Automaking can be a harsh industry. Tastes change; economies turn for the worse; even marques renowned for being forward-thinking and putting out a quality product can find themselves in the wrong spot at the wrong time, and eventually be relegated to the pages of Hagerty and Wikipedia.
Here are five now-dead carmakers we wish were still around.
In the post-war era, the Swedish Airplane Corporation, Saab, transferred its engineering expertise from fighter jets to cars. The company bestowed practical innovations, quirky aerodynamic design and punchy turbocharged engines on us in cars like the 900 Turbo and 9-3.
Above all, Saabs were emotive and weird, two qualities lost in the great crossover adoption of the 2010s. Saab was sold during the post-bankruptcy fallout at GM, and has not reemerged.
A slew of independent American automakers merged to form American Motors Corporation in 1954 to compete with the Big Three. AMC, forced to take a different tack to compete, was a company best appreciated in retrospect, as it was perpetually about 20 years ahead of its time.
AMC unveiled fuel-efficient compact cars in the 1950s. It began production on the AMC Eagle, a lifted four-wheel-drive wagon that was the first crossover in the late 1970s.
The AMC brand died when it merged with Chrysler, but its legacy lived on with Jeep, which used AMC engines in the XJ Cherokee and Wrangler well into the 2000s.
The Pontiac marque was another casualty of GM’s bankruptcy fallout in 2010. At its core, Pontiac was an affordable, street-oriented performance brand, specializing in building rear-wheel-drive, manual transmission, V8-powered sports cars.
Pontiac arguably invented the muscle car with the GTO. It collaborated with McLaren on the Grand Prix Turbo. If you could get past the horridly bland SUVs and sad compacts, Pontiac had an exciting lineup featuring cars like the G8 and the Solstice when it departed.
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Toyota launched Scion, its stylish brand for the youths, in the early 2000s. In conception, it was a car journalist's fever dream. Pretty much the entire lineup was sports coupes like the FR-S, which lived on as the Toyota 86, and odd, practical hatchbacks. Every Scion offered a stick shift. Out with the trims; in with the accessories and customization options, all of it with Toyota build quality.
Alas, Scion had profoundly poor timing. It launched right when the economy chucked young people out of the new car market, and aging customers veered hard toward crossovers.
International Harvester built a wide range of vehicles and equipment. Their road car division hung on until 1980, producing off-road-capable trucks and SUVs. Their lineup in the 1960s and 1970s included the Jeep CJ-rivalling Scout, the full-size Chevrolet Suburban rival Travelall SUV and the Travelette, a four-door, full-size, 4x4 pickup. Not a great mix for the mid-1970s fuel crisis, though it would be a formidable lineup now. International Harvester sadly nixed plans to bring the Scout line into the 1980s, and that was the end of that.
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