I recall an age poll here showing that most of you are much older than I am. I’m in my late 40s and part of the Goonies Generation and Saved By The Bell Generation.
Were you loyal to a particular car BRAND (as opposed to a manufacturer)? Why? Was anyone you know loyal to a brand? Why? As far as I could tell, every Oldsmobile ever made was a clone of something in the Buick lineup, and every Buick ever made was a cheaper Cadillac, a fancy Chevrolet, or both.
I’ve heard that there was a time when people were loyal to car brands instead of manufacturers. One example was the loyal Oldsmobile-owning father in the movie The Christmas Story. My parents have owned cars from several American and Japanese brands, but they’ve been repeat buyers of only Honda and Toyota. Thus, they clearly were NOT the targets of the redundant brands.
The Malaise Era was my childhood, though I didn’t realize at the time how awful so many cars were or how much better pre-Malaise Era cars were. (I was born and raised in the Chicago area, where a rust-free 10-year-old car was an extremely rare sight.) However, I did notice that GM, Ford, and Chrysler sold the same cars with different names. GM was the biggest offender. It seemed that Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick had the same product lineups. Some of the cars were even sold as Cadillacs. (The Cadillac Cimarron was the most notorious example.) Chrysler was the second biggest offender, because Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth seemed so interchangeable. Plymouth was dead by the time I found out that it was below Dodge in the brand hierarchy. At least Ford did a halfway decent job of distinguishing Mercury from Ford. (Or maybe I’m just thinking of the Mercury Sable, which had the laser light bar that made it look even more futuristic than the Ford Taurus.)
I know now that GM’s brands were originally intended to meet the buyer’s changing wants and needs over time. In GM’s version of utopia, people would buy a Chevrolet as their first car. As they became more upscale, they’d move up to Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick. When they finally made it big, they’d move up to Cadillac. Of course, this model had broken down many years before I was born. It seemed to me that your decision to buy a Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, or Buick was largely a function of which dealership happened to offer you the best deal.
I can understand liking GM as a whole or disliking GM as a whole, but I cannot understand liking one GM brand but disliking another. Why were there people who bought Oldsmobiles but refused to even consider the Buick version of the same car? Why were there people who bought Mercuries but refused to even consider buying the Ford version of the same car? Why were there people who bought Dodges but refused to even consider the Plymouth or Chrysler versions of the same car?
I’ve read that one reason for selling the same car under many different brands was the dealerships, who didn’t like missing out on sales of cars that didn’t fit in with their brand images. However, it’s hard to imagine a Pontiac buyer looking at Brougham land yachts instead of sporty cars or a Brougham land yacht buyer looking at Pontiacs instead of Oldsmobiles and Buicks. Pontiac wasn’t building any excitement with products that had more in common with an Oldsmobile Delta 88 or Buick estate wagon than with a GTO, Trans Am, Firebird, or Fiero.