There are several particularly bad cars that you can point an accusatory finger at for bankrupting General Motors, but as bad as models such as the Aztec, Uplander and Cimarron were, it can be argued that it was the X-body cars that really started the downfall of the company.
The fuel crisis in the early Seventies hit the US hard and suddenly people weren’t interested in all of those lumbering land yachts or muscle cars — they wanted reliability and good fuel economy. Cue the influx of Japanese cars to the market which sold in their droves.
In retaliation, GM hurriedly brought out the Chevrolet Citation, Oldsmobile Omega and Pontiac Phoenix — and they were plain awful. They were awkwardly proportioned and had terrible interiors prone to bits falling off. Maybe the door handles and gear knobs were just jumping ship — that would be understandable as all three suffered terrible issues ranging from design to reliability. Although GM had built the front-wheel drive Toronado and Eldorado before these three came along (and they were both fab) they had traditional longitudinally mounted engines; they’d never done cars with transverse-mounted motors, and it showed. The trio replaced the rear-drive compacts and initially sold well, but soon started suffering more recalls than any other vehicle programme. Wobbly suspension mounts, blown transmissions and brakes that would make the whole car shudder were common complaints. In fact, the latter would generate a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lawsuit...
Nobody at GM spent much time in doing the detailed engineering to ensure each car’s success; it was basically just a cut-n-shut job and when the complaints came rolling in, sales started to tank, badly.
The intent on the X-body was good — but the execution was a disaster...
You may also like: Not their finest hour: GM’s Hamtramck Plant
You may also like: Not their finest hour: Renault 25