8 Failed Car Companies that Couldn’t Beat the Odds
How did household names like Hummer and Pontiac turn into failed car companies? Even the most innovative car brands can go under depending on factors like cost, performance, and popularity among consumers. While you won’t find these brands on any current top-selling car lists again, it’s interesting to see how these giants in the automotive industry became obsolete.
This company was responsible for the iconic station wagons that hold a nostalgic place in the hearts of many. It was a high-performance car in its day, and the famed Oldsmobile Jetfire was known for its turbocharged Rocket V8 engine. However, due to a loss of quality and inability to stay relevant in the ’90s, this brand was killed off.
This line of cars garnered a wide appeal after being marketed as an affordable luxury car. It was held in high regard by motor enthusiasts due to its speed and stellar performance, and the Pontiac GTO is still considered one of the best muscle cars ever made. Due to fuel shortages and safety concerns, Pontiac sales started to fall, and the brand was discontinued in 2010.
The Mercury was Ford’s first entry into the upper-middle car market, a perfect compromise between a cheaper model and the more expensive Lincoln cars. Mercury’s sales never quite got off the ground. While it produced the iconic Grand Marquis, the Mercury did not age well and relied on a limited demographic, and was soon phased out in 2011.
This family business grew from manufacturing carriages and wagons to one of the first commercial automobiles on the market. Despite creating influential designs for many years and even emerging successfully from the Great Depression, the company couldn’t compete with the lower prices of Ford and GM vehicles.
You may recognize this name from the hit movie trilogy Back to the Future, but the history of this automobile is a tale in and of itself. John DeLorean, the young and adventurous founder of the company, took many risks to make his brand succeed. His lavish vehicles weren’t received well in the States and performed poorly in initial quality control testing. Ultimately, it was the founder who was the cause of the brand’s downfall, after being charged with selling cocaine to keep his company afloat. While a jury found him not guilty, his reputation never quite recovered. Its legacy lives in with a new DeLorean company hoping to revamp the brand using recycled parts from the original models.
The Hummer was marketed as the civilian version of the military Humvee. It featured an expanded lineup including the H1, H2, and H3 models. AM General began distribution in 1992. The future of the Hummer looked bright, and it even won approval from celebrity Arnold Schwarzenegger. Eventually, the rights to the brand were sold to General Motors. Unfortunately, the Hummer had numerous safety issues and was not very good in terms of fuel economy. The brand’s reputation continued to decline, and with GM’s bankruptcy on the horizon, the entire Hummer lineup was discontinued.
Introduced by Chrysler in 1928, the Plymouth brand proved to be highly successful during the ’40s and 50s due to its low cost in comparison to Ford and Chevrolet models. Due to excessive badge-engineering by Chrysler, the integrity of this brand gradually faded over the course of the ’90s. While there were plans to rebrand the popular PT Cruiser as a Plymouth, this never came to fruition.
The short-lived Saturn line seemed like a precarious endeavor from the beginning. It was owned by Roger Smith, an employee of GM, and had more freedom due to being a privately-owned company. While it made a good amount of money, partly as a result of its no-haggle business model, Saturn faced bitter jealousy from other GM brands. This negativity combined with poor sales ultimately led to its failure.
All images provided by the manufacturer unless otherwise noted.