Out with the Old and In with the New as GM Attempts to Upgrade Its Image

Whats in a name? A heck of a lot if hundreds of millions, and even billions of research and development dollars could be lost due to a given models previously poor image. For that reason its out with the old and in with the new for many of General Motors nameplates.

By now everyone should be aware that GMs Oldsmobile division is soon to be phased out altogether, and some may even have heard that the Pontiac Aztek is getting axed. While the former is bad news to auto enthusiasts who grew up admiring Cutlass 442s while being awed by outlandish Toronados, most will say good riddance to the latter.

On a less final note, GM will also be laying to rest some famous nameplates while still building cars to fill the various voids. The new replacement for the Chevrolet Cavalier, for instance, will be dubbed the Cobalt while the long running Regal will get the name LaCrosse, after the highly successful show car that debuted last year.

Both models will debut in model year 2005, the Cobalt being one of the most important cars for the bowtie group. It will be based on Delta architecture, the same as that of the Saturn ION, which should bode well for an improvement in ride and handling over the current Cavalier.

The Saturn L Series Epsilon platform, that also is the basis for the Saab 9-3, 2004 Chevy Malibu and European only Opel Vectra, will spawn the next generation Grand Am, but it wont be called that when it debuts. Rumored to mirror the well-received G6 concept car that starred in Detroit this winter, the new model will no doubt improve Pontiacs compact in more ways than just a name.

“Grand Am has been a strong player for Pontiac, but the all-new replacement that follows this 04 model is truly a new Pontiac for the future,” stated John Middlebrook, GM vice president, Marketing and Advertising, to a gathering of media during 2004 model test drives. “So we want to strongly signal this by choosing a new name thats more in keeping with Pontiacs contemporary aspirational direction.”

While GM wont divulge the new Grand Am replacements name, Middlebrook did hint that other models might receive the same fate. “The LeSabre and the Park Avenue replacements could get new names (also) – no decision there yet,” commented the GM vice president.

While it sounds like GM is making wholesale changes it isnt a particularly new phenomenon. Last year the Catera was dumped for the CTS, S-Series for the ION and GMC Suburban for the Yukon XL. Word has it Chevy even considered axing the Malibu name for 2004, an all-new model, but chose to keep it for obvious reasons.