General Motors used to be the parent of more than 10 different brands, including Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn, Saab, and the Opel\Vauxhall twins. Opel and Vauxhall were recently sold off while the rest of those listed have taken their place in the guillotine in the name of improved profits and spending cuts. Fast forward to today and GM is in serious trouble. Of all the brands that once fell under the GM umbrella, the company now controls just six: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Holden, and Wuling. You’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of the last one. Back to the point, GM’s questionable decisions slowly pluck away at its various brands until they meet their demise. We’re starting to see the same thing happen right now with Chevy and Buick as both brands struggle like crazy. They are struggling so badly that GM just shut down a handful of plants and is even putting others, including three powertrain plants, on notice.
GM’s constant failures happen because the powers that be seem to think they know what they are doing when history has shown they clearly don’t. And, that’s the basis of this list. It’s not just about listing a bunch of cars that could have saved failed GM brands, or that could save the few remaining brands under GM’s corporate umbrella. No; this list is about proving that GM has good designers. GM even has good conceptual ideas as you’ll see below. It’s what ultimately comes from those ideas that lead to the death of brands. With that in mind, I present to you a long list of concepts that could have saved failed GM brands and a few that could save the brands that are just now starting to go belly up.
25 1997 Oldsmobile Alero Concept
This thing might look at least partially like the Oldsmobile Intrigue in the front end, but this was actually the car the Oldsmobile Alero was based on. Are you mad yet? Can you imagine how popular the Alero would have been if it had featured that muscular Sportback rear end and those aggressive cuts in the lower body? In the end, the Alero was another GM throwaway car but, had Oldsmobile followed this design style and gave it the power to match, the Alero would have come out on top in terms of interest and sales.
24 1999 Oldsmobile Recon
This concept’s front end might be ugly but the Recon concept, had it gone into production, could have given Olds a real chance at survival. This was long before SUVs became so popular, so this thing would have set the standard. According to Old Concept Cars, the Recon featured a reconfigurable dash with several screens and frameless seats that were made from Leer foam to provide more interior room. It featured all-wheel drive and a 3.0-liter V-6, so it was plenty powerful and probably had decent off-road capability. But, it was just another missed opportunity.
23 2000 Oldsmobile Profile
The profile could have been a modern-day Vista Cruiser (yes, the Vista Cruiser was actually quite successful in its time) but, for some reason, Oldsmobile never put it into production. It had attractive looks, a freakishly cool interior, and could have kept the not only Oldsmobile alive but the station wagon segment as a whole. And, considering this concept came to be in 2000, it could have been the model that kept the brand relevant. According to Supercars.net, It even had a supercharged V-6 under the hood that was good for some 250 horsepower. With the right interior, it could have competed with luxury marques like Mercedes and Audi.
22 2001 Oldsmobile 04
You wouldn’t be blamed for saying that Oldsmobile (or GM as a whole, for that matter,) had a serious issue with designing bland front ends. Be that as it may, this concept could have gone a long way in saving the brand. With a proper front end, it would have been downright sexy; the interior was well ahead of its time, and – according to Supercars.net – it even had a massive LCD screen in place of the instrument cluster. Yes; a digital instrument cluster back in 2001. This thing would have appealed largely to sports car and roadster fanatics, but as always GM dropped the ball, and it faded into forgotten history. Such a shame.
21 1944 Oldsmobile F-88 Concept
The Oldsmobile F-88 Concept is a clear representation of missed opportunity. Four of these show-stopping babies were produced and, had it gone into production, it would have given the Chevy Corvette of the era a tough battle. According to Concept Carz, the F-88 Concept even had a “Rocket 88” V-8 that would have toppled the six-cylinder found in the Vette at the time. This concept could have drastically changed the path of Oldsmobile’s life and, had it gone into production, things today may be very different.
20 1967 Oldsmobile Thor Concept
This car may have been designed in the late 1960s but it had that supercar look with huge muscular rear haunches and a long, commanding hood. Little is actually known about the Thor concept, but according to Car Styling, it was designed by Ghia and is based on the front-wheel-drive architecture of the Olds Toronado. Fast forward 10 years, give it a rear-mounted V-10 and rear-wheel drive, and it would have been a strong competitor in the supercar market. Just imagine where that would have taken Oldsmobile.
19 1977 Oldsmobile Mirage J-Coupe Concept
Believe it or not, this '90s-looking car was actually showcased in 1977. There is next to no information available about it and it clearly never went into production. We’re not even sure why, but it carries a highly attractive design for its time and could have easily pushed Oldsmobile (and design trends at the time) well into the future. What would have happened if Oldsmobile progressed design by 20 years in the late 1970s? What would modern design trends look like today?
18 1986 Oldsmobile Incas Concept
This fine little gem from the mid-1980s was built in collaboration between Oldsmobile and Italdesign and could have competed with low-end supercars of the day. According to Supercars.net, the Incas had a quad-turbo four-cylinder that was good for 230 horsepower. It doesn’t sound like much but thanks to the aerodynamic design and (assumingly) lightweight, it was probably pretty quick. The interior was luxurious and space-ship like. Nothing ever came from the concept, but if it had Oldsmobile may have gone in a direction other than belly up.
17 1990 Oldsmobile Expression
We do not appreciate wagons as much as we did back in the day, but back in the 1990s, Oldsmobile could have done well by shifting the Expression into production. It may not have been enough to save the brand, but it would have made a huge difference. This thing was amazing, by the way. It had a fiberglass body, seating for seven, and who wouldn’t like that sleek appearance? The coolest part was the rear-most seats that faced the tailgate. Ahead of those passengers sat a TV, a Nintendo, and a VCR. I know, old-school, but this is 1990 we’re talking about. Screens in cars were unheard of back then.
16 1989 Oldsmobile Tube Car aka Aurora Concept
Yes, the Aurora did come to be in the mid-1990s, however, it only borrowed a small portion of DNA from the Tube car concept it was based on. The similarities are there, but it lost the suicide doors, the wraparound glass canopy, and the excessively bubbly design in the translation between concept and production. The interior was also nothing like the concept which was, without a doubt, the biggest tragedy of the Tubecar’s evolution from concept to production model. Had the production model been closer to the concept, the Aurora may have sold better and given Olds a better shot at life.
15 1988 Pontiac Banshee IV Concept
Meet the Banshee IV Concept – the model that lent about 15-percent of its DNA to the Pontiac Firebird. According to How Stuff Works, the Banshee concept was actually designed to preview some of the fourth-gen firebird’s design, but all that futuristic, supercar goodness never made it into production. Instead, we got something toned down considerably. Had the Firebird kept that downward sloped nose, aggressive rear end, and aerodynamic design, Pontiac may still be here, and GM may not be in as much trouble as it is now.
14 1997 Pontiac Rageous Concept
In the late-90s, Pontiac was already fumbling for ideas on how to stay relevant. It had at least one great idea, and it came in the form of this – the 1997 Pontiac Rageous Concept. It was essentially a cross between a fourth-gen Firebird, a Grand Am, and a hatchback, which is what made it so cool. According to Motor1, it even had a 5.7-liter V-8 under the hood with 315 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. Had GM put this thing into production, there’s no doubt that it would have sold like hotcakes. But, somehow, we ended up with the Pontiac Aztec, and Pontiac was no more just a decade or so later.
13 2016 Opel GT
Opel is now owned by PSA Group (think Citroen and Peugeot) but just a couple of years ago it was every bit a part of GM as Chevy. In 2016 it debuted this sporty and funky coupe known as the Opel GT. Of course, GM never does the right thing or knows what’s good for it, so nothing even close to this thing went into production but, perhaps, with a little luck, GM could have already been on the up and up if it had. Instead, Opel is now owned by PSA, the concept is largely forgotten about, and GM is closing factories and laying off employees.
12 2015 Chevy FNR Concept
It might look like something out of a futuristic Will Smith Movie, but the Chevy FNR Concept has the ability to pull GM out of its slump and may even prevent Chevy from going belly up just like Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Saturn. Even something remotely similar to this 10 years ago could have saved any of the other defunct GM brands from failing. But, even in the future, you won’t see a car like this saving any GM brand because, well, GM never makes the right move. Don’t worry, though, there will be plenty of SUVs for you to chose from.
11 1973 Chevy Aerovette
The Chevy Aerovette could have drastically rewritten history, not only for Chevy but for many GM brands. Imagine a world where Pontiac and Oldsmobile were able to compete with high-end marques like Lamborghini and Ferrari. Well, if Chevy had played its cards right, that could have been the world we live in. According to Car Design News, the Aerovette concept was supposed to make use of a four-rotor rotary engine that would have been demandingly powerful. Pair that with the Aerovette’s looks alone, and you have a car with true supercar potential. Eventually, GM discontinued its rotary program, and the Aerovette was never heard from again.
10 2016 Buick Avista Concept
As GM struggles to bring its self together, we look back to this muscular concept – the 2016 Buick Avista Concept. According to Cars.com, this 2+2 sports coupe is powered by a 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V-6. That’s not to mean it’s not powerful, as we all know that modern-day V-6 engines are capable of delivering some serious power. The point is that designs like this one can put GM in a place to pull itself out of the hole. Designs like this could also have, very easily, saved Pontiac and Oldsmobile too. Will GM make use of this design that could easily take on Aston Martin and Jaguar? Probably not, but here’s to hoping.
9 2004 Buick Velite Concept
Take this Buick Velite Concept and slap on an Oldsmobile or Pontiac badge, and send it back to the turn of the millennium. We’re willing to be that, if you could do such a thing, both brands would still be alive today. Of course, we’ll never know but just look at this thing. The front end could use a little more aggressiveness, sure, but the overall design is tidy and intriguing. According to GM Authority, the Velite Concept was powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 with 400 horsepower, all of which was sent to the rear wheels. And, since it was built on GM’s Zeta platform, it was light enough to offer decent performance. This little roadster could have put a hurting on Mercedes and Audi, but that’s, unfortunately, not the world we live in.
8 1964 GM Runabout Concept
The GM Runabout was originally designed to appeal to housewives that could use affordable transportation that’s also cheap to maintain. As we all know, the three-wheel concept doesn’t really work well but had GM branded a modern interpretation of the Runabout with any of its failed marques; it could have done quite well back when concept cars were in very high demand. It would have made great local transportation and could have given all GM companies the edge it needed against all of those fuel-efficient imports from Japan that took over the market when gas prices were sky high.
7 1990 GM Impact Concept
If you recognize this little concept, that’s because it eventually went into production as the GM EV1 in 1996. According to Car Styling, it had a rand of around 120 miles and could hit 60 mph in about eight seconds. Now, it may have gone into production way back then, but there was a lot of drama around the EV1, and eventually, the program was canceled. Word has it that GM recalled as many models as it could and even destroyed them. Now, if GM had continued on the EV path with that kind of tech to start with 28 years ago, you can imagine that there would have been electric Oldsmobile and Pontiac models today and, the Chevy Volt wouldn’t be on the chopping block either. Again, this is just another failed opportunity that could have given GM a real edge.
6 2011 Chevy Mi-Ray Concept
The “Mi-Ray” name might mean future in Korean, but Chevy has a long history of looking to the future without actually embracing it. Such is the case with the Mi-Ray, a vehicle that could put many GM brands on par with premium sportscar makers. Powered by a combination of a 1.5-liter four-cylinder and two 15-kW electric motors, the Mi-Ray could be rather quick on its feet when put under heavy load. According to Motor1, the Mi-Ray can even be switched between front-wheel and all-wheel drive at the press of a button. Of course, a concept like this can never come to fruition in today’s world thanks to the onslaught of SUVs taking the market by storm.
5 2013 Buick Riviera Concept
The Riviera name was once synonymous with style and elegance, but the name has been dead since 1999 after a 36-year run on the market (minus a two-year intermission, of course). This is another one of those muscular, hybrid models that could push several GM brands to the level of relevance once again, and it could have even revived the Oldsmobile and Pontiac brand names as well. According to Motor Authority, the whole point of the concept was to preview Buick’s future design language, but we all know that was a load of bologna. After all, if this sleek concept had moved into production none of the GM brands would be struggling as bad as they are. But, that’s all water under the bridge, right?
4 2007 Chevy Volt Concept
The 2007 Chevy Volt Concept represents the definition of automaker deceit. Shown off at the Detroit Auto Show, we all thought that the production version of the Volt Concept was going to be sexy, aggressive, and dominating on the market. But, you all know the Volt that we actually got, and it was nothing in comparison to this concept. In fact, it looked nothing like it. Smoke and mirrors are the best way to describe it. The point is that, had Chevy followed through with this design, Chevy would be doing much better off, the Volt name wouldn’t now be defunct, and Oldsmobile and Pontiac might still be brands that are still alive and thriving. Of course, there’s one thing that turned out better – the production version of the Volt offered better all-electric range. The concept seen here, according to Autoblog, only offered up 40 pitiful miles of range.
3 2002 Cadillac Cien Concept
Why GM always fails to see opportunity when it smacks them in the face, we’ll never understand, but I guarantee that there’s someone at GM wishing the 2020 Cadillac Cien Concept had been given the green light for production. According to Carstyling, this mid-engined beauty was constructed in carbon-fiber composite and delivered some 750 horsepower from its 7.5-liter XV-12 engine. Inspired by the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, this concept had everything it needed to put marques like Ferrari and Lamborghini in their place. Cadillac could claim at least some supercar superiority, and there’s no doubt that GM wouldn’t be in nearly as much trouble as it is now. Imagine something like this with an Oldsmobile or Pontiac badge – it would be amazing.
2 2018 Buick Enspire Concept
The Enspire Concept is inspiring to say the least, and its design philosophy is exactly what GM brands need to follow as it moves into the 2020s. This model, according to GM Authority, pumps out 550 horsepower from an all-electric drivetrain and can travel for about 370 miles on a single charge. It can also hit 60 mph in as little as four seconds. Now, this could save Chevy, Buick, and Cadillac as it fumbles to stay alive over the next decade, but if you sent this thing back in time, even with half the electrical range and performance credentials, the Pontiac and Olds brands would still be alive. Even Saturn might have had a chance as long as GM avoided the cheap plastic body structure.
1 2010 Opel Flextreme GT-E Concept
This attractive Hatchback Concept with a fastback style rear end could have been responsible for keeping the station wagon body style relevant in the United States. Of course, we don’t have Opel here, so it would need to wear a Chevy, Oldsmobile, or Pontiac badge, but take this body style, and offer it as a sedan and two-door hatchback, and you have a market stopper. According to Motor1, this low-slung concept had a drag coefficient of just 0.22 and could manage more than 130 mph. Of course, Opel has now been sold from under the GM umbrella, and we all know what happened to Oldsmobile and Pontiac. The question is: does Chevy still have enough fuel to stay alive through the next decade? It better start looking back to its conceptual history and make something the public loves or most of GM could end up folding. Here’s to the future.
Sources: Motor1, GMAuthority, Carstyling, Autoblog