Last week, Murilee Martin opined in Autoblog that there'd never been a degradation of a formerly respected automotive name quite like this one:

[P]erhaps the biggest demotion for a once-proud model came when, in 1988, General Motors imported a misery-enhancing Daewoo from Korea and called it the Pontiac LeMans.

The original Pontiac LeMans was a great-looking midsize car with fairly advanced (for the time) suspension design and engine options including potent V8s and a screaming overhead-cam straight-six. The Daewoo-based Pontiac LeMans was a cramped, shoddy hooptie that served only to ruin the LeMans name forever, while stealing sales from the Suzuki-based Chevrolet Sprint.

This faux LeMans did not actually hasten the end of Pontiac: that was the work of GM bean counters under the bankruptcy gun who calculated that over a year's time, a quarter-million Pontiac sales in the US were ultimately of less importance than a hundred thousand Buicks sold in the States and a hundred thousand more in China; they'd decided that they knew where their growth was coming from, and it wasn't from any of their loyal buyers from years gone by. And we're about to get our first Chinese-built Buick, the Envision, a two-row crossover with turbo-four power and a decidedly un-Chinese-sounding $40,000 price tag. This roused a segment of the Perpetually Outraged, who swore by (and sometimes on) their very iPhones that they would never, ever drive something built under the auspices of the New Yellow Peril.

It's not that brand names haven't messed themselves up before. In 1982, Cadillac had almost put its name on a tarted-up version of General Motors' indifferent J-body compact. But making the badge read "Cimarron by Cadillac" instead of "Cadillac Cimarron" was as much nuance as this car would ever get, and buyers, seeing the $12,000 price tag on the same car they could get from other GM divisions for barely more than half that, avoided it in droves. Cadillac, even today, still hasn't fully recovered from this blatant debasing of "The Standard of the World."

This being a Presidential election year, it seems only fair to mention that both our major political parties have been cheapening their brands in recent years. The Democrats, despite calls for unity among its client groups, none of whom have any particular reason to speak to one another, have pared down their list of Major Issues to a single item, reasoning (if that's the word) that the only thing that truly matters to American women is the ability to screw indiscriminately without consequences. Why they haven't rebranded themselves as the Abortion Party is a simple matter of bad optics.

Meanwhile, the Republicans don't stand for anything except not being Democrats; their current Presidential standard-bearer has been a Democrat more often than he's been a Republican. (There is no small hilarity in the fact that both halves of the Libertarian ticket this year are ex-Republicans.) The only practical difference between those two parties is this: the Democrats constantly pander to their base, while the Republicans actively scorn theirs. Were I a predicting man, I'd say that neither of these two loose aggregations of power-seekers is long for this world, and it's hard to imagine, once things settle down, how either of them would be missed. (Anyone shed a tear for the Whigs lately?) It wasn't that long ago that both General Motors and smaller rival Chrysler went into receivership after long periods of producing unworthy products; both eventually survived, but neither is entirely recognizable anymore; Chrysler is now part of Fiat, and if chairman Sergio Marchionne gets his way, both of them will eventually be part of something else. Such is evolution, or maybe devolution.

And I'm almost amused at the idea of being The Last Straight White Male in the Democratic Party; once it implodes — spoiled college kids and IWW types have only one thing in common, and that's how to spell "oppression" — I could have the opportunity to make it over in mine own image, which will kill it for sure.

The Vent

  1 June 2016

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