My Favorite Loss Leaders

Brian O'Connor Memorial Car Show Fundraiser
Everyone loves a Grand Am! – All Photos by Randy Stern

This decade saw six brands simply disappear from American showrooms: Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, Mercury, Saab and Suzuki. They join the misbegotten that danced in front of us for our dollars. Some of these brands ended a lengthy history of success – and failure. Others were exercises on what was wrong with Detroit. You can decipher which ones were which.

Were there any memorable vehicles from the six brands that were wiped away from automotive history? Save for Hummer – yes. Why not Hummer? Never driven one – and I always felt they were utter garbage to begin with. A form of spit-elegance brought upon by the worst design for in-combat transport ruining a successful design forever. Thanks to Chrysler (and Fiat), World War II’s greatest invention lives on.

As for Pontiac, Saturn and Mercury – I enjoyed plenty of miles driving vehicles sold under these brands. If I were to compile a list of five favorites amongst the misbegotten, they would be the following…

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Historiography: Born From Jets

Saab Show/Swap Meet 9
All Photos by Randy Stern

When automobile brands disappear, it becomes a challenge to try to maintain their legacy.

This is the new challenge for Scion owners. Though Toyota made a commitment to honor warranties, continue with service and parts support, the owners of these cool cars have the burden of keeping the brand relevant for their enthusiasts and current owners.

This is a challenge that continues for many other orphaned brands. Since 2000, we witnessed Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Mercury, Pontiac, Hummer, Suzuki, Daewoo and Saturn disappear from our showrooms. Their legacies have not been as honorable to support on a larger scale. You could still get service and parts for these brands, but even that is becoming challenging these days.

This is true for Saab. The once unique manufacturer from Trollhattan still invite a hearty group of enthusiasts to keep the flames of the old Swedish car company alive worldwide. In America, this remains true to a core group of loyal owners and enthusiasts. They often meet to discuss the challenges of maintaining their chosen rides. Yet, their uniqueness keeps these loyal folks together to maintain the legacy of a car that was complicated and brilliant at the same time.

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Up On Two Wheels

Supercross Media Preview
All Photos by Randy Stern

Rarely does Victory & Reseda cover anything with two wheels.

In this case, it is driven by your interest. I found out that aside your love for four-wheeled transport, you also love two-wheeled – preferably motorized – transport, too.

Importantly, you also like to advance your love of two-wheeled, motorized transport in the motorsport arena. You may enjoy the global excitement of MotoGP, which brings the best riders in the world on superbikes at the best road courses around the world. You may like dirt track racing, putting high powered bikes onto the dirt oval.

Then again, you might like motocross and Supercross. Of all of the motorcycle motorsport series, motocross and Supercross is the most popular in this country.

To explain these series, it is as simple as summer and winter. Continue reading

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Watching The Big Trucks Fly

All Photos by Randy Stern

Deep inside all of us is a person that loves crazy things that drive, fly and land.

This is not to reduce the fun and excitement of Monster Jam. It is a form of entertainment that is borne in the psyche of unfiltered joy. It is the sight of a 12-foot high by 12-foot long vehicle, on 60-inch tires and the highest suspension lift known to machine take on dirt hills to go as high as 35-40 feet in the air.

We love that kind of stuff.

Unfortunately, I used to snub my nose at things like this. I found the commercials ridiculous and the idea of such a vehicle just childish and cartoonish. If I wanted something like this, the vehicles had to be more down to Earth, running around some tarmac…you get the idea.

There comes a time when the experience has to be achieved. All snobbery and disdain for things such as Monster Jam must be set aside for a brief episode in life.

So, I attended my first Monster Jam at the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Continue reading

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Commentary: Mitsubishi Eclipse….As Another Crossover?

Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors North America

To the collective groan of, frankly literally anyone who has heard the news, Mitsubishi brought back the Eclipse…as a crossover.

Mitsubishi did acknowledge that they are playing off the name of the extremely popular sports car which sold 1.8 million units over it’s 23 year lifespan, so it’s not like they’re trying to hide it. Then they tried to justify it with some hot trash about the astronomical origins of the name and how the car’s lines reflects said astronomical event to justify the naming conventions. Nobody is fooled. Really, it’s just Mitsubishi trying to capitalize on the Eclipse moniker. Hoping that since people will remember the Eclipse fondly, it will translate into better sales for the new truck.

This feels really gross but it isn’t the first time a brand has gone about doing this in the past. The issue at hand here, while most companies at least attempt to have some common theme with their naming, Mitsubishi honestly doesn’t give a shit. Now, this isn’t me blasting Mitsubishi because I don’t like them. Honestly I really want to like Mitsubishi. They have the potential for really great stuff, it just seems that they’re in serious fiscal trouble and they’re panicking to get back on track. What they should do is calm down for 5 seconds and follow Mazda’s lead.

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Historiography: A Personal History of Flight

…indeed! All Photos by Randy Stern

I arrived from my trip to the Chicago Auto Show this past Friday. The memory of a successful show still lingers. It was a great trip overall.

However, there is nothing like getting psyched up for a flight to the destination…and wind down on the one coming home.

Though the destination and the work done there are the centerpieces of any trip, it is the journey there and back that bookend a good trip. When everything clicks perfectly, that is considered a great trip.

Over the years, the amount of flying have fluctuated over the years. Some years, I’ve seen more of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport than I ever anticipated. Other years, I felt that going to MSP is indeed a special occasion. Either way, the airport is a familiar location – whether it is Terminal 1 or 2. I have my routines when I check in, go through security and when picking up people there.

Which airlines do I choose to fly? Continue reading

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Quickies: Higher Voltage

2017 Chevrolet Volt – All Photos by Randy Stern

You can never give up when you truly believe in something.

Electrification is a part of the mobility scheme for the future. Though the indicators show that we will see growth in electrified vehicles – everything from light hybrids to plug-in battery-charged models – early indicators have been mixed. While you see plenty of Tesla’s premium vehicles on the roads, other EVs have not been as present. Toyota saw growth in the Prius, but that has been cooled down in the past several months.

This is not stopping Chevrolet from trying. The 2017 Bolt EV has been winning accolades left and right – including Motor Trend’s Car of The Year and the North American Car of The Year. The Volt continues in an all-new guise with its mission still intact, along with some improvements.

Over five years ago, I had a chance to work with a Chevrolet Volt. It was a ground-breaking vehicle that was designed for electric propulsion as its primary power source, backed up by an internal combustion “range extender.” The result was something that was odd looking, but worked quite well. Yet, it battled hard in the marketplace, while hybrids were trying to nudge their way into the mainstream of the market.

For another publication, I was invited to drive the 2017 Volt by a local dealership. I did…briefly. I will say that it has certainly improved in this second generation model.

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Chicago 2017: “Blair Witch,” “Star Wars,” and Then Some…

All Photos by Randy Stern

I could do a standard-issue look at the 109th edition of the Chicago Auto Show. However, I have done that plenty of times.

In fact, this is my tenth time I visited the show. This marks the 15th anniversary of my first one – credentialed as media. That now makes it nine years as a media person, the seventh in a row.

So, how do I talk about the 2017 Chicago Auto Show that won’t be as predictive and boring?

Let’s just start from the beginning – the night before the Midwest Automotive Media Association breakfast.

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Chicago 2017: Preview Time!

2016 Chicago Auto Show
Photo by Randy Stern

The Chicago Auto Show is almost here. This will be my seventh straight time I have been credentialed to work as a member of the automotive media. This will also be my ninth Chicago show I have worked since 2002. With the additional visit in 2008, this will make my tenth visit to McCormick Place in February overall.

Through all of these Chicago Auto Shows, I always have two agenda points to accomplish. One is to go over any vehicle of interest that debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show and the North American International Auto Show. Second is to attend any press conferences for any manufacturer of interest.

As of going to press, press conferences being scheduled for Thursday, February 8 include Acura, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, MOPAR, Nissan, and Toyota. Subaru will also have a product unveiling in Chicago, as well.

As for the “catching up” part, there are quite a few new models to check out. Continue reading

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The Birthday Jeep

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4X4 – All Photos by Randy Stern

In my 50-plus years of life, I don’t recall ever getting a Jeep for my birthday.

Not that I ever had one. Nor do I recall getting one. My brother and I might have a Tonka toy of an old Wagoneer, a military Jeep or a CJ. But, a real live one? Who would have thought about it in my 50-plus years of living?

It is a great gift. A Jeep is a vehicle that honors its legacy of being the victor in war and conqueror of all majesty of this wonderful land of ours. It is the embodiment of the spirit of the U.S. of A. in sheetmetal.

I could wax poetic over the Stars-and-Stripes and everything patriotic, but there is a new reality for Jeep. Though Willys-Overland and Ford began producing the Jeep as a versatile implement for Allied forces in World War II, it became a civilian after the last bullets were fired. Willys-Overland built not only the civilian version of the war hero, but added fun models that could be driven in town, as well as up in the mountains or down on the farm.

The Jeep brand had changed hands many times over the past 75 years. Continue reading

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