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Article on one of the turn-arounds in American cars...focus is on Dodge but makes several interesting points...

Push out less expensive models first:
What this means is that DaimlerChrysler (nyse: DCX - news - people ) is not repeating the mistake it made with its Pacifica wagon, when most of its early production was dedicated to expensive models. That scared away potential buyers who weren't accustomed to $35,000 to $40,000 stickers on Chrysler vehicles. This time, Chrysler is pushing out affordable models to build early volume and reputation. That's a smart move.
Break away from boring designs:
What we are seeing is a rebirth of distinctive American design. The surprise is that it is coming from Chrysler, which is owned by a German company. It takes courage to break away from safe styling and engineering. These new cars are rear-drive, as in the good old days, and quality seems to be climbing, too. Chrysler was willing to take risks with the LX platform, and they seem to be paying off.
Article:
http://www.forbes.com/2004/07/13/cz_jf_0713flint.html
 

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Interesting writeup. I have seen a few on the 300 and that car has been a smash hit. I am not sure Dodge ever thought they would get really high volumes out of the Magnum, but if they do get decent numbers I am sure they will be satisfied. You can be certain that the dealers cannot wait to get the Charger sedan in showrooms (although I have a problem with using the Charger nameplate on a sedan.

They did both up the Pacifica launch, so it is nice to see they are learning from their mistakes. Problem is, I am not sure people really want to see a $40K Chrysler whether or not there are a few cheaper models roming the streets. They may be able to move Chrysler up market a little over time. Using Mercedes parts underneath can help them do that. But it will take some time.

The Magnum itself I am a little cool on. It looks too squished down to me with its sqaured off fenders and rather flat hood and roof (even though it slopes backwards). The Magnum is a little spartan and boring inside too. However, I love the 300 and would take one in a minute!

I think he is selling GM a little short. They won't have a hit like the 300 that draws so much attention due to styling, but the Malibu sells in similar numbers, and when the G6 comes online, the Epsilon platform will be well over 200,000 units a year, the magic number he gives for the 300/Magnum saviors. GM could sell more initially with a stand out design like the 300. However, the 300 may suffer down the road from that styling as new flavor of the month sedans come along. Meanwhile, a more conservative and mainstream design is more likely to be able to hold its sales volume longer.

I'd personally like to see some more styling risks from GM, but leaving the standout styling to its halo vehicles and upper end cars (Solstice, SSR, Caddy, etc) is not a bad stategy IMO.
 

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Fformula88 said:
I'd personally like to see some more styling risks from GM, but leaving the standout styling to its halo vehicles and upper end cars (Solstice, SSR, Caddy, etc) is not a bad stategy IMO.
Love the 300, Magnum and Crossfire (I love the squished chop top hot rod look), but the Magnum and 300 could use more work on the backside. Way to plain and boring, doesn't match the front at all. I agree that GM has to take more chances, but they have to be careful and use tried and true design philosophies. We don't need any more Azteks. (sorry azteksrpurty) IMO many of the resent GM offerings have been kind of strange looking. The last Malibu before the current one, Avalanche, STS, Grand Prix backside come to mind.

Solstice is evidence that they are starting to get that. It's really pretty simple, look at any classic car with universal appeal from any era, and you'll find they all have things in common. Unity, balance, understatement and refinement. They all reflect the spirit of their times, but yet remain attractive through the ages because of their adhearence to these tried and true concepts. Design for the ages, not the moment.

A great example of this at the BMW showroom. The Z4 is very contraversial, and I predict that it will fade quickly in time because it's designers were trying too hard to "challenge" the buyer to thinking outside the conventional with trendy edgy styling, but there is no doubt that the Z8 will look good for years to come. There is no reason in the world that the Z4 could not have been made to have the universal appeal of the Z8. It is this radical departure in design thinking that will no doubt leave BMW sales down, and in decades to come, when they have rebounded with more classic designs, this period of BMW history will be seen as a blemish.

If GM is smart, they will focus more on classic styling and less on gimicks and flashy glitzy looks. The Solstice as well as the new crop of show cars, shows that they may be moving in this direction. With classic styling appeal, improved quality, impressive performance and good value, GM could potentialy reclaim much of their lost market share (at one time GM owned half the US market). This is true of all the domestics, and I am encouraged by what I see happening at Chrysler and Ford as well. The American car might just make a come back and be the standard of excellence that I know we Americans are capable of. :patriot
 

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No offence taken, AeroDave. If I'm not used to it by now....

By the way, since no-one gives the Az a chance due to the styling, let me tell you what about it bodes well for future GM products. It's innovative, and I don't mean the outside. There are ton's of thoughtful little things that I've never seen on any other cars, foreign or domestic. And it's absolutely a blast to own, look at the owner ratings if you don't believe me. The quality has been top notch, not a single problem in a year and a half, 18000 miles.

Frankly, I thought my wife was insane when she wanted it, but it was a good value since they practically give them away. So I bought one loaded with everything, and to my total surprise, it has renewed my faith in Pontiac and GM.

This is why I will buy the Solstice asap, and won't worry a bit about 1st year bugs.

Until then, I'll just bug the wife to let me borrow "Darth"
 

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Good points Aero. GM does need more balance and refinement in the styling of many of there cars. I have seen a lot of criticism of some of the newer cars lately from GM directed at Lutz, and people who are ready to declare his reign a failure already. They point to cars like the Grand Prix, Buick Lacross (which from pics doesn't look too bad to me) Malibu, etc. These cars were in development long before Lutz got there. Although he did order changes to some, there was only so much that could be done since development was so far along.

I think the Solstice will be the start of GM's cars created completely under Bob Lutz. Then we will see the Zeta cars in a couple more years. The Solstice is definately heading in the right direction, and the Zeta cars will tell us where there styling department is really at.

I saw a quote from Lutz regarding what he thought of the Aztek. He responded something along the lines of "you would have thought someone would have said hey, STOP, somewhere along the line." Not because of its useful features, but because of its exterior design. He seems to have a good eye for giving the thumbs up to good styling, and the thumbs down to bad styling. So I fully expect GM to be turning out some good looking cars in the years to come!
 

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AztekzRpurty said:
No offence taken, AeroDave. If I'm not used to it by now....

By the way, since no-one gives the Az a chance due to the styling, let me tell you what about it bodes well for future GM products. It's innovative, and I don't mean the outside. There are ton's of thoughtful little things that I've never seen on any other cars, foreign or domestic. And it's absolutely a blast to own, look at the owner ratings if you don't believe me. The quality has been top notch, not a single problem in a year and a half, 18000 miles.

Frankly, I thought my wife was insane when she wanted it, but it was a good value since they practically give them away. So I bought one loaded with everything, and to my total surprise, it has renewed my faith in Pontiac and GM.

This is why I will buy the Solstice asap, and won't worry a bit about 1st year bugs.

Until then, I'll just bug the wife to let me borrow "Darth"
The only reason not to buy one really is the styling. Your absolutely right, the Aztek is an extremely useful vehicle with some very nice features inside. Since its corporate mate, the Buick Rondevous has sold so well for GM at higher prices, one can only imagine how many Azteks they would have moved with a more appealing design. Its not like it would have needed to be a styling home run. Few SUV/crossovers are, and the Rondevous is certainly no great looker either. Its got to be one of the best bargains on the market too! They do give them away which means anything with comparable features will cost a LOT more.
 

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Azteksrpurty- I only brought up the Aztek for the sake of styling. I have heard that they are very thoughtfuly engineered inside and very useful to have around. I even heard that the back can be made into a camping tent, is that true? No doubt a great consumer value but a bit of a disapointment to GM. Their utility and homely looks will no doubt spawn Aztek car clubs in the future, and my guess is that those clubs will be full of fun people. Some of the best, funnest clubs I have joined have been for orphan and missfit cars.

Fformula88- Wouldn't you say that the SSR would be the first Lutz car? Maybe I'm wrong about that, I just seem to remember his name attached to that car (and I think it's more car than truck). I wish the SSR all the best. I really like it, but it needs IMHO a little more power, 6 speed manual and a lower price tag. Otherwise it looks great and I love the top.
 

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AeroDave said:
Fformula88- Wouldn't you say that the SSR would be the first Lutz car? Maybe I'm wrong about that, I just seem to remember his name attached to that car (and I think it's more car than truck). I wish the SSR all the best. I really like it, but it needs IMHO a little more power, 6 speed manual and a lower price tag. Otherwise it looks great and I love the top.
I thought the SSR was started before lutz arrived, but I could be wrong. I do not exactly remember the first SSR concept's timing, or who was behind it.

It is not really useful as a classic truck, which may mean it is more of a car, but its got truck guts. Those truck guts are what hurt its performance too. The SSR is built off the Chevy Trailblazer platform, and uses the Chevy Vortech 5300 truck engine in it. Because of its use of the SUV platform, its extremely heavy. GM has done a good job at making a truck platform like that with all that weight handle fairly well. However, its never going to be a sports car no matter how much weight goes in.

I have heard it will be getting more motor for 2005, although I have seen no definate GM releases on it. Rumor is that they will use the Vortech 6000 engine which should give it the power its looks promise. I have seen some people mention it would get the 6 speed stick out of the Corvette with that engine too, but I have seen that rumor even less.
 

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AeroDave said:
I even heard that the back can be made into a camping tent, is that true?
200 bucks gets you a custom tent and awning, plus a custom fitted air mattress. You tilt up the back seats, drop the tailgate, and it fits perfect. Sleeps 2 comfortably. There are even stereo controls in the back. The odd thing is, there is an air compressor built into all Azteks, but the mattress has one of those foot pumps built in. Go figure.

We've used it twice so far, and boy does it get some rubber-necking when the other campers drive by.
 

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The SSR was a Wayne Cherry/Rick Wagoner baby - started before Maximum Bob arrived on the scene.

I think the Solstice and the HHR are the two considered "Bob's Babies".
 

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solsticeman said:
The SSR was a Wayne Cherry/Rick Wagoner baby - started before Maximum Bob arrived on the scene.

I think the Solstice and the HHR are the two considered "Bob's Babies".
Ah, someone remembered. Thanks for picking me up there! :thumbs

I have a feeling Lutz will ultimately be judged on the Kappa cars. He has the Zeta cars coming online in a couple years, including the GTO and a rumored 2 door for Chevy (Camaro?) but the Solstice will be the car he is remembered for.
 

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. I've seen brick walls more aerodynamic and stylish than the chrysler 300's/Magnum's. The Crossfires arent anything to brag about either. IIRC a point was made that they feel like your driving a coffin. I wouldnt doubt that as they look it. If you guys knew Daimler that well you would know that they almost destroyed Chrysler during the merging and the quality has never been the same since.

. The only Dodge I would want would be their trucks but only with a Cummings diesel and manual transmission. Thats the only powertrain I would trust because Daimler doesnt design for Cummings.

I'm not even going to start on the Aztec.
Ok I'm done venting now.
:rant
 

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bonneville said:
.If you guys knew Daimler that well you would know that they almost destroyed Chrysler during the merging and the quality has never been the same since.
I cannot argue that the new LX cars are squared off a lot and I wouldn't expect them to be everyone's cup of tea. However, are you sure about Chrysler's reliability record. They never had a great record in recent memory but it has been improving the last couple years. Those K cars sold by the ton but were no reliability champ. The original LH cars were also less than the most reliable on the road. The last couple years, however, has seen a big rebound in Chrysler reliability. Their cars under Daimler have been getting consistently better. Not just new releases, but existing models as well. They turned the Neon from a reliability nightmare into a respectably reliable vehicle to own and drive. They also turned the Wrangler from a disaster in reliability to one of the more reliable SUV's on the road.

The company that has been hurt reliability-wise in the merger has been Mercedes. Merc's reliability has plumeted since the merger, and that is their core franchise. Daimler has taken money that Mercedes would put towards quality to pump it into Chrysler to prop it up and design new models. However, its on the verge of making a big impact on Mercedes sales which could be disasterous. They still have the name recognition, but each expensive luxury car they don't sell takes a big bite out of the bottom line.
 
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