The Pontiac Aztek Survived Walter White in Breaking Bad; Why didn’t It Survive in the Auto Market?
Before the character of Walter White made the Pontiac Aztek cool in Breaking Bad, it was a vehicle that many tried to forget. Donned as the ugliest vehicle in the market, with a lackluster powertrain, awful performance, and not style, the Aztek is an SUV nobody wanted. That was certainly the case until Breaking Bad made it cool.
Don’t get the wrong idea; there wasn’t anything special about the SUV Walter drove in the show, but it was the center of attention every time he needed to go somewhere. Surprisingly, this ugly SUV made it through the show, but not in the auto market.
What did the Pontiac Aztek have going for it?
If one aspect of this vehicle made it ok to drive, it’s the rear cargo area. According to Top Gear, the Aztek offered a generous amount of cargo space in the massive trunk, and it came with a sunroof. Other than these two factors, this car was terrible to drive, look at, and think about. The powertrain for every model was a 3.4-liter V6 mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. This is not a setup made for efficiency or power, and the Aztek had neither.
Breaking Bad increased sales of used Aztek models
While we cannot blame the show for used models of this ugly Pontiac SUV selling well, sales grew once the Aztek appeared on the screen. Edmunds reported at the time that the Aztek rose 25.5% during the first half of 2015. At this time, the Pontiac brand was gone from the market for seven years, and the Aztek along with it. Suddenly, this ugly Pontiac was being scooped up by 18-34 year-olds like it was a sports car. The only cause for this uptick in sales was the sudden interest in Breaking Bad, which had finished airing two years earlier.
Is the Pontiac Aztek a good car?
Some might argue the Aztek is not a bad car. Others might even say it’s a good car. AutoEvolution attempts to take on the role of support by giving us several reasons this car wasn’t as bad as we make it out to be. They tell us:
- It did not kill Pontiac
- This SUV can stand out anywhere (maybe not for the right reasons)
- There’s room for the family
- It’s a reliable and competent vehicle
- Collectors will want it, maybe
Some of these items make sense, especially if you’re watching the show and witnessing Walter White tearing up his Aztek. It seems like the old Timex watch commercials where they told us, “it takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”
Why is this SUV so hated?
Was it the marketing efforts or the overall build that causes hate for the Aztek? It’s hard to say. If you look at this SUV as what GM tried to tell us it should be, it falls extremely short of the mark. According to Car Throttle, early marketing made us think this SUV could handle rugged off-road performance, but the ride height is too low for any serious trail fun. It was referred to as a “Sport Recreational Vehicle,” but it fell short of that mark as well.
More reasons to hate this SUV
- No manual transmission offered
- The build was terrible
- You can’t get past how ugly the Aztek is
- The oddly situated engine bay, making working on it difficult
- An uncoordinated interior
- Too close to being a wagon
- The FWD models were awful to drive
- Tons of recalls
- It came from the same plant as the Chevy HHR, and Pontiac Sunfire
Why did Pontiac stop making the Aztek?
The story with this Pontiac SUV is the same for any vehicle. Sales were low enough to discontinue this SUV after the 2005 model year. The Pontiac Torrent replaced the Aztek, which did pretty well until GM ultimately deleted the brand in 2008. The only resurgence we’ve seen of the Aztek was when the show Breaking Bad reached its height of popularity. Otherwise, the Aztek is essentially gone from the market.