29 July 2010

The Pontiace Aztek, a metaphor

If ever there was a car that illustrates the problems that nearly did in General Motors it was the Pontiac Aztek: a good idea wretchedly executed. Just to look at it left one asking, "What were they thinking?" It didn't help that for some strange reason most of them were painted baby-poop yellow.

Here's the assessment of an auto journalist from AOL who admits that it started off as a good idea, the first of the cross-over SUVs, but,
...when the production Aztek rolled into showrooms for the 2001 model year, it was markedly different than the concept GM had shown two years earlier. This vehicle shared a platform with the Pontiac Montana minivan, and it was boxy and unattractive, to say the least. Introduced in both front-wheel-drive and “Versatrak” all-wheel-drive versions -- both powered by a barely adequate V6 engine -- the Aztek was so poorly executed that it quickly became the butt of jokes.
I wasn’t crazy about the Aztek, either, but my complaints weren’t about its looks. “The inside reminds me of an economy hotel,” I wrote in the New York Daily News. “Everything is clean but ever-so-cheap; I half expected a mass-produced painting to be bolted to a door.”

So a nice little morality tale of misbegotten management, cost cutting, and poor execution. And yet... and yet... Some people loved it, and are still driving the damned thing.
“Let’s just say it can get out of its own way,” the Dutchess, New York resident says. “It thrives on neglect. The odometer just passed 200,000 and virtually nothing has gone wrong with it. I’d never intended to keep it this long, but it’s been so dependable and still runs fine and the stereo system sounds good. I just drive it. I figure I’ll let her come in for a smooth landing when she’s ready.”

And another happy owner:
“I’ve had my Red 2001 Aztek since ’03, and I drive it every single day,” says corporate project manager Ken Rhyno, who runs a 1,700-plus member Aztek Fan Club from his home in Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada. “I still get cracks from people, but the car runs great, gets up to 30 miles to the gallon and the amount of stuff you can haul in it is fantastic. People have got to understand it’s not a Corvette. Its looks are not the point.”

So perhaps it is a useful morality tale after all, just not the one I first thought. Ugly and dumb but practical may have its virtues.

Still- in its last year of production GM practically had to give them away to sell 5,000 copies.



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