The Pontiac Aztek became the butt of jokes soon after it hit production, and it’s easy to see why − it was quite unconventional in appearance. While the concept car was alright, the compromises made for the production version (no doubt due to its use of the same platform as the Trans Sport, especially the windshield) made it somewhat ungainly, among other things. A facelift a few years later was helpful, but by that time the damage had been done.
Road & Track recently asked Bob Lutz how the most unpopular car in recent memory came to be. Here are some of his thoughts:
- A bad car happens in stages: Lutz feels the Aztek concept car was “a much leaner vehicle” with decent proportions. As then-General Motors chairman Rick Wagoner decreed 40 percent of all new GM products would be “innovative,” it “started a trend toward setting internal goals that meant nothing to the customer,” resulting in everything radical getting the green light. In other words, radical for radical’s sake.
- Corporate culture: At the time, GM had a culture of “complete acquiescence and intimidation, led by a strong dictatorial individual who wants it that way.” Plus, the guy in charge of product development articulated, “Look. We’ve all made up our minds that the Aztek is gonna be a winner. It’s gonna astound the world. I don’t want any negative comments about this vehicle. None. Anybody who has bad opinions about it, I want them off the team.” Employees offered no criticism in this environment.
- Market research: GM put the Aztek through focus groups, but most of the respondents had said something to the effect of “Can they possibly be serious with this thing? I wouldn’t take it as a gift.” Yet GM continued to press forward despite the Aztek placing last in product clinics.
For more on Lutz’s thoughts, visit Road & Track‘s website.