Perhaps the most iconic failure of GM was the dustbuster vans of the 1990s. These vans were hideous to look at and even worse to drive. The design was an attempt to take market share from the dominant Chrysler van trio. But instead, the vans failed to garner any real shift in market share from Chrysler. Instead, the van was ugly and didn’t get better with age.
Along with the loping windshield, the van was dubbed the “dustbuster” by the automotive press. Which is another reason why the vans were such a catastrophic failure for the company. It has been said that GM spent quite a bit of money on the research and development of these vans, only to have them fail.
The Vega was another attempt by GM to try and sell something that could compete with other gas-efficient cars on the market. Likewise, the design was simply not enough to persuade any number of consumers to go into a Chevy showroom. The powerplant was downright lethargic and the interior was routinely mocked for its cheap design. There were some interesting design cues on the exterior of the car, but it wasn’t enough to change the course.
The Vega went on sale at a time when GM was transitioning, and it didn’t fare very well. Few cars managed to be as much of a failure for the brand as the Vega. Car shoppers just weren’t interested in the cheap design and the lack of features. For that price, there were other well-equipped cars on the market.
A product of the eighties, the Chevette was another cheap Chevy model that was shoved down the throats of consumers. The design was cheap and the car was littered with inferior quality pieces all through the interior. The seats were uncomfortable and the interior was crammed compared to other models.
The performance of the Chevette was not what you’d expect from a car like this. The Chevette was way underpowered compared to other cars that were in the same class. Although it shouldn’t be faulted, the Chevette could have used a better powerplant. The carburated motor was a pain to work on and repairs were costly.
Just the name of the car alone should be an indication of how bad it was. The Citation was the name and being unreliable was the game. The car just didn’t mesh well, and many owners considered it to be a large wooden box on wheels. The infamous Iron Duke motor was the engine of choice in the Citation and it did as bad as the Camaro. Considering the Citation was supposed to attract younger buyers, it didn’t do well.
With the high amount of recalls and the lack of quality, the Citation is a blip in the history of Chevrolet. Other cars managed to pick up the slack, although the Citation managed to be one of the best sellers for the brand.
We aren’t talking about the Nova that you see at the dragstrip every Saturday, we are talking about the Nova that was based on the Toyota Corolla. GM had a partnership with Toyota to co-develop vehicles and this was the fruit of their collaboration. Sadly, it was an awful way to rebrand the iconic Nova nameplate. The inexpensive car was an innovative idea in a lot of aspects, and with Toyota’s backing the car had the potential for reliability.
The Nova Twin-Cam was a special edition red and black variation of the car that was powered by a 16-valve Toyota engine. Although the automotive press praised this trim package, the limited black-only color scheme and high price tag pushed buyers away. This is definitely a piece of the Nova lineage that Chevy doesn’t want to be brought up.
There’s no denying the 1970s were a tough time for the domestic automotive industry. This generation of the Corvette was especially painful because the car was dramatically scaled back. The new styling of the car was welcomed by the automotive community, but the 5.7-liter small-block V8 made 250 hp was paltry in comparison to what else was on the market. The new EPA regulations were also choking the Corvette out and consumers could tell.
The sweeping lines and the revised interior were not enough to make up for the paltry performance. We’re sure that GM regrets building this Corvette in a lot of aspects because it tarnished what was an unreal generation of cars. The next-generation Corvette managed to build on things a bit.
The early 2000s were a trying time for the Chevrolet brand as the Camaro was on the way out and the market for passenger cars was shrinking. This edition of the Monte Carlo had an attractive exterior style, that was actually ahead of its time. The interior was also quite large for a coupe, but this didn’t help with the shortcomings. The Monte Carlo had an SS model, but the lack of a V8 made the car a laughingstock with true enthusiasts.
Likewise, the cheap interior materials were prone to fading and tears, which would give the car a dated look long before it was ready to be retired. There were a few special editions of the car such as the Intimidator SS, but these were more or less just appearance packages without any real boost in performance.
The Lumina is perhaps the most recognizable failure of the nineties Chevrolet lineup. You’ve seen these cars just about everywhere, and they are generally in horrible shape. Aside from catastrophic paint peeling, reliability was lackluster. At this period in time, GM was moving onto the full-size SUV market, so the Lumina was an afterthought. This sedan was far outpaced by competition from Toyota and Honda; even the Ford Taurus was a better offering.
GM more than likely regrets building this sedan or at least not putting enough emphasis on quality. Because that lack of a reputation stuck with the company all the way up into the current generation. Chevrolet sedans just aren’t equated with a quality product, and the Lumina had a large part in that.
The EV1 is remembered as being the first mass-produced electric passenger car on the road. But GM managed to botch the onset of the EV1 in such a way that controversy followed. While the design of the EV1 is an evolution of the Saturn cars, it did have some unique takeaways. This was at a time when electric cars had to look “futuristic,” whereas electric cars nowadays are much more normal.
The range of the EV1 was minimal and the maintenance and dealership network was sparse. Another problem with the EV1 was the fact that it was only available as a lease with no option to buy. The owners of the EV1 wanted to buy the car but instead, GM decided to crush all but a few of them. This created outrage with environmentalists and spurred the documentary movie as well.
With all of the resources at its deposal, you’d think that GM could have innovated their own compact pickup truck. But originally, all consumers had access to was a rebadged Isuzu that was called the LUV. While this truck proved to be initially popular it tarnished GM’s reputation for trucks and drove buyers to Japanese pickups instead. The LUV had some unique features and a very rare off-road model, but the bones of the vehicle were Isuzu.
Later on Chevrolet released the S-10, which proved to be a much better compact truck. But Chevy still can’t distance itself from the history that is the LUV. The truck had a lot of drawbacks and at the time it was almost unheard of for a domestic automaker to sell an import. Nevertheless, the LUV managed to trudge on for quite some time.
Right on the cusp of the new Geo brand being made, there was the Sprint, a compact rebadged Suzuki Swift. While the car had a minuscule price tag, quality was lackluster at best. GM was willing to tarnish their reputation by selling this captive import, while other cars managed to beat it. Chrysler did the same thing with the Plymouth brand and the Colt. The Sprint had some unique features such as a turbocharged version of the car, albeit in quite limited production.
Very few cars have managed to make as little of an impact as the Sprint did. The interesting thing about the Sprint is that it morphed into the Metro. Drivers weren’t exactly sure why GM decided to change the nameplate but the Sprint was the original cheap compact Chevy model. Sadly, it just didn’t fuse with potential consumers.
After the Impala SS hit in the ’90s, it was hard to replicate a car that garnered that kind of a following. Nevertheless, GM decided to try and revive the nameplate once again. Thus the Impala was brought back, although this time it was a watered-down family sedan. The tried-and-true GM 3800 V6 was the standard engine and the car had some interesting features like a bench seat in the front.
But the car never managed to captivate the buying public, and quality was inferior to Toyota or Honda. Chevy has never managed to win the vast majority of family sedan buyers and the cheap quality of the Impala was part of this problem. The Impala never managed to improve much after this initial car was released.
When you think of huge land yachts, the Caprice Wagon of the ’90s was one of the largest. The car took up a lot of roadways, and this wasn’t a good thing overall. While the Caprice had unique features like a reversed third-row seat, overall the car just didn’t click with buyers. The minivan was already hugely popular and the SUV was on its way up in the world. Sadly, the Caprice Wagon just didn’t register in the minds of consumers.
You did get Corvette power for a fraction of the price, but when you weighed all the options, the Caprice was not the right choice. This is why the Caprice was eventually cut short from the lineup, and the wagon form followed suit. The station wagon was already long in the tooth before the Caprice hit the market.
Like the Ford Probe of the 1980s and 1990s, the board at GM was also floating the idea of a cheap sports car. Although the Camaro was at the top of the lineup, the Beretta was an excellent entry-level model. The Beretta had a style that was all its own, and that worked to make the car sell quite well initially. The problem was that the under the hood, power was not anywhere near a sports car. Chevy bet on the sporty looks of the car, but it was not enough to propel the car to a sales success.
Build quality on the Beretta was awful, and the interior was the worst part of this. With the lack of quality and performance, the Beretta just couldn’t match up to the competition on the market. A failing sports car segment also contributed to the end of the Beretta, and eventually, the Camaro which was canceled for the 2002 model year.
The Corsica was about as much of a failure as you can get, and with good reason. The shoddy build quality of the car was only a small portion of what made the car bad. The styling of the Corsica was nonexistent, and in fact the car was relegated to commercial fleets and rental car fleets. This was probably the car that you were stuck driving on a family vacation during the nineties if you opted for the affordable rental.
Aside from the low price tag, there wasn’t much that made the Corsica worth it. This is why the car is often found in scrapyards across the country. GM just didn’t do a very good job of building this car, and the lack of quality was apparent.
Few cars are as forgotten as the Cobalt SS was. GM had the idea to create an affordable hot hatch that would give consumers an option. The Cobalt SS competed against the likes of the Civic SI and the Neon SRT, both of which were great cars. The Cobalt SS was a sad example of a wannabe sports car. The engine was prone to failures and reliability issues and the car was lightweight and cheaply put together.
The quality of the Cobalt in itself was not the most high-quality car to begin with, but the added sport trim didn’t add to it. The performance was not shabby for the price tag, but the car just had a sense of cheapness that it couldn’t shake. Nevertheless, GM sold this car for quite a while in the SS trim package as both a sedan and coupe.