car daewoo

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Wiesmann is a brand that has disappeared into thin air. But not only small series manufacturers go under.

They built “pure emotion, offered cars in “sporty tailor-made suit or simply “cheap as never and then they were suddenly gone. More than ten brands have disappeared from the German market since 2000. The reasons are very different.

So now it is: For two decades, the automotive world watched Lancia fight a hopeless battle for survival. Until it was recently reported from Italy that they were going to let the brand die in all markets outside of its home country. But this is only the latest death news. In the past few years, a whole series of brands have been laid to rest. Some of them still regret the disappearance, others did not notice the end, because nobody cared about the models anymore. When car brands are discontinued, there are very different reasons behind it: Sometimes potential buyers simply give the showrooms a wide berth, sometimes managers addicted to profiling impose their will without thinking about business realities – but not infrequently, carmakers have fallen victim to the incredible boredom of their products.

False name and knock-off

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Lancia once built noble cars.

The name Proton sounds somehow like detergent, but it is the abbreviation for Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional – translated National Automobile Company. The brand from Malaysia was launched in Germany in 1995. The promise of a six-year warranty was supposed to distract customers from the fact that they only offered licensed models based on Mitsubishi. What didn’t work: in 2001, Proton in Germany gave up again. “The biggest problem with a brand like Proton was its “arbitrariness”, says automotive expert Andreas Bremer of the IfA Institute for Automotive Market Research. “I can’t remember any of their models today.” Meaningless names like Proton 300 or 400 accelerated oblivion.

At the Saab it was the other way round: the brand was famous for the fact that its cars were something special – even the equally meaningless model names such as 900, 9000 or 9-3 did not change this. “Saab was the brand for individualists – but then came General Motors”, Bremer summarizes the problem. After the beginning of the so-called partnership with the US corporation, Saab became a shadow of its former self: They built poorly disguised knock-offs of mass-produced models like the Opel Vectra – the customers stayed away. GM later divested Saab, and the automaker filed for bankruptcy in Sweden in late 2011. Since the fall of 2013, Saab cars have once again been built in very small series in the factory halls, but the future does not appear to be truly secure.

There is still something going on

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Maybach was a brand nobody called for.

Still in the fall of 2013, an Lancia-Spokesman quoted as saying that it would be madness to let this brand die. But Lancia has not really existed for years now. What was once synonymous with advanced technology and inspiring design was by the end – with the exception of the Ypsilon small car – little more than a nameplate on Chrysler sheet metal. Despite the long infirmity, expert Bremer does not rule out a Lancia comeback in the future: “This brand has such a name, such a sound – it will not disappear forever.”

Also Maybach was a brand with a great history – but it was long forgotten when Daimler decided to revive it as a luxury division in 2002. “This was a brand that no one was clamoring for”, Bremer summarizes. Above all, the design of the cars was disappointing, and they were also marketed as a “pimped S-Class” were perceived by Mercedes. Last vehicles one sold 2013, that was it then. Malicious tongues claim that the origin of the Maybach plan can be traced back to the fact that a former company boss wanted to create a monument for himself with it anyway.

Nonsense to the power of two

Nonsense to the power of two – that’s roughly how the history of Daewoo/Chevrolet that swept both of these brands off the lot. In the case of Daewoo, Andreas Bremer diagnoses the same problem as with Proton: arbitrary cars without a face, which even a low price could not save. Daewoo – Korean for “Great Universe” – sold initially grayed-out technology such as the last Opel Kadett in a reasonably new guise in Germany from 1994 onwards. In 1998 the brand was taken over by General Motors, where in 2005 they came up with the idea of hawking the typical small car in Europe as Chevrolet. “No one could understand that. If you associate the name Chevrolet with anything in Europe, it’s definitely not small cars.” Chevrolet now plans to largely withdraw from the European market by 2016.

Being a traditional brand, having a reputation that can almost be called historic – that can also have a soporific effect. In the seventies MG Rover in the eyes of the public only for poor quality and old technology, in the eighties they kept their head above water only through a cooperation with Honda. Then BMW took over the helm and had big plans: they developed the new Rover 75 and the MG-F roadster – but that’s all they came up with. “What BMW did was too little and too late”, says Andreas Bremer. In 2000, BMW parted company with Rover. MG Rover then found itself in a downward spiral that lasted for years and ended in China. And while the car world waited for the final death news, MG gave a quiet rattle: new designs (developed in China) like MG 3 and MG 6 were offered again in the UK.

Although large corporations also regularly discontinue brands, small manufacturers repeatedly try to get their piece of the pie – and eventually have to give up. Wiesmann offered luxurious roadsters with BMW technology, Artega designed a Porsche competitor, and in the USA the Fisker Showing the world how to mix up the luxury class with an electric car. “In the beginning, the Wiesmann was a car to kneel down”, enthuses Andreas Bremer. “But ten years later it still looked the same.” The brand had indeed found its market niche, exhausted it – then it wanted to grow and had to realize that more was not possible.

Artega, on the other hand, approached the subject of sports car construction in a highly professional manner, but made a miscalculation, among other things, in the assumption that buyers would want a VW engine in an 80.000-euro two-seater. The Fisker Karma, on the other hand, was highly praised all over the world, but its finances got into trouble. It is said that the production of a single car costs more than 600.000 dollars gobbled up – which, with a selling price of at best 100.000 dollars had to lead to problems, to say the least. In October 2013, the company was taken over by Chinese investors, future uncertain.

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