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25 Car Mistakes That Will Haunt General Motors For The Rest Of Time

Cameron EittreimFebruary 24, 2022

General Motors is the largest automaker in the world. Despite that reputation, many mistakes have come over time. The company has not been known for building the most reliable vehicles. Many companies’ investments in vehicles have gone bust after spending billions of dollars. Look at the failed Saturn brand, which GM spent millions developing, only to ruin by the turn of the new millennium.

It was mistakes like these that have haunted the GM brand for decades. After coming out of bankruptcy, the automaker is on a reformed path. But there are still many mistakes that the company continues to make when it comes to making cars that people want. We looked back at some of the most obvious and lasting mistakes that GM has made in the past couple of decades. Check them out right here.

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25: Saturn L-Series

The L-Series marked what some believe to be the end for the Saturn brand. The car was everything that the brand was designed not to be. The L-200 was bland, unreliable, and offered nothing in the way of value for the consumer. The wagon version of the car was even worse, and Saturn was trying to position this car as a luxury option (via Hot Cars).

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The L-200 didn’t last long on the market, selling from 1999 to 2004. Almost a decade after the L-200 was released, Saturn was discontinued. When you think about a bland car, the L-200 is about as bland as they come. Even as the model was discontinued in 2004, there were no tears spilled from dealerships.

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24: Hummer H3 SUT

Released in the middle of an economic recession, there could not have been a worse SUV to hit the automotive market. To make things worse, the Hummer H3 SUT was based on the aged Chevrolet Colorado, which itself was nothing more than a rebadged Isuzu. The H3 SUT had nothing new to offer and production numbers were so low that you’ll seldom see one on the road anymore (via Hot Cars).

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Shortly after this truck hit the market, the Hummer brand was disbanded altogether. Interestingly enough, GM would release the Hummer EV a decade later, which was similar to this outdated model in terms of styling. The Hummer brand will live on as a subdivision of the GMC brand and focus solely on EV models.

Photo Credit: GM

23: Cadillac Catera

In the 1990s, the Cadillac brand was in the toilet. The cars being sold were outdated when you compare them to the upstart Lexus brand. Cadillac needed something that appealed to a younger demographic and they attempted this with the Catera. The car was based on an existing Opel model sold overseas (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: GM

The automotive press blasted the Catera for feeling cheap, lacking in styling, and suffering from lethargic performance. The reliability of the car was questionable at best, and the styling alienated the traditional Cadillac buyer. Needless to say, the Catera is an ugly blemish on the long and storied history of Cadillac.

Envoy XUV via General Motors
Photo Credit: General Motors

22: GMC Envoy XUV

What happens when you take a Chevy Avalanche and put a camper shell on the back of it? You get the Envoy XUV. The SUV boom was in full swing in the early 2000s and GM was trying to flood the market with different models. GM sold a plethora of options at the time but the XUV was unique (via Hot Cars).

GMC Envoy XUV via General Motors
Photo Credit: GM

GM took the same formula used with the Chevy Avalanche and added a camper shell onto the back of it. The XUV could be turned into a camping tent on wheels, and have the top of the rear removed for tall cargo. Although the sales numbers were never extraordinary, the GMC Envoy XUV developed a loyal following.

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21: Chevrolet Lumina

Bland passenger cars were fairly common in the 1990s, but perhaps no one did it better than GM. The company offered many bland car offerings across its entire brand portfolio. Perhaps the most boring of which was the Lumina, a car seemingly relegated to rental car fleets (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: GM

The Lumina suffered from a bland design and even worse performance. The build quality of GM vehicles around this period was best. The Lumina did have a major presence in the NASCAR circuit for a short period before GM branded the two-door model as the Monte Carlo.

Chevy Beretta
Photo Credit: GM

20: Chevrolet Beretta

Similar to the plan Ford had with the Probe to replace the Mustang, the folks at GM also planned to replace the Camaro. By the late 1980s, the Camaro was riding on a dated design, and the top brass at GM thought the V8-powered sports car was on the way out. The Beretta was the car that was going to change all that. It was lightweight and had a completely different design (via Hot Cars).

Beretta
Photo Credit: GM

On paper, the Beretta seemed like a good plan but the reality was far from that. The car was based on the boring Chevy Corsica, which was nothing more than a rental fleet queen. Although the Beretta had some decent performance, it was not even close to the Camaro in terms of being a pony car. Enthusiasts didn’t go for this ploy either, and by 1996, the Beretta was all but replaced by GM.

Cadillac Escalade EXT
Photo Credit: Cadillac

19: Cadillac Escalade EXT

General Motors was looking to cash in on the bling-bling fad of the early 2000s, and the massive popularity of the Escalade SUV. The model ended up being a sales success for GM in ways that many car or SUV models hadn’t. When the company decided to base an Escalade model on the Avalanche, things didn’t go as well (via Hot Cars).

Escalade
Photo Credit: Cadillac

Consumers weren’t willing to pay for a hybrid SUV with a shorter truck bed just to get an Escalade logo on it. Like most of the first luxury truck attempts on the market, the sales for the Escalade were abysmal. It was competing against the Lincoln Blackwood for a single year and then the Mark LT.

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18: Chevrolet Monte Carlo

Know affectionately amount enthusiasts as the two-door Lumina, the ’90s Monte Carlo was as bland as you could get. This was during a time when the GM design language wasn’t the best. The build quality of the vehicles was not the best and the company introduced a questionable Monte Carlo (via Hot Cars).

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Released right on the heels of the excellent Impala SS, we have to wonder what GM was thinking. The Monte Carlo went from having a V8 power plant to a lethargic V6 engine that was about as performance-oriented as a Corolla. This generation of the Monte Carlo will go down in history for being a questionable choice.

Photo Credit: GM

17: Chevy Malibu

The General Motors Company as a brand in the 1990s was in a tough spot. The company was having massive success in the SUV market, but everywhere else the cars were substandard at best. Malibu is a prime example of how the company lost its footing to companies like Toyota and Honda (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Motor Trend

The subpar build quality of the Malibu when you compared it to a Honda or Toyota model was evident right off the bat. These cars were largely unreliable, drove like trash, and suffered from many quality issues. Nowadays, the Malibu from this generation frequents used car lots.

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16: Oldsmobile Cutlass Diesel

The Cutlass was one of the best-selling cars in the country when Oldsmobile was a prominent brand. Now it’s nothing more than a relic of the past, which is a shame. The Cutlass was an excellent car model, and GM sold many of them during its run (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Classic Cars

But as fuel prices were soaring, GM was trying to build something unique, and thus the Cutlass Diesel was released. The problem with that car was that the diesel engine was faulty at best. These are known as some of the most unreliable GM cars ever rolled out of the factory.

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Photo Credit: GM

15: Pontiac Grand Prix GXP

The final generation of the Pontiac Grand Prix was a mere shadow of the former vehicle. The car had been a V6 powered vehicle for the last decade, and then GM decided to do something out of the ordinary. They took the old formula of cramming a monster V8 into a common car to make a performance vehicle (via Hot Cars).

2004 Pontiac Grand Prix - 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP Sedan
Photo CRedit: GM

The only problem with that theory is that they used the Northstar V8, which wasn’t a performance engine. The result is a V8-powered sport sedan that no one noticed, and it was discontinued shortly after. While this was a unique novelty item, that was about it when it comes to the Grand Prix GXP.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

14: Chevrolet Corvette 305 “California”

The 1970s were a strange time for automakers, as they were put in a stranglehold by the new emissions regulations. GM was at the forefront of this problem, and they were releasing many cars to try and conform. The Corvette 305 California is one of these sports cars released at an odd time for GM (via Hot Cars).

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The underpowered V8 engine was not what you’d expect in a performance car like the Corvette. Even to this day, the 305 V8 is considered one of the worst engines to come out of GM. The engine was paltry at best, and all the emissions stuff that had to be bolted onto it didn’t help things out.

Photo Credit: GM

13: Chevrolet HHR

The HHR was a car released too little too late by General Motors. Chrysler had released the PT Cruiser a good six years before GM released the HHR. The thought behind the retro-inspired wagon is that it would resonate with buyers. Well, the PT Cruiser did, and it sold quite well, but the HHR was nothing more than a carbon copy (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: GM

GM tried to spice things up with the HHR panel version and the HHR SS, but the basic car wasn’t that appealing. There was a global recession going on, and car shoppers just weren’t looking to spend on a novelty item. Questionable build quality for the HHR didn’t make things much better either.

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12: Pontiac Fiero

The Fiero is actually a story of something that could have been great, but GM cut too many corners along the way. The car had every credential that it needed to compete with the Toyota MR2 on a high level. But when it came down to the design aspects of the Fiero, they were best questionable. Engine fires that took place early in the vehicle’s life gave drivers a bad taste in their mouths (via Hot Cars).

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The Fiero would have a few revisions over time, but it wasn’t enough to salvage the brand. Car shoppers were already leery of the Fiero and GM decided to cancel production. Interestingly enough, the car has experienced a resurgence in the aftermarket, with used Fieros fetching thousands more than when they were brand new.

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11: Chevrolet Aveo

After the Geo Metro was discontinued, GM needed something they could sell at a cheap price. GM had purchased the Daewoo brand a few years back, so it only made sense to grab from the existing parts bin. The Aveo was already being sold overseas as the Lanos, so GM imported it with little changes. While the car was lightyears ahead of the outgoing Chevy Metro, it wasn’t by far (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: GM

The Aveo had an extensive advertising campaign, which touted the cars large interior volume and four-door design. There was also a sedan version, and the car sold well initially, surprisingly those in the automotive press. But the reliability was substandard, and the built quality of the car was even worse. Chevy would later replace the Aveo with the Sonic hatchback and sedan models.

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10: Hummer H2

No vehicle has ever exemplified the opulence and greed of the early 2000s better than the Hummer H2. We all remember seeing these things when we were in school. They were everywhere, from the pickup line at the school to the music videos on VH1. The H2 became a cultural phenomenon, but the vehicle was also grossly overrated (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Performance Motors

The truck was based on the second-generation Chevy Tahoe, and it was horrible on gas to boot. When the recession hit in 2007-2008, sales for the massive Hummer H2 all but evaporated completely. The thing would have been a sales success nowadays, but back then it caused GM to shutter the entire Hummer brand. It should be noted that the unique Hummer H2 SUT was also released at the end of the vehicle’s lifespan as well.

Chevrolet Vega GT
Photo Credit: GM

9: Chevrolet Vega

Much like the Ford Pinto that came before it, the Chevrolet Vega was a product of the bygone era. Fuel prices were rising at such a rapid rate that automakers had to respond fast with downsized vehicles. The Vega was about as cheap as possible with a build quality worse than any other GM car ever made (via Hot Cars).

Chevrolet Vega GT
Photo Credit: GM

People were stunned by how cars were beginning to change, and the Vega was at the forefront of this cheap revolution. One of the main things people remember about the Vega is how unreliable it was. The car would routinely be stuck on the side of the road, and if driving didn’t kill the car, the road elements would.

Photo Credit: GM

8: Oldsmobile Aurora

There was a time when the Oldsmobile brand was one of the most influential in the automotive industry. But those times had changed by the 1990s, and GM needed to revitalize the brand. The Aurora was to launch a completely new and unique luxury brand, similar to Toyota’s with Lexus. The automotive press was impressed with the initial quality of the Aurora and it received high praise (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: GM

But by the latter part of the 1990s, the sales for the sedan had cooled off, and the second generation was nothing more than a fancier Buick model. The car lost everything that made it unique and GM would quietly kill Oldsmobile off in 2004. Few cars experienced as short and sweet of a run as the Aurora.

Photo Credit: GM

7: Chevrolet Tracker

The little SUV that could, the Tracker was released after GM had closed the GEO brand and combined it with Chevrolet. The second generation Tracker was built in partnership with Suzuki, and the thing was a carbon copy of the Vitara. There is little difference between the two SUV’s, other than the fact that the Chevy was more well-known. The Tracker was an authentic SUV with 4WD capabilities (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: GM

But the build quality was paltry at best, and the reliability was even more questionable. The Tracker was sold for a while in many configurations. There wasn’t a lot to like about the thing, and it was eventually discontinued. Nowadays, everyone is rushing to buy a used SUV, and the Tracker has experienced a massive rise in value.

Photo Credit: GM

6: Saturn SC

The three-door sports coupe was supposed to be revolutionary. The Saturn brand as a whole was supposed to be revolutionary. Sadly, as time went on, GM stopped caring about the brand, and the car models became bland. The SC was heavily advertised as a revolutionary 3-door coupe in the early 2000s. But when you got behind the wheel, the car was nothing more than your run-of-the-mill Saturn (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: GM

The performance wasn’t very impressive, and the design of the car was bland. The SC would sell until the ION Coupe replaced it. The brand never recovered from these blunders, and by the late 2000s Saturn was on the chopping block. It’s a sad state of affairs, considering the brand was supposed to spark a revolution.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

5: Buick Century

The Century is another car that sort of languished with GM in the 1990s. The car was a cheap, entry-model Buick, which is fair enough. But when you’re trying to market something as a premium brand, the car should be better put together. The design of the Century was cheap at best, and the car shared almost all of its sheet metal with the Regal (via Hot Cars).

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Buick would continue to sell the Century for quite sometime, and this was usually the first thing you’d see at the rental car place. The Century was one of the vehicles that tarnished the Buick reputation, and it has been a tough climb back in every sense. The GM cars from this era were definitely on the bland side of things.

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4: Pontiac Grand Am

By the 1990s, the Pontiac brand had gone from being renowned for performance to being the home of rebadged GM car models. The Grand Am of the 1990s was a prime example of this confusing build quality. The cheaply designed little car was notoriously unreliable, difficult to work on, and cramped to ride in (via Hot Cars).

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There was nothing particularly good about this generation of the Grand Am. Sales numbers were reasonable, but the car never became a breakout success. Even on the used car market, these things are only worth a few hundred dollars. You can’t find one in good shape anymore as they have all been beaten to pieces.

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3: Buick Riviera

The Riviera is a prime example of something done right with the wrong execution. The Rivera was a great car in almost every aspect, aside from the engine design. The Riviera was notoriously difficult to work on, which meant the repair bills for this thing where though the roof. To do something as simple as changing the rear spark plugs, the entire engine had to be hoisted forward (via Hot Cars).

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GM didn’t do auto repair shops any justice in the design of this vehicle and the same can be said for the consumer. These cars are quite desirable nowadays, but you are going to spend quite a bit keeping it on the road. The fact that the maintenance is so difficult makes the Riviera a car to avoid altogether.

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2: Oldsmobile Silhouette

General Motors was the first company to offer a complete luxury minivan, at a time when there wasn’t even a market for one. The Silhouette had a great concept, but the design was so ugly that no one wanted to drive it. These vans were dubbed the Dustbuster and GM had a tough time forcing them on consumers (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: GM

Surprisingly enough, the Silhouette would continue to be sold for almost a decade later, albeit in low sales numbers. There was a lot to like on the interior of the van, but when it came to the exterior, you couldn’t drive something that was uglier. The Silhouette was one of the last Oldsmobile models ever sold.

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1: Pontiac Trans Sport

Not only did GM try to force consumers to buy the first luxury minivan on consumers, the company also built the first sports minivan. The Trans Sport was also heavily advertised early on as an alternative to the boring minivan. Everyone would always try to overthrow Chrysler at this point, but the Dodge Caravan and the Plymouth Voyager were the standard bearers when it came to the minivan (via Hot Cars).

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The Trans Sport didn’t sell that well either, due to the ugly styling of the van. GM did well in the fleet sails world which is why you saw so many of these at the airport and in taxi cab fleets. The Trans Sport will be one of the most questionable design decisions GM ever made on a brand.

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