Many automakers operate large archives of their old production and concept vehicles, which serve as a time capsule of the brands heritage and history. The collections, while interesting, cost huge amounts of money to maintain, raising the question of whether keeping them around is worth it or not.
General Motors, for one, operates the GM Heritage Center just outside of Detroit, where hoards of old concept and production vehicles are stored. GM recently downsized its collection, but the company still spends $1.8 million annually maintaining it, and for one good reason:
“Heritage,” Greg Wallace, the manager of GM’s Heritage Center told Automotive News. “We’ve got a great history, and his is how you tell the story.” However GM also keeps the collection around in case a designer would like to turn to one of the old vehicles for inspiration.
“We keep vehicles we think will be important to the future of the brands. It’s important to our identity. It’s important for design and research. And it’s important to people outside the company,” Wallace added.
GM isn’t the only car hoarding automaker either. Chrysler maintained a 300 vehicle collection at a museum on its grounds, though it closed its doors in 2012 citing low attendance.
Nissan operates a heritage collection near its U.S. headquarters in Nashville. The collection, which is about 280 cars large, is stored in the basement of the Lane Museum, but isn’t open to the public. A much larger archive of the companies past vehicles are stored at its battery factory in Zama, Japan. That collection is open to the public, but its existence is currently under threat as the battery factory expands and looks for more space.
The German automakers, mainly Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, have been a little more successful with their historic collections. Porsche opened a $130 million museum in 2009 to house 80 of its models. Some of the cost is made up for by the 2 million annual visitors who pay about $11 for entry. Mercedes, too, operates a huge collection, which spans its entire 114 year car building history and recently brought in its 5 millionth visitor.