• Jul 20th 2009 at 11:29AM
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Click above to watch the video after the break

For the past decade, the Pontiac Aztek has been the poster child for design execution gone wrong. The malformed 'ute was intended as one of the first crossover vehicles – part minivan and part SUV, with enough space to enable drivers to go further, and with more stuff. After all, the rear seats were removable, when the hatch was open, you had access to a kickin' boombox, and the center console was removable when you needed a cooler on the fly. Instead, the Aztek was the butt of quite a few jokes, and its plastic-clad ugliness became a microcosm of all that was wrong with the domestic auto industry.

When the Aztek came in 2001, though, the public (and the motoring media) wasn't exactly sure what the quirky little Pontiac actually was, as evidenced by this amusing eight-year old video shot and edited by Car and Driver. Hit the jump to view the five-minute flick, and rewind back in time to the starting point of one of Pontiac's biggest mistakes.

[Source: YouTube]



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  • 55 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      Did he really play... "get jiggy with it..." lol
      • 6 Years Ago
      I remember reading a review about this thing back in the day and the quote that always stays with me "The neatest part of this thing is the tent that fits on the back, if only they had designed one for the front end..."
      • 6 Years Ago
      So close to a Honda Element.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yeah, and I like both! :)
      • 6 Years Ago
      I did see one once that had been painted black all over, including the plastic cladding. It had a nice set of bright chrome wheels on it. It actually improved the looks because the black hid a lot of the body details.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I believe this was a case where the concept car was well received but what was actually made was not.

      I think the concept version appearance was different enough in all the right places that functionality aspect of this vehicle could become its selling point. And I believe there was a lot of plastic/rubber coated surfaces in the concept interior that gave it the impression of being ruggedized and easily cleaned and generally favorable to 'extreme sports' users. I'm not sure that aspect made it to the final version either.

      I don't think it was a bad idea from initial reception to attempt the vehicle. It was bad that it wasn't either kept true to the concept or just killed as not practical to keep true.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I like these things and always have!! as long as their is no black rubbermade cladding on the bottom...
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't completely blame the designers. I think this was a textbook case of bureaucracy interference. It had a very similar design style to the Chevy Avalanche and the Honda Element ( which it outsold, believe it or not ) which don't get nearly as much abuse. ( Though I think all three are pretty ugly ) I always thought the Vibe was Pontiac's attempt to "fix" the Aztek design - it has the same design cues, but it wasn't all out of proportion. The biggest problem with the Aztek was giant plastic off-road fender flares and an SUV body on itty-bitty minivan wheels that made it look like a hippo in ballet shoes. If it'd had truck-sized wheels ( and wheel arches ) it wouldn't look much different than a BMW X6. Plus, it had all that "xtreme" design to make it look like an all-terrain vehicle ( rhino-lining on the tailpipe, seriously? ), but when you were behind one, you could actually see the solid-beam rear axle. To me, it symbolizes the low point of GM vehicle design. The Rendezvous wasn't much better - it just looked like a giant sneaker. I'm not kidding. Look at the Rendezvous in profile, then look at an average basketball shoe.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Thank you for some sane analysis instead of the usual "I hates it! Hates it I does!"
      • 6 Years Ago
      First, my wife owsn an Aztek and loves it.

      Second, Bob Lutz got in one, shortly after Rick Wagoner hired him to revamp the GM lineup. Lutz said that there were a lot of good things about the Aztek, but that buying a car is like asking a girl for a date. A girl may may be smart and have a terrific personality, but if she's not attractive, she won't get asked out on many dates. A car is the same. It may be useful, a good performer, well designed and assembled, and priced below what the buyer would expect, but if it isn't sylish, it won't sell.

      Third, my father-in-law is a former GM employee and a retired business professor, who taught a lot of marketing classes.

      He thinks GM mismarketed the Aztek. Instead of selling it to young active adults, he would have sold it to soccer moms who wanted something that stood out from the crowd. It doesn't have the masculine look of an SUV, and it isn't another bland mini-van. Plus, it held more than the competing Jeep Grand Cherokee, it cost a lot less, and it got better mileage.

      If I take my son to school in my wife's car, the RAV4s, the Odesseys, the Explorers, the Caravans, and the Equinoxes, in boring shades of navy, gray, silver, and taupe all blend in, while the bright red Aztek sticks out like a sore thumb.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Don't be surprised if the Aztec becomes a collector's item after a few decades.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Thanks for posting this, AB. I was eating. Jesus.
      • 6 Years Ago
      No joke: the first time I saw one of these rolling abominations-before-God, a red-over-grey model just like in the video.. it was broken down in the median of an interstate with hazard lights flashing being hooked up to a tow-truck.

      Not a good start.

      Kinda makes you want to ask GM "WTF"?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm surprised that thing wouldn't do good in Europe, they've got some of the most hideous looking cars I've ever seen. Slap a Euro brand badge on it and update the interior a little and they probably couldn't keep them on the lots over there.
        • 6 Years Ago
        thanks but Fiat handles that quite well... at least from time to time - Multipla, Dobló
        • 6 Years Ago
        Well, that's not a discriminating comment at all.... what do you drive Mr. Good Taste? A Gran Am? or some kind of vanilla POS? Sometimes it's worth taking risks in car design and not trying to please everyone, so please respect that. As for the Aztek.... yes, it's a failure.
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