• Nov 5, 2004

What some would consider one of the worst design gaffes of the decade is being put to rest. The Aztek, which has taken its fair share of ribbings during its five years of production, also has a built a group of loyal owners. I'm sure writers will do their "so long, good riddance" pieces for the SUV that failed GM's expectations, or may forget that the truck ever happened at all. I want to focus on the history and culture that this vehicle has spawned and those that consider the truck a success. Yes Virginia, there is an Aztek Fan Club.

History

aztek_conceptThe Aztek name was introduced to the world as yellow concept truck at the 1999 Detroit International Auto Show. Introduced as a LSV, Lifestyle Support Vehicle, the Aztek was to be the Swiss Army Knife of the auto world. The problem that dogged the concept, as quoted from an Edmunds.com piece in 1999 was that ?its styling alone is enough to separate it from any hope of measurable sales?. But wasn?t this what Pontiac was aiming for? Form to follow function, and that form would separate those that love it verses those that hate it.

Pontiac had plans to build the truck once the concept hit the shows, and the production model became a poster-child in the press for everything that was wrong with GM at the time. The truck was based of the GM minivan platform that underpinned the Pontiac Montana and then went through numerous consumer clinics where participants are more concerned about getting their $20 check than shaping the future of automobiles. When the production vehicle appeared for sale in the summer of 2000, many auto critics were none too kind.

Most Versatile Vehicle on the Planet

Pontiac?s ad campaign touted the Aztek as the ?most versatile vehicle on the planet? and to speak to those that own an Aztek, the slogan fits perfectly. Did you know that the Aztek took home the JD Power and Associates ?APEAL? award in 2001?  The APEAL study rates how happy the owners are with their purchase and how thoughtful an automotive design is. The Aztek rated high for powertrain, sound system and interior comfort features. This truck rewarded those that were taken in by its quirky, non-conformist look.

Kiss my Aztek

aztek_rally

After talking to a few of the members of the Aztek Fan Club there are two things I can discern; their Aztek truly is a hard working member of their family and they are tired of the press constantly beating up on a vehicle that non-owners don?t seem to understand. When owners were asked to sum up their attractions and likes/dislikes to the SRV (Sport Recreational Vehicle), it didn?t take long until I had a list of all the Aztek?s merits. The trucks looks brought a lot of people together. ?I love the way the Aztek looks the same way so many think its ugly,? said AFC member Kane which was a common theme.

Media killed the Pontiac truck

Automotive style is subjective, we all know that, but the foaming hate that shot out from all directions at the Aztek equaled commercial failure. Many members blame the media for the mediocre sales. AFC member Ande2004 it summed up with this:

 
My personal take on the demise of the Aztek wasn?t its outward appearance as much as it was the bad press it received when it was launched. The Aztek was born to be different, that was its sole purpose.

To those that responded, style was one of the reasons an Aztek was purchased.  ?Yeah I?m different, so what?s it to you?? 

When you really take a look at the auto landscape post-Aztek, the Elements and xBs littering the landscape, was the Aztek that off the mark? Did the plastic pieces and strange styling of the Element cause it to get its ass handed to it by the media? No, of course not? I guess it has the H of invulnerability brazened on its hood.

Functionality versus price

aztek_interior

Above all, most Aztek owners have fallen in love with the truck?s versatility. It has the capability of a larger SUV, but the ride and feel of a car. The interior was very well thought out, including a removable center console that is actually a cooler. Cup holders, cargo trays, power outlets, rear mounted stereo controls ? everything to make and owner happy and at a discount. Aztek owners say that the price was on par if not lower than other SUVs that gave them only a portion of what the Pontiac offers, and none of the personality. 

When asked if any Aztek owners would bite for the 2006 Pontiac Torrent, the unofficial Aztek replacement, some said because of the great experience they had with their current Pontiac, they would, but concede that they would lose the uniqueness of the Aztek.

Pitching a family

aztek_camping

The Aztek Fan Club is not just a forum on the web, but a complete family.  Many members go to meets, rallies and camping trips with their ?Tek brethren. Along with many of the active lifestyle accessories that are available for the Aztek is the tent option.  Using the rear hatch as part of the roof, this SRV can turn into a camper in no time flat. ?It is like having an RV without the RV payments? lauded member TheHipAztek.

You wouldn?t understand

I wanted my farewell piece to the ?no respect? Aztek to be more from the owners than from the general public. We already read about what people ?thought? was wrong with it, but it was not really PC to say what was right.  All told, as of October of 2004, a total of 111,837 ?Teks have been sold since summer of 2000, a far cry of the original 60,000 units a year Pontiac initially predicted.  But to some this truck was more than numbers and bad press. Ask anyone at the Aztek Fan Club about the truck they love and they won?t care how many people bought them, just that they have and that purchase has brought them together.





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  • 23 Comments
      • 10 Years Ago
      Why in America do people feel that they most impose their opinions on other people? If you don't like the Aztek, good for you. I can't understand why you would then think your opinion is so valuable and important that it must be shared or that others really can't wait to hear you preach from up high? Case in point.. My brother and step father have bought Ford Explorer/Mountaineer/Escape/ Aviator/Expeditions for the past 5-6 years. They bother own 2 each. When my brother showed me his new car (I forgot which one it was, they all look alike) I said it was nice and was glad he really liked it, even though I was thinking that is was nice but very boring and he already had a car like this. I am happy that he likes it so much, but it's just not for me. I would have a hard time staying awake at the wheel. But here's the catch... IT'S NOT MY CAR!! I DON'T HAVE TO DRIVE IT!! Why should I rain on his parade with my opinion of the car? I just proudly purchased a BRIGHT YELLOW 2003 Aztek GT and don't care for a minute if somebody thinks it's ugly. I love the way it drives, handles, the features it comes with and the way it's differentthan you typical automobile. I don't want to see the same car driving toward me on the other side of the road like the Ford Explorer look alike products. If we are talking ugly, have you seen the Honda Element? A Hummer? (an over inflated price doesn't make your car better looking). Is there anything more unexciting than a Saturn product? But the point is... If you want and like those cars, fine. If you buy them and they give you a good driving experience, I'd be happy for you. I was in a local Fiero club and enjoyed it. Getting together for meets or taking field trips was a blast. Being able to talk to other owners about your car and getting good tips on where to buy excessories is helpful. Why would anybody feel the need to let crap flow from his/her mouth about something someone else likes and enjoys? Make your stand by not buying one and not joining a club. Sounds easy to me. You will not be missed, sorry to say. I don't own a Yugo GV and don't belong to a Yugo club, but wouldn't think less of someone who did. I certainly would tell them that I don't approve of them. It's supposed to be a free country. Remember the patriotic guestures of Sept. 11th? We truly have forgotten already. This attitude of imposing your will and opinion on others was found in other contries under dictators. We the people are acting more like the idiots in Washington. How do you think they got elected? Anyway, Like I said, I bought an 2003 Aztek and love it, and my wife loves it, she even went a far to say that when we pay off her Dodge Stratus (which she likes and I don't but didn't tell her that since she was the primary driver!) she would love to get one for herself. I told her I can give her mine and I'll get a 2005 AWD with all of the toys! What has drawn me to the car is that it is different, It has a ton of space to carry stuff (I traded in my Dodge Ram pick up), the many features that set it apart other cars and it versitility to change for a comfortable "truck" to a hauler of stuff, to a living space when camping. Can you get that in a PT Cruiser? I like the bond or kinship of the other Aztek owners. When we pull up to another Aztek 9 times out of 10 I get a smile and a wave which is something I got as a Fiero owner. I don't get that as a stratus owner, not as a Ram owner, not as a chevy van owner, not by driving in my brothers Ford boxy style SUV or my step father's Ford boxy thingy. It's very similar to the Jeep thing. God bless the Jeep owners... I didn't care for the test drive I took in one before I bought my Aztek, but I admire their closeness as owners. Good for them! The Aztek club will be hearing from me and I'd love to start a local Aztek club in the Chicago area. If anyone is interested we can use this forum to get in contact with each other or use the Aztek fanclub.com to talk. We'll even invite Rob Rudorf as our "guest of honor" to our first gathering (please leave your tomatoes at home, they are too expensive to expensive to throw at him). Maybe we can all pitch in and buy a Yugo GV (twin turbo and dual ashtrays) to give to him as a "let's be friends" present. Let me hear from you Chicago area Aztek owners! Keep on Aztek'n!! Scott
      • 10 Years Ago
      to each his own. any car people would not be interested in an aztek club anyway. based on some of the photos on their site it is more of an eating club.
      • 10 Years Ago
      One last thing... I think it was Bob Lutz who said, "Good idea, poor execution."
      • 10 Years Ago
      Screw you Rob! If you've never driven one, your comments are worthless, and news flash no car has a good resale value. You start losing money as soon as you drive off the lot. What do you drive a Toyota Corolla and somekind of Saturn? Just because you are afraid to be different, don't try to deny that other people absolutely love the Aztek. Shut your mouth and have fun with whatever conformist vehicle you wasted your money on.
      • 10 Years Ago
      I can fell for owners of the Aztek. I love our Previa, a die hard fan. It looked strange at the time, it was quirky with its design, and did not sell well. But I know there are many people around the world who have fallen in love with it. I was sad to see it go. I agree with the closed mind/ mouth thing.
      • 10 Years Ago
      We tek lovers all realize our azteks are not a popular car in the mainstream. We know we are the minority. But this does not mean we are wrong about our views on the tek. As so many have said, its all opinion. Someone above said this, "Most people defend their mistakes to cover up the fact they've been taken. Whether it is a vehicle, house or whatever. By forming a club to sit around and lie to each other does not cover up the fact that you own vehicles with no resale value and are generally accepted as a HUGE mistake by anyone with a pulse." I have an 05 aztek and have wanted one since they first came out. I love the look that you all despise. What is wrong with that??? And how is it a mistake to buy a car I want and love just because so many dislike it? Besides you all hating its look, I have yet to see you deny its versatility or driving experience.
      • 10 Years Ago
      I loved the original Aztek concept vehicle and was absolutely floored that GM actually produced a vehicle that looked substantially like that one. I figured that they would wimp out and put a Bonneville-like grille on an Olds Bravada.( Instead, Bob Lutz, the killer of the Omni-based Shelby Charger and Dodge Rampage and now the Aztek; a man whose motto seems to be, "If everyone doesn't want it then no one gets to have it;" is palming off a slightly stretched Saturn Vue with a "new GTO" schnozz as a proper Pontiac.) Pontiac went through a terrible identity crisis 20 years ago as Parisiennes, 6000s, Phoenixes, and Sunbirds hit the market looking like Chevies with slightly-different grilles and red-lit dashboards.I owned a 6000--a very nice car that had no pizzazz whatever. Vehicles like the Bonneville SSE, the Grand AM, the revitalized Grand Prix, and the Aztek established a Pontiac identity that Lutz seems hell-bent to destroy. I have mixed emotions about the relative unpopularity of the Aztek. On the one hand it's allowed me to buy a well-equipped low-mileage 2-year-old Dream Car for the price of a Kia Rio; but on the other, it's meant the beginning of the end of the Bold and Brash Pontiacs of the late 80s through the early 21st century. I fear that the element in the automotive world that thinks that every vehicle should look like the crate it came in is winning and that innovative, futuristic styling is once again going underground. My "new" Aztek is the nicest vehicle I've ever owned. It drives beautifully -doesn't feel tippy like minivan or an SUV and is rock-steady in crosswinds, hauls heavy loads that cause my Ranger's rear suspension to noticeably sag with not a trace of a "motor boating" attitude, has a killer sound system, and is quieter and tighter-built than any of my 3 previous Chrysler-built minivans.
      • 9 Years Ago
      I Own a bright yellow 2003 Aztek. I LOVE the fact that it makes so many people so angry. I have ownwd 40 some vehicles, including a Yugo, and this car gets the most violent reactions of any of them! I think Pontiac showed a lot of "Guts" by bringing this thing to market. I own a 71 Formula Firebird as well and still see some of it in my 'Tek! So Thanks Pontiac and all you Tek haters out there for making my Driving experiance so fun!
      • 10 Years Ago
      I agree with Jim's comments. Driving this car sold me. I love the back window and my spoiler that splits the two windows block the headlights of the car behind me. You can see that a car behind you, but you don't get their headlights in you mirror. I also agree that this vehicle can haul quite a load. I am sorry to see this vehicle die off to make room for a run of the mill "blazer/tahoe/bravada". I got to drive a '05 Outback (my wife really wanted one of these)when I brought my Aztek in for a DVD Installation. After driving it for the day, I couldn't wait to get my Aztek back. I picked up my 8 year old on the way to the dealer, and as we were driving he says, "Dad this is a nice car, but it's kind of boring." A smile returned to his face when we got in the Aztek. (Large part due to the fact he can watch movies in the truck now) As for my wife, she no longer wants one.
      • 10 Years Ago
      Thank you for the farewell article for the Tek. Many Aztek haters will never understand the car. GM should not have been concerned with bad press, and should have focused on marketing it in new ways. Remember Survivor Austrailia? Did not Cody win an Aztek and camped in it on the show? That should have been one of many ways to market the Tek.
      • 10 Years Ago
      When the Aztek was first released, I went to look at one at the Pontiac dealership, out of sheer curiosity. I was looking in the windows when the salesman came out and asked, "What do you think?" I replied, "Sure is ugly!" "You have to sit in it to understand it," the salesperson replied. "Are you kidding?!?! Someone might see me in it!" He didn't try any more selling.
      • 10 Years Ago
      truth hurts folks. why do alcoholics hang out with alcoholics? typically when a vehicle is as well received, as you Aztek fans would have us believe, as the Aztek, sales aren't half of projections nor is it killed off quickly. misery loves company.
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