Pull into an old shopping plaza where the scent of the 1990s still hangs in the air, and you're bound to see a car dealer that had changed brands several times since the Reagan administration. Sometimes it's obvious, like a quonset hut left over from the heyday of the Hummer H2. Other times it's a more obscured by layers of questionable architectural decisions, leaving the building's initial intent unknown. Occasionally, a giant sign remains, still advertising its past life.
The Peugeot sign in this photo was part of a very small dealership that sold Jeep, Renault, AMC, Chrysler, and Peugeot brands in the 1980s, but then became a Jeep, Eagle, and Chrysler dealer in the 1990s. Eagle was dropped after a few years, and Peugeot itself left the U.S. in 1991, but the Peugeot sign remained, upstaging the very last Jeep phase of the dealership that lasted until about 2010. So yes, there was a Jeep dealership with a giant Peugeot sign until a decade ago. The sign itself was finally taken down in 2011 after the dealership became a used car lot, when a crew with a bucket truck came and spent an hour taking it down, relegating the six-foot tall sign to a construction dumpster.
The 1990s saw a wave of brands close down entirely or leave the U.S. market: Geo and Eagle franchises often switched to other brands from same same corporate family, while Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, and Daihatsu left outright.
The auto industry crisis of 2007-2009 created yet another wave of zombie dealerships, mostly affecting GM brands including Saab, Pontiac, and Saturn. Others like Suzuki and Isuzu had gotten up and left the U.S. during this time.
Out of all of these, we certainly remember some lingering Saturn signage in the early 2010s, only a couple of years after Saturn closed its doors. But finding something from the 1980s or 1990s is far more difficult, even though some former Alfa Romeo dealers had converted into independent service shops but kept the Alfa signs.
Are there still any dealership sign and other artifacts from defunct or otherwise absent brands where you live? Let us know in the comments below.