Thursday, June 03, 2010

Auto Reaper

      The Ford Motor Company today announced that they would be phasing out their Mercury brand by the conclusion of 2010 because the 72-year old brand has shown slumping sales numbers and the fact that its sales make up roughly 1% of American sales each year.  I suppose that is what happens when you offer only four models and they are basically carbon copies of other models already available.  But that is neither here nor there.  The point here is that this is the latest in a long line of American automobile makes that have been folded over the last ten years or so, not to mention the ones that have been sold off by the major American manufacturers.  I have come to believe that I am like the grim reaper of automobile brands because out of the five cars that I have owned over my short life span, four of the brands have been or are being phased out.  The only one that has folded without my help is Plymouth, which I have never owned but which I have ridden in a bunch of times and considered buying; I don't count Hummer because Hummer was an abomination and should have never come to be a major brand anyway.  The only brand that has escaped my clutches over time has been Nissan, which seems to be on pretty solid footing although it is a part owner of Renault, and any time you involved with Renault that is like playing Russian Roulette with your company.  Anyway, here is the list of auto manufacturers that I have been able to knock off over the years, in the order that I owned them, not the order that they folded:

-  Pontiac  My first car was a 1988 Pontiac Bonneville.  I loved that car, even though it was at many times a pain in my ass.  But it was powerful  and comfortable and as a teenager it was the bees knees.  Granted, I had to replace a lot of parts that could only come off of a 1988 Pontiac Bonneville, but is neither here nor there.  I loved that car and always will, probably because it was my first.  Pontiac had its obituary published in 2009 by General Motors, who said it would end in 2010, and this was the one that really raised a lot of eyebrows that showed just how bad things were in the automotive industry.

-  Oldsmobile  My second car was an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, which I am pretty sure that everyone in the world has owned.  This car frustrated me to no end, but it was just okay.  It was nothing special.  There were a million billion Cutlass Ciera's running around the roads in the early 2000s, and I had one of them.  It was even tan, and that's about all I can say about it.  Oldsmobile met its end in 2004 and surprised a lot of people, because it has always been there and had sold relatively well.  Everyone had an Olds, and it screamed middle class.  Unless it was a 442 in which case it knocked your socks off.

-  Saturn  Oh Saturn, you were always quirky, but you sold lots of cars.  They were always made of plastic and sort of didn't fit anywhere.  They were meant to be import fighters but failed miserably.  That being said I owned a bare bones Saturn SW1 station wagon, and it is the only car that I have ever had seller's remorse about.  One day, when one of the many plastic pieces fell off and exposed a rust hole the size of a fist underneath, I got a little scared.  So I sold it to Tommy Tutone and that was it.  I miss it though, and when I see other Saturns of that vintage I get visibly excited and I look at them as if I were in the market to buy.  I loved that little car.  It sipped gas, it could hold a million things or people, and it could fly if you were willing to whip it hard enough.  But it is gone and so is Saturn, in the end a brand with no purpose once GM discovered that cars like the Cobalt fought the imports just so much better.  Too bad, so sad.  I liked Saturn, and I think it was an innovative if not expensive experiment.  It touched my life though.

- Mercury  I currently own a Mercury, my first ever grown up car.  I did not buy it new but it was not that old, and it even still had that new car smell.  After 15,000 miles of my ass sitting in it it still does under the right circumstances.  So that is nice.  I will drive this car until the Mercury brand is a little bit of a distant memory if all goes well, but it is still a little sad.  As I said before Mercury has been around for 72 years, and even though it hasn't always fit well into the Ford lineup between Ford and Lincoln, it still managed to have some spectacular cars on its own.  And it had a song made about it, so that has to count for something, right?  In the end, Ford just didn't try hard enough lately when it came to Mercury, and now it too will become a thing of the past. 

So I have killed all those car brands, and I am thinking that maybe I should never buy another brand of car.  I will just have to stick to bicycles and the brands that have already gone away.  I do sort of have a plan though.  Maybe I will lay my Mercury up, keep it in prime condition, and buy back my old Saturn from Tommy Tutone.  Then everyone will be happy, and thirty years from now my kids can put the Merc up on the Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction, where maybe it will fetch a couple of hundred thousand dollars because it is a rare exhibit of a marque that disappeared long ago.  I, of course, will be buried in the Saturn.  How do you feel about that?

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