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.