Journal: News & Comment

Monday, April 11, 2005
# 11:09:00 PM:

Not your father's Oldsmobile

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My in-laws bought new cars this past week. Good for them. They purchased an Oldsmobile Alero and a Buick Century.

What's interesting is that I don't think I know a single person of my generation or younger who would even consider buying a new Oldsmobile or Buick. (Second-hand beater? Sure! But new? From a dealer?) Yes, there are demographic differences in car buying—I once saw a middle-aged man driving a white Volkswagen Cabriolet, and it was just wrong—but these are stark choices.

My father-in-law has been a GM man for a long time, but most of my peers aren't wedded to a single manufacturer in the way buyers seemed to be decades ago, when Dodge drivers looked down upon Plymouths, and vice versa. My wife and I own a Ford and a Toyota, for instance, and by the time we need new cars, nearly anything's up for grabs: Honda, Volkswagen, Nissan, Hyundai, Volvo, Mazda, Mini, or Mercedes Smart Car (as well as others) might all the in the running.

But not Oldsmobile or Buick. They're so far off the radar, so associated with taxi companies and different generations that I don't find it a surprise that the Oldsmobile brand has been shut down—or that I hadn't even noticed. Buick soliders on as a semi-upscale but still somewhat stale brand, at least to people under 50. (Cadillac miraculously avoided a similar fate in recent years by completely reorienting the kinds of cars it makes and buyers it seeks.)

My father-in-law's 2004 Alero is the last year and model of Oldsmobile ever produced, which is cool in its own way. A sad end to the brand that was North America's oldest, and with its "Rocket 88" inspired one of the first rock 'n' roll records. But us young'uns will hardly miss it.


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