. The Chrysler corporation always had a luxury brand in their lineup and at the beginning, this was Chrysler itself. Eventually, managers found they could not battle with Cadillac, Packard or Lincoln on the market.

Investing heavily in new designs and engines, Chrysler introduced the Imperial line. It was a new luxury brand dedicated to producing upscale sedans and limousines. They hoped to compete with other similar brands on the American market.

 

They based Imperials on Chrysler products and used some of their components, but often the design was specialized. Interiors were luxurious and trim levels were second to none. Despite not being as successful as Cadillac or Lincoln in terms of sales numbers, Imperials had an army of faithful buyers and decent sales results. However, in the early 70’s, the magic of Imperial was gone.

The recession hit the luxury car market, so European models like Mercedes were gaining ground on the American market. Consumers thought Imperial cars were nothing more than a big Chrysler with upscale trim. This was the reason for such poor sales. Cadillac and Lincoln had the whole lineup of models with different engines and body styles, but Imperial only had one body style in different trim levels.

This wasn`t good enough for the market, so they discontinued the Imperial line after a few years of poor sales. However, the ghost of Imperial never left Chrysler. Even today there are people that say that Mopar needs an American luxury brand and the revival of Imperial is a smart idea.

  1. Packard

An average modern car enthusiast probably doesn’t know much about Packard. Once upon a time, this car company was bigger than Cadillac. It was even one of the symbols of the American luxury automobile. The Packard car company was started in 1899 and closed in 1958.

From the 1930s to the 1950s, Packard produced some of the finest automobiles on the American market. Big, powerful and smooth engines, shiny black sedans, and top-notch quality were the company`s signature. Always competing with Cadillac, Packard was much statelier in appearance. It was preferred by the government, presidents of the U.S., and even several European royal families, too.

The downturn of Packard started after the Second World War when the market for luxury cars changed when the world returned to normalcy. As parts of bigger companies, Cadillac and Lincoln could produce and sell cars, but Packard soon faced financial difficulties. The answer was downsizing, but that didn`t turn out as they expected.

In 1953, the company teamed with Studebaker, another defunct company, forming the Packard-Studebaker Corporation. Things got worse and in fact, Packards were simply rebadged Studebakers they produced in 1958. Despite a few attempts, nobody managed to revive the brand. Since it has been dead for so long, some people think it is better to leave it that way.

  1. Duesenberg

Despite being on the market for only 24 years, from 1913 to 1937, Duesenberg left an everlasting mark on the American and global automobile industry. In fact, this brand was so fantastic that even today, 80 years since it was gone, people still recognize the name and the legacy. Affectionately called “Duesy,” Duesenberg was responsible for some of the greatest American made cars of all time.

The idea behind the brand was to offer luxury, bespoke cars with powerful engines and uncompromised performance. Back in the day, there were plenty of luxury brands, but none of them paid much attention to performance.

Duesenberg did, so the heart of most models were straight eight engines that were hand-built and fast for the day. In fact, the SSJ models featured supercharged engines had 320 HP back in 1930. Having a Duesenberg in those days meant you were not only rich, but also a capable driver since you could handle all that power. Duesenbergs were famous among the early Hollywood stars and rich playboys, and they were even successful in racing.

Unfortunately, the Big Depression affected the market and Dusenberg as a small manufacturer never managed to get over it. They closed the company down in 1937, but the legacy and gorgeous design of 1930s Duesenbergs still lives on. Over the years, Dusenberg was the name most people mentioned when asked what legendary company they would like to see return, but nothing happened. However, if Volkswagen managed to revive Bugatti, maybe somebody could do the same with Duesenberg.

  1. Plymouth

Similar to Oldsmobile or Mercury, the Plymouth brand died when it became boring and unprofitable. They established it in 1928 as a producer of economy models and Plymouth was exactly that all the way to the end in 2001. Over the years, Plymouth steadily built the reputation of an affordable and dependable brand. Their models that featured signature styling with standard corporative technology and engines. However, Plymouth found its chance during the 60’s when the muscle car craze swept America.

Although it wasn`t the company that started the trend, Plymouth was one of the biggest players in the segment with a line of successful and powerful muscle cars. Unfortunately, when the muscle car era ended, Plymouth was left with ordinary, economy cars without much of appeal. It soldiered on for a couple of decades, but eventually folded as the 21st century started.

Sadly, Plymouth didn’t have anything to offer to modern customers. Also, badge engineering with its parent company, Chrysler and Dodge killed the brand. Today, people mostly remember Plymouth for its line of fantastic muscle cars, which have stood the test of time.

  1. Studebaker

Studebaker was the oldest American car company, which they established in 1852. At first, they produced horse-drawn carriages, and then later automobiles. They produced the first Studebaker cars in 1902 and the last ones in 1966 when the company closed its automotive department and moved to the history books. For 64 years, Studebaker was one of the biggest and best economy brands in America. It was also a big exporter of cars and trucks to all parts of the world.

Unfortunately, after the war, the economic climate changed radically, so Studebaker found the 1950’s devastating in terms of sales. The company tried to introduce new models, engines and even a luxury coupe called the Avanti, but nothing seemed to work. In 1966, Studebaker proclaimed an end to their car production.

Outdated designs, a small lineup of models and complicated, expensive production methods were all reasons for its demise. Yet even today, a lot of Studebaker fans out there would love to see this brand return to the market. Unfortunately, it is most certain that is not going to happen.

  1. De Lorean

Started by John Z. De Lorean in the late 1970’s, the briefly marketed the De Lorean as the next big thing in the sports car world. Its owner was a famous ex-GM executive and market strategist who knew the car industry and all the key players. For a short time, it looked like America got a sports car brand that could rival Europe`s finest companies. De Lorean presented an interesting concept of a sports car with Gullwing doors, a modern design, and stainless steel body. The car public went crazy, so De Lorean easily found investors and supporters of the project.

However, they delayed production, so and when they finally present the car, it turned out to be slow, underpowered and riddled with quality problems. After the excitement died down, buyers stayed away from the DMC 12 and De Lorean experienced financial problems. In a desperate attempt to secure cash for its car company, they caught De Lorean buying cocaine with the intention of selling it for profit. With the help of high-priced lawyers, he managed to stay out of jail.

However, the De Lorean car company and DMC 12 sports cars were gone by the early 80’s. Due to its appearance in the Back to the Future movies and numerous music videos, the DMC 12 is still a popular car. People often say America needs a proper sports car brand, and the revived De Loran could be just that. Unfortunately, John De Lorean has been dead for some time and there isn`t an investor big enough to build another DMC 12.

Everyone has a favorite car brand they would love to see again. The car industry can be unpredictable at times, so who knows, maybe one of these beauties will return someday.

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