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1337Delta764
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Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:23 am

As we should all know, out of the American auto manufacturers, Chevrolet competes with Ford and Dodge. Buick mostly competes with Chrysler, and formerly, Mercury. Cadillac mostly competes with Lincoln.

However, did Saturn, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile really have any domestic competitors? These brands weren't all important anyway, as they all were squeezed in between Chevy and Buick.
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luckyone
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:32 am

I think the most realistic answer is they competed with each other, much like the entire GM lineup of the 90's and early naughts. Too many brands and names flying around. And anybody with a brain could see that they're the same car. For a similar reason we don't see Plymouths anymore.
 
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:58 am

Quoting luckyone (Reply 1):
For a similar reason we don't see Plymouths anymore.

That was the primary competitor along with Mercury in the "poorly badge engineered versions of mediocre cars" segment.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 2:17 am

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 2):
That was the primary competitor along with Mercury in the "poorly badge engineered versions of mediocre cars" segment.

Um, Mercury always competed primarily against Buick, not Saturn/Pontiac/Oldsmobile. Both Buick and Mercury are considered semi-luxury brands. GM simply did a better job at differentiating Buick from Chevy.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 2:53 am

Saturn was going after the Japanese carmakers. Pontiac competed against Dodge and Ford (Ford also competed against Chevy). Oldsmobile and Buick were basically high-end and low-ends of the same market, except for the sporty models. Near the end, Oldsmobile was trying to go for the people who wanted European cars, but couldn't afford it.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 5:43 am

Who competed against Saturn, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile?

Mainly Saturn, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile.... Typical GM at the time. They competed a bit with the likes of Toyota and Mercury, but not as much as themselves. Crappy cars compete with other crappy cars.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 6:07 am

Quoting 1337Delta764 (Reply 3):
Um, Mercury always competed primarily against Buick, not Saturn/Pontiac/Oldsmobile.

Even Buicks are nicer than thinly disguised Tauruses. At least GM makes an effort with Buick. Not a really good one, but still an effort.

Quoting Braniff747SP (Reply 5):
Crappy cars compete with other crappy cars.

   I doubt anyone is really going to miss any of them. Some of the later Pontiacs weren't bad.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 11:50 am

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 6):
I doubt anyone is really going to miss any of them. Some of the later Pontiacs weren't bad.

I miss them. I always thought that Pontiac should be the Performance Division, Cadillac the Luxury Division, and Chevy the Utilitarian Division.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 12:25 pm

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 6):

   I doubt anyone is really going to miss any of them. Some of the later Pontiacs weren't bad.

You know what, I agree- the Pontiac G8 seemed to be a good car.... but in general, I stand behind my statement.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 3:02 pm

Originally there was the "low price three" Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth. One step up was the Pontiac, Mercury and Dodge. The next step up would Oldsmobile and De Soto. A step above them Buick and Chrysler and then the top of the line Cadillac, Lincoln and Imperial.

The Saturn was GM's idea of an import fighter (Honda, Toyota, etc) it failed for many reasons.
 
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 3:08 pm

Quoting 474218 (Reply 9):
Originally there was the "low price three" Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth. One step up was the Pontiac, Mercury and Dodge. The next step up would Oldsmobile and De Soto. A step above them Buick and Chrysler and then the top of the line Cadillac, Lincoln and Imperial.
  
It's also worth noting that prior to the downsizing that took place in the late 70s; moving a step up brandwise also meant that one was getting a larger vehicle (despite sharing identical platforms and components) as well among standard/full-size models.

Quoting 474218 (Reply 9):
The Saturn was GM's idea of an import fighter (Honda, Toyota, etc) it failed for many reasons.

IMHO, the biggest reason Saturn failed was because the brand along with its vehicle types were launched several years too late from a marketing standpoint.

[Edited 2011-07-01 08:12:58]
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 3:30 pm

Quoting PHLBOS (Reply 10):
It's also worth noting that prior to the downsizing that took place in the late 70s; moving a step up brandwise also meant that one was getting a larger vehicle as well among standard/full-size models.


Not necessary. In the 50', 60', and 70's you could get a Pontiac that was built on a Chevy frame or a Oldsmobile frame. you could also get an Oldsmobile built on a Buick frame. The 1962 Pontiac Catalina used a Chevy frame (120" wheel base), the Bonneville a Oldsmobile 88 frame (123' wb) and the Oldsmobile 98 was built on the Buick Invicta 225 (126" wb) frame.

So full sized GM cars in 1962 a Chevy had a 120" wheel base, Pontiac's 120" or 123" wheel base, the Oldsmobile a 123" or 126". Buick's were offered with 123" and 126" wheel bases and Cadillacs with 129' and 149" wheel bases.
 
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 4:21 pm

Quoting 474218 (Reply 11):
So full sized GM cars in 1962 a Chevy had a 120" wheel base

Wrong. From all of the car books/magazine sources I've read, the wheelbase of the full-size Chevy from 1959-1969 was 119".

Source that covers up to 1965 (it includes the '58 model (117.5" WB) as well):
http://auto.howstuffworks.com/1958-1965-chevrolet-impala5.htm

According to Wiki (for what it's worth), the Pontiac Catalina's wheelbase (excluding the station wagons) ranged as follows:

1959-1960: 122"
1961: 119" (matches the Chevy)
1962-1964: 120"
1965-1968: 121"
1969-1970: 122"
1971-1976: 123" (the Chevy's wheelbase was 121.5", except for the wagons)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontiac_Strato-Chief

Mind you, this is not to say that there weren't exceptions to this; but it seemed to be the general rule. On the Ford Motor Company end, prior to 1979 full-size Mercurys were traditionally (exceptions include the '69-'70 Marauder and the '61-'78 station wagons) larger than their Ford bretheren.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 4:30 pm

Quoting 474218 (Reply 9):
The Saturn was GM's idea of an import fighter (Honda, Toyota, etc) it failed for many reasons.
Quoting PHLBOS (Reply 10):
IMHO, the biggest reason Saturn failed was because the brand along with its vehicle types were launched several years too late from a marketing standpoint.

This completely ignores the fact that Saturn was extremely successful for about a decade. GM then diluted the brand and tried to make it larger, and it lost the way.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 5:45 pm

Quoting 474218 (Reply 9):
Pontiac, Mercury and Dodge

Mercury did not compete with Pontiac and Dodge, their primary competitors have always been Buick and Chrysler.

Also, consider that people who generally bought Mercury vehicles were older than the average car buyer, especially the Mercury Grand Marquis. This trait was shared with Buick.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 6:09 pm

Quoting 1337Delta764 (Reply 14):

Actually, during the 60s and, to some degree the 70s, Mercury's full-size line consisted of various trim levels (and names) that, to an extent, competed w/Pontiac and Dodge in addition to Buick, Olds and Chrysler.

Its basic sedans (most of which used the Monterey badge) were used as police cars alongside various Pontiacs and Dodges. While there were some LeSabres and Delta 88s used as police cars as well; Mercurys were used more often than those two brands for (mostly state police) agencies that wanted a car with a longer wheelbase than a standard Chevy, Ford or Plymouth.

A few Mercury Monterey police cars:

1970 model parked next to a 2007 Ford PI:
http://images19.fotki.com/v32/photos/4/42477/129631/007CVPIand1970MercuryMonterey2-vi.jpg

1973 model:


A bunch of 1970 models w/SFPD badges (likely former CHiP cars, note: the black rear doors, SFPD cars had white doors all-round) in a scene from the 1972 film What's Up Doc?


Vintage photo of a 1970 Monterey, sans the white CHiP door and badge, surrounded by 1969 CHiP Dodge Polaras


Vintage 1970 Monterey Coupe ad. marketing it as a "medium price" car.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0WdYzftqBQ

[Edited 2011-07-01 12:08:31]
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 6:22 pm

Quoting PHLBOS (Reply 15):
Its basic sedans (most of which used the Monterey badge) were used as police cars alongside various Pontiacs and Dodges. While there were some LeSabres and Delta 88s used as police cars as well; Mercurys were used more often than those two brands for (mostly state police) agencies that wanted a car with a longer wheelbase than a standard Chevy, Ford or Plymouth.

I've read of a few cop shops that seriously tried diesel Oldsmobiles. And you can guess what the end result was.

My hometown of Sugar Land Texas had a small fleet of LeSabre cop cars in 1978.

And reference the first two "Smokey & The Bandit" movies for Pontiac Lemans and Catalina's galore!

(And two Canadian cities had Aztek patrol units... :P)
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 6:48 pm

Quoting tristarenvy (Reply 16):
And reference the first two "Smokey & The Bandit" movies for Pontiac Lemans and Catalina's galore!

Actually, in Smokey & the Bandit - Part 2 or II Gleason's patrol car was a 1980 Bonneville (that a few times turned into a '76 Bonneville during stunt scenes). Later in the film, the various red and white new -model Pontiac LeMans patrol cars turned into AMC Ambassadors and Matadors during the crash scenes.

Quoting tristarenvy (Reply 16):
I've read of a few cop shops that seriously tried diesel Oldsmobiles.

In 1979 and 1980, my hometown of Marblehead, Massachusetts used non-diesel Delta 88s. Those replaced '78 Monacos and '77 Royal Monacos. From '81 to about '85, they went w/Impalas; and then from then on to Crown Vics.

[Edited 2011-07-01 11:52:08]
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 7:00 pm

Quoting Dreadnought (Reply 7):
miss them. I always thought that Pontiac should be the Performance Division, Cadillac the Luxury Division, and Chevy the Utilitarian Division.

I agree. And I truly miss the Pontiac brand, having owned 5 different Pontiacs over the years. 2 Grand Prixs, 2 Grand Ams, and a LeMans.

The recent GTO and the G8 sports sedans were very competent, exclusive vehicles (thanks to Holden) for the North American market. Shame the G8 station wagon (Safari?) and the Ute versions never made it to market before GM murdered Pontiac... and Saturn.... and Saab.... and Oldsmobile...   
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 7:10 pm

Quoting Dreadnought (Reply 7):
I always thought that Pontiac should be the Performance Division

They didn't get that memo until it was too late. Besides, GM management seems allergic to decent models.

Quoting Dreadnought (Reply 7):
Cadillac the Luxury Division

Sort of.

Quoting stasisLAX (Reply 18):
The recent GTO and the G8 sports sedans were very competent, exclusive vehicles (thanks to Holden) for the North American market.

Those models were pretty good, but then GM killed them.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 7:14 pm

Quoting stasisLAX (Reply 18):
before GM murdered Pontiac... and Saturn.... and Saab.... and Oldsmobile...

I believe Saab is still around at the moment but it's no longer a GM entity.

[Edited 2011-07-01 12:16:38]
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 7:47 pm

Quoting PHLBOS (Reply 12):
Wrong. From all of the car books/magazine sources I've read, the wheelbase of the full-size Chevy from 1959-1969 was 119".


I agree, I read the wrong chart.
 
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 8:11 pm

Quoting PHLBOS (Reply 17):
Actually, in Smokey & the Bandit - Part 2 or II Gleason's patrol car was a 1980 Bonneville (that a few times turned into a '76 Bonneville during stunt scenes). Later in the film, the various red and white new -model Pontiac LeMans patrol cars turned into AMC Ambassadors and Matadors during the crash scenes.

Oy! That movie makes my head spin with continuity mistakes. The Bonniville loses it's skirts...then becomes the '76..then changes agin to another Pontiac. But I'm a car geek so I notice that mess.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 8:18 pm

Quoting tristarenvy (Reply 22):
But I'm a car geek so I notice that mess.

Same here, along w/my older brother. When we both saw that film (it was just released in the theaters at the time); we were both commenting on that.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 8:56 pm

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 19):
Quoting Dreadnought (Reply 7):
I always thought that Pontiac should be the Performance Division

They didn't get that memo until it was too late. Besides, GM management seems allergic to decent models.

Quoting Dreadnought (Reply 7):
Cadillac the Luxury Division

Sort of.

I was opining on what they SHOULD be, not what they were. Pontiac would offer cars which would compete with BMW or Porsche, Cadillac would face Mercedes and Jaguar, and Chevy would face Toyota and Nissan.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 9:23 pm

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 6):
I doubt anyone is really going to miss any of them. Some of the later Pontiacs weren't bad

My fiance drives a 2008 (09?) Saturn Aura. A nice 6 cylinder car, decent interior. She loves it. I think it's pretty good. It seemed to me Saturn found something good, but it was too late. They turned a corner before they went away.
I preferred them over most others, at least they were original looking.

Quoting PHLBOS (Reply 20):
I believe Saab is still around at the moment but it's no longer a GM entity.

I hear Saab is on the ropes and hurting badly right now. They, like Saturn have nice, unique looking cars.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 11:09 pm

Quoting aa61hvy (Reply 25):
It seemed to me Saturn found something good, but it was too late.

The later Saturns got better, but still they weren't anything that you couldn't find with another brand.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 01, 2011 11:57 pm

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 26):
The later Saturns got better, but still they weren't anything that you couldn't find with another brand.

I'm speaking specifically about looks, interior wise its comparable to others in that class. Exterior, there was no car that looked like it. All of those Toyotas/Hyundai etc all look the same to me.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Sat Jul 02, 2011 3:19 am

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 6):
I doubt anyone is really going to miss any of them. Some of the later Pontiacs weren't bad.

I'm a huge Pontiac fan, so I'll definitely miss them. In fact, there has been no GM car of the last couple years I'd consider buying. So once the used market for Pontiacs and some older Cadillacs dries up, I'll be looking for Fords. And I'm not alone in the Upper Midwest. Pontiacs were very popular around here. I even know a few Saturn owners that couldn't find anything else they liked. GM may regret what they did.
 
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Wed Jul 06, 2011 4:09 pm

Quoting aa61hvy (Reply 25):
My fiance drives a 2008 (09?) Saturn Aura. A nice 6 cylinder car, decent interior. She loves it. I think it's pretty good. It seemed to me Saturn found something good, but it was too late. They turned a corner before they went away.
I preferred them over most others, at least they were original looking.

The Saturn Aura is essentially a twin version of the last Opel Vectra with some sheetmetal and interior tweaks. I have never driven an Aura or ridden in one (although I have ridden in an Opel Vectra of that very generation), but I agree it is a good car, although it is true as you say that it probably arrived too late. A pity. The Vectra in Europe, btw, was replaced by a bigger and much more modern new model called Opel Insignia which, interestingly, is now the foundation of the Buick Regal. So, in a strange way, the current Buick Regal is kind of the replacement of the Saturn Aura.

Quoting aa61hvy (Reply 25):
I hear Saab is on the ropes and hurting badly right now. They, like Saturn have nice, unique looking cars.

They are doing pretty bad. Lots of desperate financial engineering moves are being done to try to save them... loans, sales-and-leasebacks, paid in advance orders from Chinese retailers, bringing in new investors through share issuances. The problem is that they barely have cash to pay workers and suppliers, and sales of the 9-5 do not seem to be picking up.

Quoting MSPNWA (Reply 28):
I'm a huge Pontiac fan,

GM screwed Pontiac systematically during the 80s, 90s and early 00s by adding some really gaudy and horrible plastic skirts and add-ons over the fenders and doors, etc. The interiors were also very cheap. I cannot believe consumers and GM management let this happen for so long. The G8 was a great car, though. Brilliant. Again, it was a case of too little too late, for the fate of Pontiac was sealed long before the arrival of the G8. Lucky Aussies who can still enjoy the Holden car that served as the base for the G8.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Wed Jul 06, 2011 6:24 pm

Quoting EddieDude (Reply 29):
The Saturn Aura is essentially a twin version of the last Opel Vectra with some sheetmetal and interior tweaks.

No. There was some resemblance, but it's just about it. The Aura was built on the same platform as the Vectra, however with a significantly increased wheelbase (2852 mm compared to 2640 mm). The engines and transmissions were completely different too.
Aura's closest relatives are the Chevy Malibu and Pontiac G6, which was the second US model built on stretched Epsilon platform.
Saturn had one European model in it's line-up before the end, the Saturn Astra (obviously Opel Astra). The Saturn Sky was sold in Europe as Opel GT, however in was manufactured in Wilmington, DE.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Thu Jul 07, 2011 8:34 pm

Quoting tristarenvy (Reply 22):
Oy! That movie makes my head spin with continuity mistakes. The Bonniville loses it's skirts...then becomes the '76..then changes agin to another Pontiac. But I'm a car geek so I notice that mess.

Season 4 of Dexter has similar errors. The night and crash scenes show him driving an older Kia Sportage. In daylight he is clearly driving a Ford Escape :P.
 
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Thu Jul 07, 2011 9:35 pm

Alot of the problems with these brands is that they just outlived their markets, or markets continually changed and the corporations didn't change the brands with them.

Back in 1967, Pontiac was the third best selling brand in the world, despite having virtually no presence outside the United States. But when created in 1926, Pontiac was something of an "expansion team" - an outgrowth of an older brand called Oakland meant to be a newer, slightly nicer, mid-price car. By the 2000s, it was an irrelevant sideshow used mostly for filling fleet orders.

Back in the 1920s there were alot more brands than there are now, and indeed, far more market segmentation. Back then, there were still "regional" automakers from places as far afield as Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and especially Indiana - which rivaled Michigan in terms of car production. As the automobile matured from an invention into an every day part of life, so too did the companies that made them - and the big battalions like GM and Hudson-Essex-Terraplane were the companies that took advantage of economies of scale, pushing out the smaller makers. They offered, in some cases, really wide varieties of cars. And as the 1920's boom came to a close (not that they knew it at the time), they expanded their lineups ever further.

As Pontiac was a companion to Oakland, LaSalle was a companion to Cadillac. Oldsmobile and Buick got companions in 1929 - the Viking and the Marquette, respectively. But these plans fell apart because of the depression and those makes didn't last very long.

LaSalle helped Cadillac ride out the depression while keeping it's senior models firmly in the luxury world. Packard degraded it's brand during this time by making up the loss in sales of the senior models with cheaper Packards. When times began to get good again, dealers didn't want to abandon these cash spinners, and so Packard failed to heed the warning when Cadillac cancelled the LaSalle in 1940. By 1950, Cadillac had permanently captured the crown as a result.

But that tells only part of the story of market segmentation.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Alfred P. Sloan more or less invented the modern automotive marketing concept - a car for every purse and purpose. Chevrolet for the entry level, Pontiac slightly above. Oldsmobile for the working professional and middle classes, Buick for the upper middle class and the white collar crowd, Cadillac for people with means. And this still works today - where you can see Lexus make alot of money off of some models that share a huge amount of DNA with workaday Toyotas.

But let's digress from GM and Toyota, and the 1930's, for a time and cast our eyes over to Great Britain.

In England many of the smaller makes were gobbled up by larger players until basically three companies ruled over 90% of car production there. British Motor Corporation had Austin and Morris - the old volume rivals, MG for sports cars, Wolseley and Riley for the upper middle class, and Vanden Plas at some points for luxury - but they mostly left luxury to the crosstown rival at Leyland Group, who controlled Rover - a near-luxury brand until 1970, Land Rover, Standard (an old line brand who's name did them in by the 1960s), and Triumph, for sporty cars not unlike the BMW's of today. BMC had also gained control of Jaguar/Daimler/BSA by the late sixties. The Rootes Group gobbled up mainstreamers Hillman and Singer as well as sporty Sunbeam and luxury-oriented Humber.

England is not a big country and the European market was never as big as the American market - so this meant that these companies had all these brands mainly competing with each other as well as continental rivals like Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat, etc., and the homegrown versions of Detroit corporations - Vauxhall and Ford.

In 1969, BMC and Leyland were merged, and now you had one company with the following stable of brands:

Austin
Morris
MG
Triumph
Wolseley
Riley
Vanden Plas
Jaguar
Land Rover
Vanden Plas
Daimler

...and still had the rights to even more nameplates.

What nobody was talking about was the fact that most of the products of these brands were aimed directly at eachother rather than at foreign competitors, and in some cases, the nameplates had not produced a distinct vehicle of their own for many years. Wolseley's ceased to have any real differences from their Austin/Morris counterparts in the early 1960s, but they were still in production into 1975.

Needless to say, the fact that many brands overlapped was only one of the problems that British Leyland had (for those of you who hate the UAW, BL's unions were much, much worse) - but it presented the customer with no compelling reason to buy one brand over another while duplicating and complicating sales and marketing efforts.


But back to the United States.

Pontiac reached it's zenith in perhaps 1967-1969. It was reliably the number three brand in America and it's product were perfectly tailored for a decade of speed, space exploration, horsepower, and smooth and subtle styling. But in the early seventies all of the virtues that had been Pontiac's to market began to fall out of favor. Instead of speed, customers wanted luxury - or at least the trappings of luxury. What made Pontiac popular in the 1960's helped sink it a decade later, as high fuel costs, increasing insurance premiums, and an emphasis on luxury rather than performance (which came out of sharply declining performance numbers) made Oldsmobile the number three brand.

If the sixties belonged to Performance Pontiacs, the seventies belonged to vynil-clad Oldsmobiles with plush interiors and opera windows.

Then something happened that would set the tone for this very discussion we're having today.

In 1977, several Oldsmobile owners lifted the hoods on their Delta 88's to find that they had been driving cars with Chevrolet 305 V8s instead of Oldsmobile Rocket 307s. The "chevymobile" affair, as it became popularly known, underscored what industry people had already long known - that while GM cars were marketed under different brands and styled individually, they were all really similar underneath, except for those engines and parts developed by the individual divisions.

In the 1970's, GM began to experiment with cross-pollenating those parts to create even larger economies of scale and to rush fuel-efficient engines to market. The old Buick V6 was bought back from AMC and installed into everything except the big C-body cars (that too, would come in time). Once GM figured out how much money it could save by having one V8 instead of five, the older Buick, Pontiac, Cadillac, and Oldsmobile engines were quietly (with one exception*) phased out in favor of "corporate" powerplants.

In the 1980s, this corporate attitude extended to the rest of the aspects of the product, not just the engines, and the big change occurred in 1980-1982, from the cessation of the individual engine choices to the launch of the new-for-'82 A-body cars. These cars were featured in an infamous article that lampooned how similar they all looked to eachother. Though part of the problem was blamed on federal safety standards, in fact by 1982 the standards that were enacted in the seventies for impact bumpers were actually being relaxed, and GM itself had come up with more innovative solutions back then than what it was doing in 1982.

Because the cars became less superficially different and certainly less mechanically different, the distinctions between the brands became less and less obvious. What's the difference between a Buick Century and an Oldsmobile Ciera, would be a typical question asked by a buyer in say, 1991. And really, there was no difference.

The concept of every-purse-and-purpose worked well when the cars were appreciably different from eachother and when each brand could hang it's hat on some individual virtue - Chevy = Value, Pontiac = Performance, Oldsmobile = Innovation, Buick = Conservativism, Cadillac = Luxury. But in 1988, when all five divisions were offering a slightly dressed up version of the Chevy Cavalier, this just didn't apply anymore.

Eventually, things would have to be rationalized - but GM didn't take the steps it needed to take until the mid 2000's.

Saturn was an idea that took eight years to create and it resulted in a very individual product - and a good product - in 1991. But in typical GM fashion, it then sat around for years and years and by 2000 was no longer fresh. In 2004, the idea to give Saturn a full lineup of modern stuff was a good one - and so in 2008 Saturn had it's best lineup ever - Astra, Aura, Vue, Outlook, Sky. But by then, the damage was done. Saturn wasn't relevant and to make it relevant would require eating more losses for another decade and supporting that network and those models, and GM didn't have the cash to do that or the time to wait.

For many similar reasons we no longer have Plymouth or Mercury. Plymouth being a much more egregious case - where the division was constantly starved of new, individual product from roughly 1974 to it's demise. Other than the Arrow in the seventies and the Prowler in the 90s, it really had nothing to offer that you couldn't get at Dodge. And Dodge and Plymouth dealers competed with eachother, even internally the divisions seemed to war with eachother for resources and the right to control new models. Dodge won, Plymouth died.

Mercury of course, was originally a fancy Ford, then graduated to it's own cars for parts of the 1950s, then descended gradually back into a world of fancy fords. And nothing really unique to offer other than a different grille or better options. It's amazing, in hindsight, that it lasted as long as it did.

In the meantime though, we can see some people who've taken the exact same concepts and done them well - particularly the Volkswagen Group. In Europe you can buy a Seat, Skoda, Audi, or VW but most of the share platforms. But the ideas that once worked for Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Chevy are alive and well there because of the differentiation in markets and marketing.


*Cadillac's last individual V8 from it's old-school lineup was the 368. A decent engine that replaced the larger 425 V8 in 1980, in 1981 it got variable displacement developed by Eaton. The spectacular failure of this engine resulted in the old Cadillac engine line, which stretched back to 1948, coming to an abrupt end. In 1982, Cadillac came out with the troubled HT4100 "small" V8, which was a total turd. At the same time, Oldsmobile's 307, Chevrolet's 305, and Buick's 231 V6 became the standard engines for virtually everything else in the line except for the Corvette and Trucks.
 
Flighty
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 08, 2011 1:33 am

Saturn competed with imports, not GM or US brands. But the problem was, Saturn lost money. They sold cars, made people happy, but they never actually earned a dime.

Olds was a substitute Buick and Pontiac was just another Chevy. The brands were not needed.

I mean, if you said Pick 2: (Olds, Chevy, Buick, Pontiac), you'd have to pick Chevy, and then probably Buick. The Olds = import strategy (1995-2005) was interesting but ultimately was not really related to the Olds brand.
 
PHLBOS
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:57 pm

Quoting CargoLex (Reply 32):
In 1977, several Oldsmobile owners lifted the hoods on their Delta 88's to find that they had been driving cars with Chevrolet 305 V8s instead of Oldsmobile Rocket 307s.

Since the 307 was still available and widely used on cars through the mid-to-late 80s; '77 Delta 88s fitted w/305s might've been done to address a surge in demand for that year. The downsized '77 B (& C) bodies proved to be profitable to GM. It's possible that there was a temporary shortage of 307s at that given time.

Quoting CargoLex (Reply 32):
These cars were featured in an infamous article that lampooned how similar they all looked to each other.

Wrong, the ad that you speak was for the '85 Lincoln Town Car that lampooned the then-newly-downsized (and converted to FWD) C bodies (DeVille/Fleetwood/Electra/Ninety-Eight). The parking valets could not distinguish the Cadillac from the Buick from the Olds.

Unfortunately, I could NOT find the ad on YouTube; otherwise, I would have posted it.

Quoting CargoLex (Reply 32):
Though part of the problem was blamed on federal safety standards, in fact by 1982 the standards that were enacted in the seventies for impact bumpers were actually being relaxed, and GM itself had come up with more innovative solutions back then than what it was doing in 1982.
No offense, but the relaxation of the bumper standard is irrelevant to the development of the '82 FWD A-bodies. The relaxation of the bumper standard (from 5 mph to 2.5 mph) took effect for the 1983 model year; a year to a year-and-a-half AFTER the FWD A-bodies rolled out in the spring of 1981 (as early 82s). FYI, Ford maintained the 5-mph standard a decade-and-a-half to 2 decades after the roll-back.

One thing that you did NOT mention, and this is a surprise given the length of your post, was an attempt during the mid-80s by GM to separate the brands in such a way that Chevy and Pontiac would be the brands offering small and/or sporty cars while Buick, Cadillac & Olds would only offer larger cars. One could say that the first sign of this movement was Pontiac's decision to halt production of its B-bodied Catalina/Bonneville (Laurentian/Parisienne in Canada) after the 1981 model year. However, due to customers still wanting large Pontiacs, the Canadian market would receive a badge-engineered Caprice for 1982 which became available in the U.S. several months later (as an early-83 model). Despite that about-face move on Pontiac's part; plans were still set to retire the RWD B (& C) bodies.

This short-lived and ultimately-aborted size separation attempt by GM was the main reason why Chevy and Pontiac (at least initially) did not got versions of the FWD H-body that was launched for the 1986 model year.

It was also GM's plan to essentially eliminate all RWDs except for the Corvette, the F-bodies (Camaro/Firebird/Trans Am) and possibly the Cadillac Brougham from its lineup by the late-80s.

Needless to say, the size/brand separation didn't come to full fruition. With gas prices either level or dropping; people STILL wanted the RWD Impala/Caprice (especially police forces and taxi companies) and Pontiac wanted an H-body of its own to replace BOTH the G-bodied Bonneville AND the B-bodied Parisienne (which it got in 1987).

Had GM not been on what seemed to be a jihad against it RWD full-sizes during the mid-80s (yes, the Caprice, Brougham and station wagons survived through the end of the 80s, but still); the size/brand separation effort might've worked. Police forces and taxi companies would've simply used either B-bodied Delta 88s or LeSabres as some did in the past en lieu of Impalas and later Caprices.

In hindsight, such size/brand separation could've worked for Ford and Mercury; Ford offering cars up to mid-sizes and Mercury offering mid and full-sizes. Cops and taxis would simply went for the lower-priced Grand Marquis GS model.
Had Ford done this a decade ago, maybe Mercury would not have died earlier this year.

Edited to add:

Quoting CargoLex (Reply 32):
Plymouth being a much more egregious case - where the division was constantly starved of new, individual product from roughly 1974 to it's demise.

Actually, Plymouth also had it rough INSIDE its own showroom when Chrysler started offering different vehicle sizes that either competed or took away from Plymouth.

First suspect:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vsg97bxuJnc

When everybody's 'sport' mid-size coupes were transitioning from muscle-cars to personal-luxury cars during the 70s; Plymouth was left out in the cold. Some might have wondered WHY Chrysler got the Cordoba and not Plymouth. Plymouth's mid-size Fury 2-doors of the time was marketed more as a bread-and-butter mid-size coupe along the lines of the Malibu and Torino coupes and not as a personal-luxury/sport cars like the Monte Carlo and Elite (and later Thunderbird).

When the M-body rolled out in 1977 (as the Chrysler LeBaron and Dodge Diplomat); the Plymouth model, the Caravelle, was only offered in the Canadian market.

In 1979, Plymouth had nothing larger than the Volare (& the Canadian Caravelle) to offer. It almost seemed that Chrysler Corp. was either planning to kill Plymouth off back then OR it was attempting to separate the brands by model size. Again, if done properly; it could've been a successful tactic. Needless to say, Plymouth would get the R-body-based Gran Fury a year later but it would be short-lived (the entire platform was killed outright after 1981).

Although in the early-80s, it seemed as if Plymouth was getting somewhat revived when its M-body was renamed the Gran Fury and was offered to the U.S. market in 1982, its FWD E-body Caravelle replaced the new-for '83 Chrysler E-Class in 1984 (Chrysler still had its dressier E-body New Yorker in the line-up), and when it launched its Voyager (a name last used on their full-size vans of the 70s, yes they had them along w/pick-up trucks) minivan that same year.

However when Chrysler got its own version of the minivan (which took the Town & Country badge away from its car offerings), 2 years later; the hand-writing seemed to be on the wall for Plymouth.

[Edited 2011-07-08 12:57:12]
"TransEastern! You'll feel like you've never left the ground because we treat you like dirt!" SNL Parady ad circa 1981
 
PHLBOS
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:10 pm

Since it's too late to edit my previous post, I'll comment here.

For those that don't know, the PT Cruiser WAS originally planned/intended to be a Plymouth model; but the decision to drop the brand just prior to its launch was why it ultimately branded as a Chrysler.
"TransEastern! You'll feel like you've never left the ground because we treat you like dirt!" SNL Parady ad circa 1981
 
Type-Rated
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Sun Jul 10, 2011 5:08 am

First time I saw a 307 engine was on a 68 Chevy Biscayne. So it had been around a long time.

I remember when GN first started the Saturn division, it was destined to be their "high technology" name plate. They promised things like ceramic engines, cars with very high fuel mileage and lots of technical excellence. Well, it didn't take then to long to abandon that idea and just make normal econoboxes.

As far as Pontiac goes, I know the name was huge in the hispanic martketplace, but rather slow elsewhere. With demise of the GTO (and the departure of John Delaurean) the first time around the company kind of languished on for years.
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prosa
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Sun Jul 10, 2011 5:53 pm

GM also got rid of Hummer, a brand that practically screamed "wretched excess" and was wholly inappropriate for recessionary times.
"Let me think about it" = the coward's way of saying "no"
 
cargolex
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Mon Jul 11, 2011 3:45 am

Quoting PHLBOS (Reply 34):
The downsized '77 B (& C) bodies proved to be profitable to GM. It's possible that there was a temporary shortage of 307s at that given time.

Indeed, they were really popular and for good reason. You got pretty much everything the older, larger cars offered but the downsized B/C cars offered far superior handling and economy (not BMW-like by any stretch, but far superior to the '71-'76 cars). The Cutlass was also in high demand during this period despite being in it's final year of the larger A-body, so indeed, Oldsmobile engines were in fact in short supply. The thing of it is, GM did not disclose what it was doing to buyers. Then, once they'd found how simple it was to substitute, the writing was on the wall as to how much duplication of resources there was among all the powerplants. In 1977 Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, and Oldsmobile all offered 350-cid V8's, all of them different from eachother. If you could just make do with one and put stickers on the valve covers, wouldn't that be alot more efficient? And that's how the decision was ultimately made to go with corporate powerplants, despite the bad PR from this incident.

I also need to make an amendment to my original post - the engines at issue in 1977 were 350s, not the 305 and the 307. The Oldsmobile 307 didn't come until until late 1979. This is what I get for posting while I have the flu.

A few of the older engines did last into the very early eighties - the Pontiac 301 in particular under the hoods of the Bonneville/Catalina and F-body - but the idea was to streamline, streamline, streamline - even if it meant some dilution of the unique capabilities of each division.

Quoting PHLBOS (Reply 34):

Unfortunately, I could NOT find the ad on YouTube; otherwise, I would have posted it.

You're right, I'd forgotten about that.

Quoting PHLBOS (Reply 34):
One thing that you did NOT mention, and this is a surprise given the length of your post, was an attempt during the mid-80s by GM to separate the brands in such a way that Chevy and Pontiac would be the brands offering small and/or sporty cars while Buick, Cadillac & Olds would only offer larger cars. One could say that the first sign of this movement was Pontiac's decision to halt production of its B-bodied Catalina/Bonneville (Laurentian/Parisienne in Canada) after the 1981 model year. However, due to customers still wanting large Pontiacs, the Canadian market would receive a badge-engineered Caprice for 1982 which became available in the U.S. several months later (as an early-83 model). Despite that about-face move on Pontiac's part; plans were still set to retire the RWD B (& C) bodies.

There was alot of thought given to actually doing this - but this doesn't comport with what actually happened, mainly because division managers and dealers wanted fuller product ranges. They'd seen how hard it was to be stuck with only big cars to sell in a time of rising fuel prices, particularly when their full-sizers got smacked in 1980, and didn't want to be caught out again even though the "smaller, lighter" phenomenon was losing steam even in 1981.

The cure they wanted though, was almost worse than the disease.

And that's why, in 1981, all five divisions launched versions of the J-car, with Cadillac's intro for the Cimarron happening several months ahead of the other 1982 intros, on May 21. In 1984, Buick, Pontiac, and Olds got the N-car, and then in 1986, Buick, Olds, and Cadillac all got massively shrunken version of the B car and the E car. Shrunken so much, in fact, that it really torpedoed sales of the E-cars (Eldorado/Seville, Riviera, Toronado). In wanting not to be caught out again, they went WAY too far in the other direction, resulting in bad big cars and poorly disguised economy cars in the wrong showrooms.

The problem here was an inflexibility and an unwillingness to really change things. This was true from the shop floor all the way to the boardroom at that time.

You're right that they did seem to have a mad-on for getting rid of RWD. But at the same time, so did many other companies - including Nissan, who were trying desperately to get rid of anything RWD other than sports cars, and producing mediocre FWD cars as replacements for RWD cars that had done fairly well in the previous decade. They also chose good ingredients for their FWD cars - the X-car was based on some very good design work that they cribbed from Lancia - but the execution let them down every time. It took two or three design cycles to adapt the ideas they'd seen in those Lancias (which they bought in huge numbers and hacked up). Whereas Chrysler, who had Simca's data to draw on even after they sold their foreign holdings in 1979, did very well designing it's own fwd cars, though it never got the automatic transmissions quite right in that first decade.

Indeed, the DNA of the K-cars, the Minivans, and all those related FWD products can be found in the humble Simca 1204, sold in Chrysler showrooms (very reluctantly) in the early seventies and later refined into what became the Omni/Horizon.

Quoting type-rated (Reply 36):
First time I saw a 307 engine was on a 68 Chevy Biscayne. So it had been around a long time.

Earlier on, there was a Chevrolet 307 - but the Olds 307 common from the fall of 1979 and into 1990 was a different animal that shared nothing with the Chevrolet 307. Chevy also offered a 302 in the early seventies - think of what a Ford guy would say finding a 302 inside a Camaro!

[Edited 2011-07-10 21:28:19]
 
PHLBOS
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Mon Jul 11, 2011 12:43 pm

Quoting CargoLex (Reply 38):
The thing of it is, GM did not disclose what it was doing to buyers. Then, once they'd found how simple it was to substitute, the writing was on the wall as to how much duplication of resources there was among all the powerplants.

It could've been worse; imagine somebody opening the hood of their late-70s B-body Chevy/Buick/Olds only to find Pontiac's 301 (an engine not known for its reliability) under the hood.

BTW, I did see your correction regarding the cross-offering of the various 350s. That made a bit more sense.

Quoting CargoLex (Reply 38):
They'd seen how hard it was to be stuck with only big cars to sell in a time of rising fuel prices, particularly when their full-sizers got smacked in 1980, and didn't want to be caught out again even though the "smaller, lighter" phenomenon was losing steam even in 1981.

Truth be told, by that time many Buick, Cadillac and Oldsmobile dealerships (at least in the Northeast) started carrying import brands as well; sometimes under the same roof.

It was (and now is) not uncommon to see (as examples) new Datsuns/Nissans sold among new Buicks or new Hondas sold among new Oldmobiles or even new Toyotas sold among new Chryslers.

So, to some extent, many dealer franchises were already diversifying their brand offerings in order to avoid loss of sales due to changing buying trends.

[Edited 2011-07-11 05:56:00]
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Mon Jul 11, 2011 10:58 pm

Quoting CargoLex (Reply 38):
Chevy also offered a 302 in the early seventies - think of what a Ford guy would say finding a 302 inside a Camaro!

But that Chevy 302 was only available in the special edition Z/28 Camaro and was blue printed from what I understand. It was not available in other Chevrolet autos at the time.
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:51 am

Quoting type-rated (Reply 40):
But that Chevy 302 was only available in the special edition Z/28 Camaro and was blue printed from what I understand. It was not available in other Chevrolet autos at the time.


Correct   

The 302 was an option on the 1967, 68 and 69 Z/28 Camaro only. The standard V8 in the Camaro was the 210 hp 327. However, the 302 was rated at 290 hp.
 
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:38 pm

Quoting CargoLex (Reply 38):
Indeed, the DNA of the K-cars, the Minivans, and all those related FWD products can be found in the humble Simca 1204, sold in Chrysler showrooms (very reluctantly) in the early seventies and later refined into what became the Omni/Horizon.

Could have been worse! Could have been Hillman Avenger/Plymouth Cricket's in there, too!
If you don't stand for SOMETHING, you'll fall for ANYTHING.
 
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:58 pm

Quoting tristarenvy (Reply 42):
Could have been worse! Could have been Hillman Avenger/Plymouth Cricket's in there, too!

Wierdly, that car went on to have a whole second life in South America. They were in production, first as a Dodge and then later as a Volkswagen, into the late eighties in Argentina and the early eighties (as Dodges only) in Brazil.
 
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RE: Who Competed With Saturn, Pontiac, And Oldsmobile?

Mon Jul 18, 2011 5:00 pm

Quoting CargoLex (Reply 43):
They were in production, first as a Dodge and then later as a Volkswagen, into the late eighties in Argentina and the early eighties (as Dodges only) in Brazil.

And, with this age of "everybody get's the same crud" those days off oddball cars in other places seems to be dead. I remember the joy I felt when I first got the internet, so I could look up all these cars we never saw..
If you don't stand for SOMETHING, you'll fall for ANYTHING.

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