By the turn of the 1990s, GM didn’t quite know what to do with Oldsmobile. Gone was the heyday of the technological renaissance the brand experienced a decade prior. Now the cars were nothing more than rebadged GM models with some fancier interior and exterior pieces.
GM knew how to make the Aurora stand out from every other sport sedan on the market, and it was thanks to V8 power. The Aurora was one of the hottest new cars for the 1995 model year, but as with most GM success stories the company couldn’t keep the momentum going and the Aurora faded into obscurity (via Hemmings).
Saturn was the first automotive brand to introduce the whole “no-haggle” pricing philosophy into the mix. The SC was the two-door sports car model to complement the sedan and wagon. Saturn had a great business philosophy and proved to be a popular seller for General Motors. Unfortunately, there was a lot of competition for two-door coupes in the 1990s and the Saturn just didn’t stand out (via Repair Pal).
The bland styling and lack of any serious performance made the SC an average two-door coupe. As time went on the SC was improved upon with new and unique features such as a third door. But it was never enough to increase the sales. The Saturn SC was eventually replaced by the Saturn ION coupe which went on for a bit longer.
The Chevrolet Corsica is a car that we’ve all seen on the road from time to time. The cheap compact sedan was at one point one of the best-selling cars ever. But with that abundance of success also came the downfall of the brand, because there were numerous reliability issues with the Corsica (via Motor Biscuit). A perceived lack of quality plagued the car’s reputation at a time when Toyota and Honda were making inroads into the market.
From a design standpoint, the Corsica was a very bland car. It had a cramped interior but a sizable trunk. For the price point at the time there weren’t a lot of cars that could compete with the Corsica and this helped to bolster the sales. It should be noted that the Corsica was also mainly sold as to rental fleets as well and this boosted sales numbers as well.
Another car that sold millions of examples was the lowly, generic Lumina. When you think of a generic car. the Lumina is one of the first vehicles that come to mind. The no-frills design was the focal point of GM in the 1990s, as the company focused more on SUV models during this period.
The Lumina was the quintessential rental car of the 1990s (via Jalopnik), with millions of them being sold and resold at auctions. However, the bland design allowed Toyota and Honda to dominate the market and take a fair amount of market share from GM that they never regained in the segment.
Affectionately dubbed the “Lumina Coupe” the 1990s Monte Carlo was nothing if not a bit drab on the design scheme of things. The Lumina-based Monte Carlo was only offered with a V6 engine, as opposed to the V8 engine of prior generations. Still, this generation of the Monte Carlo did quite well in the NASCAR circuit and the sales were respectable.
But the car didn’t have a unique personality at all, and it was a far cry from the previous Monte Carlo models. GM wasn’t a pioneer in design during this period and that’s obvious by taking one look at the Monte Carlo and Lumina.
The Buick Century for the late 1990s was based on the W-Platform that almost every other GM sedan rode on. Its problem was that the car was lacking in a lot of areas which made it difficult to market under the Buick name. The Century was just about the most barebones sedan that you could get. Also, the styling was as bland to match (via The Truth About Cars).
For consumers, the Century was a confusing proposition because almost the entire car was a Buick Regal clone. The only difference in the sheet metal was that the Regal had a sportier nose. Otherwise, the two cars were identical. GM took the whole badge engineering thing to a whole new level in the 1990s and it didn’t bode well with consumers.
The Pontiac Grand Am had always been a sort of disguised performance sedan, but the mid-1990s version of the car was lackluster at best. The compact styling was more in line with a Chevy Cavalier than what you’d expect out of a Pontiac. The compact dimensions did nothing to bolster the appearance of the car and the sedan version was cramped (via Car Gurus).
There was a lot that the Grand Am did right, and a lot that it did wrong. From a quality perspective, the Grand Am started the less than stellar reputation that GM has today for build quality and reliability. GM has managed to come a long way in recent years but most of us just try to forget the Grand Am from this period.
GM needed an identity in the 1990s and as such the company released quite a few halo cars. The Aurora is one such car that comes to mind. And then there was the Riviera. The Rivera was a supercharged coupe with a lot of potential, a large interior, and a beautiful exterior design. But perhaps the design is a bit too polarizing for most consumers to swallow.
The Riviera ended up selling poorly for GM and the car was discontinued not too long after its initial release. There was a lot to like about the Riviera, from the exterior styling to the amount of power that came out of the supercharged V6 engine from the factory. But that just wasn’t enough to bolster sales of the car and it was discontinued.
An Oldsmobile van was always a quirky concept, but GM was one of the first carmakers to try and market a “luxury”-minded minivan. Unfortunately, the dustbuster styling of the Silhouette didn’t quite equate with American luxury, and buyers weren’t convinced. Again, the higher-ups at GM were trying too hard to market something that most people didn’t want (via Auto Trader).
The Silhouette will undoubtedly go down as one of the biggest failures to come out from General Motors during this period. The odd-ball styling and the high price tag were not enough to convince consumers that they need to buy one of these luxury minivans.
As with most of the rebadging that GM did during the 1990s, the Trans Sport was another indication of that process. This time instead of a dustbuster-themed van, you had a sport-themed van. The styling of the Trans Sport was horrible to look at and the second generation of the van got one of the worst crash test ratings in history (via Motor Trend).
Sadly, GM tried to rebrand this van as Montana later on, but even that wasn’t enough to bolster the sales of the car. It would appear that most people just aren’t willing to pay a premium for something that lacks both style and substance.
The Blazer went from being a top competitor in the SUV market to something questionable at best. The Blazer was designed to appeal to a mainstream audience and compete with the Ford Explorer. But unlike the Explorer, the Blazer didn’t have a V8 engine or the same versatility (via Motor Trend).
In later years the Blazer was gifted some modern luxury options such as OnStar and a refresh in 1998, but that wasn’t enough to keep it viable. Chevy replaced the Blazer with the TrailBlazer SUV and most consumers have moved on from the ancient model.
GM wanted to come out swinging with the Geo brand. The Storm was one of the first models. The Geo Storm was based on the Isuzu Impulse, which was also sold as a compact car in the United States. What separated the Storm from the Impulse wasn’t much more than the front fascia, but the vast amount of Chevrolet dealers helped this car to sell quite well (via Edmunds).
Still, the Storm wasn’t the most reliable compact car on the market and the performance was lackluster altogether. The Storm amassed a loyal following of owners who still drive and collect the car to this day, but for the most part, people have forgotten the car.
The first mass-produced electric car was the EV1 and it managed to become quite the cultural phenomenon in a short amount of time. But the EV1 suffered an unfortunate fate at the hands of GM executives who were more interested in gas-guzzling SUV models. Nowadays, Tesla rules the roost when it comes to electric cars but the EV1 was one of the first (via The Smithsonian).
Surprisingly enough, there are still some surviving EV1 models on the road today, although the vast majority of these cars were destroyed. Looking back at the ’90s, it was a time for innovation in the automotive industry. But the EV1 is a sad example of what went wrong.
Along with the other ugly-looking minivan offerings from GM in the 1990s, the Lumina AVP was the Chevy offering. Having the same plastic body panels and dustbuster shape the Lumina AVP was not the looker many had hoped for (via The Sun-Sentinel). The Lumina AVP went through several trim styles during its relatively short lifecycle including a redesign in 1995.
Sadly, the dustbuster style of the Lumina and the GM vans, in general, was not enough to resonate with consumers. For the most part, consumers have generally forgotten the GM dustbuster vans of the 1990s due to their hideous styling.
Oldsmobile was a shell of its former self by the 1990s and the brand was littered with recycled GM vehicles. The Achieva was a small sedan that had skirts over the rear wheels and looked generally dated. The powerplant was shared with other sedans from the GM lineup as well so there wasn’t anything special.
The Achieva was sold in a four-door and two-door combination although most of us have forgotten this car existed. The typical GM quality issues were present on the Achieva which deterred a lot of buyers from GM cars around this period.
If there was ever a company that could completely tarnish a classic and well-known automotive nameplate, it’s GM. From 1988 to 1993 the company sold a rebadged Daewoo (via The Truth About Cars) as the LeMans and the car was downright horrible. Consumers noted a complete lack of power in the car as well as lacking most luxuries that were available on other cars from the period.
It didn’t help things out that the LeMans were downright minuscule on American roads. The 0-60 times were abysmally slow, and if you had to merge onto the freeway you’d be better off riding a bike. There are a few of these cars that have managed to survive although most car enthusiasts have forgotten them.
Another questionable car of the ’90s was the Malibu. The car has become synonymous with your local Enterprise car rental service and that was about it. The styling was about as bland as you could get, even when compared to a Camry. The interior was equally bland although some luxury features were available.
The V6 engine was notoriously difficult to repair. There was a DexCool Recall (via Repair Pal) that affected these cars as well. With a pretty much invisible resale value, you’ll seldom see one of these on the road as most of them have been junked.
As if the Malibu wasn’t bad enough, GM decided to temporarily offer the car like the Oldsmobile Cutlass as well. This isn’t the same Cutlass that you remember going to prom night in. Instead, it was a bland sedan. The only differences from the Malibu were the exterior colors and the front fascia of the vehicle.
Aside from that, the Cutlass from this period didn’t offer anything special (via Repair Pal) or anything that even remotely resembled the original car. The now-bland Cutlass was a sad example of how GM was putting passenger cars on the backburner during this period.
Talk about an awful experiment. As if Cadillac didn’t learn from the Cimmaron of the 1980s, they tried again with the Catera. The Catera was marketed toward young professionals who would be interested in a compact European car. Sadly, the Catera was a far cry from anything that you’d consider “European” or luxurious.
The styling was downright awful and the car performed about as well as you’d expect considering the looks. The Catera was also woefully unreliable (via Car and Driver) and coupled with the high cost of repairs it just didn’t fit the bill that many consumers were looking for.
The first-generation Escalade was about as bland of an attempt at a luxury SUV as you could get. GM took the run-of-the-mill Tahoe (via Kelly Blue Book) that we were all familiar with and slapped some different fenders on it. There was nothing remotely unique about the original Escalade but the price was a whole lot more expensive.
Nowadays there are quite a few issues that tend to plague these vehicles, and most consumers flock toward the second-generation models that debuted in 2002. Still, the Escalade was an eye-opening SUV that went on to influence pop culture in a major way.
GM just couldn’t seem to get the formula for a minivan just right. So the Astro was sold alongside the dustbuster vans as well as the Venture. The Astro wasn’t a bad van necessarily, but it also wasn’t something that you can see yourself driving for decades. Most consumers remember growing up with the Astro and experiencing the rough ride (via Nada Guides).
Talk about gas-guzzling. The Astro about the furthest thing that you could get from a gas-efficient minivan model. Later models had some unique features like AWD and a more luxurious interior but it just wasn’t enough to sell this big box on wheels.
The Roadmaster was sort of a confusing car by the ’90s because consumers had moved on from station wagons as family transportation. The styling was about as bland as you could get and the ride was well-cushioned. The unique thing about the Roadmaster was the powerful Corvette-based (via Bloomberg) engine that was under the hood.
But this station wagon was huge. You’d have to see one in person to appreciate just how big it is. The Roadmaster wagon was an influential car in a lot of ways at the time it was released. But nowadays no one except for enthusiasts remember this car.
GM continued to rebadge Isuzu cars well into the 1990s. In exchange for that, they offered the Japanese automaker an S10 to sell. The Hombre was about as barebones as you could get from the trim packages to its advertising. It did have a slightly more handsome face than the S10 but that wasn’t enough to justify the truck (via The Truth About Cars).
You’d have to be a very dedicated GM enthusiast to even remember this truck as there are very few of them that are still on the road today. Nevertheless, the Hombre was not the last pickup truck that was shared by GM and Isuzu as the Colorado/Canyon came a few years later.