General Motors Introduces Long-Awaited Intended Obsolescence Program

by Miles Cook
Photos by the author and from the Edmunds.com archives

Finally making it official, as we've always hoped they would, General Motors Corporation announced its newest plan that will provide the company an ideal way to cancel various car and truck programs once GM has finally gotten them right.

Long adept at doing it in an unofficial capacity, GM will no longer have to hide behind the curtain when it realizes the best cars it makes are not worthy of production. "We're thrilled with the realization of this get-rid-of-it-once-it's-right concept," noted Joe Killemoff, in a packed media news conference at GM's Renaissance Center headquarters in downtown Detroit. "Now we no longer need to worry about finally getting a car up to par then having to wade through corporate red tape to get its production stopped."

The timing of the measure couldn't be any better, Killemoff further iterated. "The end of F-body production is just around the corner," he noted. "Now we'll be able to turn Camaro and Firebird into front-wheel-drive skeletons of their former selves with minimal hassle."

Performance purists will note that current Camaro and Firebird models are as ripe as can be for the first vehicle line to fall under this innovative industry-first mantra. The LS1 small-block V8 puts any Mustang to shame, the chassis dynamics are quite enjoyable on the street or the track, and the platform is packed with a performance-to-dollar ratio unobtainable in any other car. While the F-car platform has its flaws like any other car on the road, its star-quality strengths make it the perfect vehicle line to become the first car cancelled simply because it's so good.

Of all the cars GM has dropped because of how good they are, the Camaro and Firebird serve as the best examples. However, that doesn't mean there haven't been a number of others that serve to illustrate the need for this groundbreaking program. The Pontiac Fiero started out as an interesting car with lots of potential. But the '88 Fiero GT with its well-outfitted underpinnings, best-of-the-marque styling and healthy 2.8-liter V6 was an early example of the need for an official way to cancel GM's best cars.

But the need for this program really became apparent with the GM B-body platform, which included the Chevrolet Caprice, Buick Roadmaster and Cadillac Fleetwood. In fact, we would've advised that this idea be turned into corporate policy more than ever with the appearance of the '96 Impala SS. Debuting at the 1992 SEMA Show, the Impala SS was already the perfect car to produce and drop before it was even approved for production. For 1994, this one-of-a-kind modern American performance icon charmed enthusiasts who love big and fast cars the world over. With its police-car-derived suspension, 17-inch wheels and tires, and Corvette LT1 engine with 260 horsepower, one ad campaign couldn't have been more on the mark when it proclaimed, "Lord Vader, your car is ready." For 1995, we wondered if GM had goofed on what it does so well when the Impala was available for another year. We knew, though, that all was right with the world when they got the SS perfect just in time for its timely demise. The hokey digital dashboard with no tach was swapped for proper analog gauges with a tach and the dorky column shifter was tossed in favor of an attractive console and appropriate floor shifter. Besides the F-body, the Impala SS (and all B-body derivatives) was the perfect car to illustrate the need for such a timely program. And furthermore, police agencies nationwide whose love for the rear-drive Caprice was unprecedented because of its roominess and Corvette-derived LT1 made the cause for cancellation of the B-body all the more sensible. It was GM's picture-perfect opportunity to give Ford Motor Company the entire police fleet market share with its less capable and much slower 4.6-liter-powered Crown Victoria - currently the only body-on-frame, rear-wheel-drive American car available today.

We at Edmunds.com applaud the measure and are already thinking that since the C5 Corvette is as awesome as it is, it might be the next car to fall under the auspices of this intelligent and forward-thinking corporate policy. Maybe the Corvette can reappear as a Briggs & Stratton-powered rickshaw -- the perfect garage mate to the current front-wheel-drive V6 Impala rental-fleet special for those times when one wants to get out and have a little fun on the way to the market.

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