The Time GM Accidentally Made An Ad For the VW Rabbit



While General Motors is a company with colossal engineering and production, it sometimes proves itself capable of making some of the most baffling decisions ever made. A great example is a decision the company made in 1977 that ended up with them actually promoting a Volkswagen Rabbit. In the 1970s, Buick was importing and selling German Opels so they would have a decent small car to sell to complete with Volkswagen and the new crop of Japanese imports. This worked reasonably well for them until 1974, when exchange rates with Germany changed so much that Opels were no longer an affordable option. Fortunately, GM had other options, including an ownership stake in Japanese carmaker Isuzu, who had a car called the Gemini that was actually based on the design of the Opel Kadett. So, in 1975, GM first promoted the Isuzus as “Opel by Isuzu” and then decided to promote them as Buick Opels, which means the car was named for two companies that weren’t the companies that built it. It was similar to the Mitsubishi that was sold as the Dodge Colt. GM decided to pull a big PR stunt called the “Buick Opel 5-Car Showdown,” where they compared the Isuzu-built Buick Opel against a bunch of other popular small cars of the era: The Toyota Corolla, the Subaru DL, the Datsun B210, and the Volkswagen Rabbit. Yep, in Buick’s own test, the Buick Opel came in second place, behind the Volkswagen Rabbit. You have to admire GM’s honesty, but it would have been a lot cheaper just to come out and admit that one of your competitors is better that you are.