News that GM is on the point of killing its non-performing brands - Saab, Hummer, Pontiac and Saturn - as part of a bid to win the lion's share of the $25 Saab billion bail-out that the US Big Three is seeking from the US government looks the strongest confirmation yet that quite a few more marques will go west before the current economic conflagration is over.

Apart from the obvious (and highly regrettable) threat to livelihoods around the world, I can't help thinking that there are positive sides to this, if death of the duffers adds strength to those which still have legs.

Reviewing GM's brands, I'll be sorry if Saab goes because the original Swedish brand maintained its original, quirky character until the mid-1990s, when GM began strapping various bits of Vectra under the new 900 in 1993.

But that original character is now all gone, scuppered by confused thinking that has led over the years to the production of oddities like a Saab-badged version of the Subaru Impreza (the 9-2X, pictured) and is scheduled to lead to a re-badged Cadillac SUV.

The Saabs I remember (not least because there are quite a few of them driving around) are the 92 and 95 baby cars: I'd say GM hastened then marque's demise by not offering a small Saab, presumably because it's hard to make money with small cars.

Hummer, I couldn't care less about. Let it die. But I'll have a few regrets for Pontiac, whose GTO muscle-car was a big part of my car-loving childhood.

When US magazine Car & Driver published a cover story comparison between the Pontiac GTO and Ferrari GTO it made some powerful points about the sheer affordable performance available from Detroit at the time. However, Pontiac has made so many Godawful 'youth image' cars in the intervening years that its old performance image has long-since been obliterated.

And Saturn? Well, it was always profiled as the sensibly priced car for people who a) didn't have the courage to go into a showroom and ask for a discount, and b) gloried n the fact that they didn't know much about cars

The one regret I'll have for Saturn is that it was starting to look like a decent place for Opel/Vauxhall models to be sold, but I guess they'll survive.

The lesson, it seems to me, is that brands die for three reasons: if they're wrong for the times (Hummer);if their original brand values have been bastardised or scattered on the four winds (Saab, Pontiac); or if they set out deliberately to remove the emotion from car buying and ownership (Saturn).

It all seems obvious, which makes it the more amazing that various GM administrations spent huge research and marketing sums pulling in the wrong direction. Bet they'd quite like that money back, right now.