Autoextremist - It's All Over For Pontiac

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, May 7, 2008.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,596
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    It’s all over but the hand-wringing for Pontiac

    By Peter M. De Lorenzo
    May 7, 2008

    Detroit. It was nice to have the opportunity to drive the Pontiac G8 (as we mentioned in last week’s “On the Table”), but it was sad, too, because despite the exclamation point-drenched car magazine covers of-the-moment touting how great the G8 is - and it is a damn good car, by the way - it won’t be enough to save Pontiac from its inevitable demise.

    GM’s ongoing circus juggling act - which revolves around propping up its divisional marketing and product aspirations on an as-needed basis - is finally unraveling in the worst automobile market the U.S. auto industry has seen in decades. GM is finding out the hard way that no matter how many excellent new products they’re able to bring to market, unless they can back those products with enough marketing and advertising horsepower it ultimately doesn’t matter. What good is a reinvigorated product offensive when the market is crumbling and you have too many divisional mouths to feed - and that’s before you even begin to address the competitive environment?

    Not much.

    Besides the too many models-too many divisions-too many dealers thing, I don't think it's possible within GM's sanitized and homogenized organizational structure for anyone to come along and fix Pontiac, let alone understand it. GM has demonstrated convincingly in its latest product renaissance that they only actually believe in product when their backs are pressed against the wall, which doesn’t say much for the corporation culturally. But then again the words “culture” and “GM” have never blended well.

    It’s clear that the network of True Believers within GM responsible for its hotter products right now has succeeded in spite of the corporation, not because there has been a sea change at the top. Yes, Bob Lutz has done wonders since he came on board, as I’ve documented, but it has been compartmentalized and restricted to the product development side of their business. There’s no fundamental shift in how GM – as a company – views the automotive world, especially right here in the U.S.

    I get the feeling that if Lutz were to leave tomorrow – besides the fact there are maybe only two people in the entire corporation who could take over his role (I’ll name them in a future column) – GM would revert right back to its standard operating procedure of having the finance guys call the shots, and that would turn out to be especially nasty without the commanding presence of a Bob Lutz to balance things out when it comes to making the right product decisions. And that’s a pathetic commentary on GM’s “culture” as much as anything.

    In the new global scenario that defines the auto business today, cross-continent cost efficiencies are the GM financial brains’ raison d’etre, but that's still no guarantee of success and it’s still no substitute for the ability to deliver great products to market. You can’t cut your way efficiently to prosperity, and I’m not so sure the financial suits at the top of GM understand or believe that – even after all of the turmoil that has befallen that corporation over the last 20 years.

    And here, trying to survive and thrive in this culturally bereft environment, is Pontiac, struggling and scavenging for marketing dollars - and for relevant products - and it’s not going well. Not going well at all, as a matter of fact.

    Back when Bunkie Knudsen took the division over in the late 50s, Pontiac was a rickety organization churning out bland products to the point that it was beginning to have trouble justifying its existence within the GM divisional structure.

    But Knudsen changed all that. He fired-up his engineers and the designers over at GM Styling assigned to his division and made them work to a new mission, a simple formula that distilled down to its essence went something like this: Flashy cars + Horsepower + Marketing Attitude x Swagger = Sizzling Sales.

    And it worked like gangbusters. Pontiac became GM’s go-go division literally overnight, as each fall the new Pontiac lineup would set the market on its ear with innovative styling flourishes and big-time performance attributes.

    Pontiac in its heyday was the GM “maverick” division that flew its pirate flag proudly from high atop its old-school administration building in downtown Pontiac. Pontiac specialized in rattling other GM divisional General Managers to no end (especially at Chevrolet), tweaking and taunting the corporate suits downtown at the old General Motors building, and giving the competition fits in every segment it competed in.

    And Pontiac advertising from that era was some of the best ever done in automotive history. Both memorable and emotionally compelling, it not only stood apart from everything else, it created a “buzz” on the street for the brand that was simply irresistible.

    But that, as they say, was then.

    The “maverick” Pontiac couldn’t exist in today’s General Motors, because there’s no champion for the division or anyone left there who even remotely understands what Pontiac is all about. The one thing that Lutz has misjudged since he began his tenure at GM is that he never did "get" Pontiac. His idea that Pontiac should be the "affordable BMW" is flat-out wrong. Sometimes Bob’s Euro-sensibilities get the best of him, and his view of Pontiac is one of these times. Pontiac isn't an "affordable" BMW because it was never cut out to play that role. Pontiacs should be raucous, distinctly American cars with real attitude, appealing to people who enjoy marching to a different drummer and who like to go their own way.

    Though I applauded Lutz at the time for trying to jump-start the division with the modern GTO, rushing that car to market glossed-over the real issue facing Pontiac, and that was that the division didn't stand for anything on the street anymore. And that was compounded by the fact that the modern day GTO was a mistake for a number of reasons. Not that it wasn't a good car and a terrific value by the end (when it was heavily discounted), but GM had allowed Pontiac's image to dry up in the marketplace, and by the time the "new" GTO came out, there was no legacy left. It didn't mean anything to younger enthusiasts, and for the older enthusiasts who remembered the great GTOs from the past, it didn't qualify as a "real" GTO (not that they knew necessarily what a "real" GTO should look like, they just knew that the Australian-sourced car wasn't it). It also didn't help that the "modern" GTO was a lackluster, totally uninspired design that was already showing its age by the time it made its debut.


    Instead of doing their homework and coming up with a real plan to get Pontiac going again, GM squandered the opportunity to give the division a new lease on life. And now, even though the G8 is an excellent car, Pontiac still doesn't stand for anything in the U.S. market. And they don't have the fundamental marketing power at their disposal to turn things around, either.

    If I had a clean sheet of paper for Pontiac I would create a smaller, rear-wheel-drive GTO as a coupe with a hot but small (2.5-liters) all-aluminum V8 that would sticker for $19,999 and weigh no more that 2800 pounds (with minimal options). But I wouldn't do it without a commitment from GM marketing that Pontiac would go back to its roots and that it would be properly supported - both financially and with new product.

    And I would broom all the vehicles that didn't meet Pontiac’s "marching to the different drummer" persona too. That means no Vibe, no crossovers, no SUVs, no trucks and no bullshit nomenclature. I would do the GTO, a Trans-Am, a Grand Prix and a Bonneville, four vehicles that would bristle with innovation, performance and swagger. Everything else would go away - including the Solstice - because as long as Saturn has the Sky, the Solstice isn’t radical enough for the Pontiac product portfolio. (As for the G6? If GM can’t figure out how to make up the volume between the Chevy Malibu and Saturn Aura, then they’re in worse straits than anyone thought.)

    And then I'd market the shit out of the new Pontiac lineup – with emphasis on the performance-per-dollar equation - and do it with an unflinching rebel attitude to boot.

    But as we well know by now, Pontiac won’t get the proper support within GM because Chevy is the lead dog, and they have Malibu and Camaro to worry about, not to mention Silverado, the new Traverse and the rest of it. And Cadillac has the CTS, which needs constant reinforcement in the market. And then there’s Saturn, which has a burgeoning product lineup filling up with German Opel-based entries, and not enough marketing and ad money to get out of its own way. Oh, and don’t forget about GMC. And Hummer. And Saab. And even Buick too.

    So the idea that GM can properly nurture Pontiac back to health in this market - with its cumbersome divisional lineup and with no one on the premises who “gets” what Pontiac is and what it could be again - is simply out of the question.

    A few years ago Bob Lutz called Pontiac a “damaged brand.”

    He was right, of course, even though his idea of resuscitation lacked the strategic fundamentals that the brand so desperately needed.

    Given the corporation’s swooning performance of late in the U.S. market, and the fact that it has way too many irons in the fire, GM doesn’t have what it takes in terms of the talent, the passion or the funding to get its once-glorious “maverick” division off of life support.

    And short of major reconstructive surgery, Pontiac cannot and will not survive.

    It’s too bad, too, because Pontiac deserves better. A lot better.

    Thanks for listening, see you next Wednesday.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,596
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    Basically reinforces what I've been saying about Pontiac and GM's structure over at GMI for years (and they want to ban me for it). I think Holden's excellent cars are being wasted on Pontiac, it's a dead brand along with Buick and they both need to go.

    Chevrolet should be selling the Commodore and Ute in America just as the brand does globally. If I pick one up a Chevy conversion might be in the cards. Who knows.
     
  3. CJPA

    CJPA New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2002
    Messages:
    114,304
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    AZ, USA
    Well, at least we'll still have the Camaro :o

    I wonder if Chevrolet will grab the G8 as we know it and re-badge it to a new Impala after Pontiac dies? :dunno:
    That's what they do in the Middle East, right?
     
  4. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,596
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    No, the next Impala looks like a big Malibu and it's FWD. :hs:

    It's amazing to me that Pontiac won't get a Firebird twin to the next Camaro, that's pretty much the final nail in the brand's coffin IMO.
     
  5. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2005
    Messages:
    19,712
    Likes Received:
    0
    Kinda funny. Pontiac finally makes a car I'd remotely consider buying, and it's in their death throes.
     
  6. art_VW_shark

    art_VW_shark OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2005
    Messages:
    156,683
    Likes Received:
    179
    Location:
    Bosstown
    has pontiac ever really been failing? The G8 and Solstice (i know the latter is NOT a volume product, but the v6 of the former, with a soft enough suspension, can be) are good products, but even when pontiac had some :rofl: cars, they sold. The G6 moves alright, and I really think, all in all, Grand Prixes sold well. they're not that rare. buick I think legitimately can be dumped and its products can be absorbed (stretch the impala platform for a Caprice....or just give chevy the G8 and label that a caprice). The Enclave is nice, but you can make the Acadia, the second most upmarket of the 4, even nicer in Denali trim to make up for that. and the lacrosse is trash
     
  7. JM Popaleetus

    JM Popaleetus OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2007
    Messages:
    49,359
    Likes Received:
    33
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Fucking sad to be honest. I always loved Pontiac. Buick is nice, and made excellent cars. But like Oldsmobile, I don't think I would miss it.

    Cadillac has to stay around though.

    And I'd rather see Hummer go than Pontiac.
     
  8. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,596
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    Yes, the brand pretty much solely sells to a shrinking base of people who would buy Chevrolets but got a better deal on the same car with a Pontiac nose from a Pontiac dealer. This is an immense for GM and not exclusive to just these two brands.
     
  9. CJPA

    CJPA New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2002
    Messages:
    114,304
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    AZ, USA
    There was never a Firebird planned for the 5th Gen car anyways :dunno:
     
  10. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,596
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    It would be simple to make one and there's a massive pent up demand for it, it's also the car that basically carried the brand's leftover mojo from it's heyday singlehandedly until GM let it whither and die to devote more money to trucks.
     
  11. twistid

    twistid Banged By Super Models Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2001
    Messages:
    40,754
    Likes Received:
    94
    Location:
    The Kansass/Oklahomo Border
    pontiac was my favorite brand name under the GM umbrella, followed closely by buick.
     
  12. red97gst

    red97gst New Member

    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Messages:
    1,218
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    NoVA
    They should just destroy every brand and market all their cars as "GM"
     
  13. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,596
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    Chevrolet and Cadillac.
     
  14. red97gst

    red97gst New Member

    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Messages:
    1,218
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    NoVA
    But if they get rid of them, it will be like they are surrendering to Japan and Germany, like if we pulled from Iraq and made the terrists think they won!!
     
  15. twistid

    twistid Banged By Super Models Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2001
    Messages:
    40,754
    Likes Received:
    94
    Location:
    The Kansass/Oklahomo Border
    and saturn... leave saturn alone, because they're customers are weirdo's... combine buick/cadillac, and chevy/gmc/pontiac... trim the models to where none overlap, and offer one model per sku(with different trim levels.)... bring back old model names.
     
  16. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,596
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    Saturn got close to 3 billion invested in it the past few years and sales are at the lowest they've ever been. The brand has also never turned a profit since it was founded. How can any business let this continue? It boggles my mind.
     
  17. twistid

    twistid Banged By Super Models Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2001
    Messages:
    40,754
    Likes Received:
    94
    Location:
    The Kansass/Oklahomo Border
    guess it's just where i live... but the closest saturn dealer is over an hour drive away, and people still buy them over their shared model GM cousins... the vue is very popular here.
     
  18. CJPA

    CJPA New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2002
    Messages:
    114,304
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    AZ, USA
    Please see your own previous post:


    Let's not be hypocritical here--much of our discussions about GM in the past 6 months have included the theme of "less rebadging of the same cars across multiple GM brands"--the Camaro-to-Firebird thing is no different. And while Pontiac's thinking was to have the Firebird be "their Corvette", let's be honest--that level of performance and style wasn't achieved. I like Firebirds, but if GM wants to stay alive, they're better off having Chevrolet have the (only) Camaro (performance coupe), and Pontiac have the performance sedan (G8).

    Additionally I think a lot of "affordable" performance cars suffer from concept to production when people poll "would you buy one" in magazines or online. Tons of enthusiasts respond with "I love this thing, of course I'd buy one", then never (literally) put their money where their mouth is. (Example--GTO)
     
  19. Fareo

    Fareo New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2004
    Messages:
    8,646
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    http://www.fistfullofpotions.com/
    you make a valid point but i personally feel that comparing the camaro/firebird to caviler/sunfire is totally different. im all for the stopping of rebadging cars but the firebird had a cult following bigger then almost any other rebadged car, it wasnt a gimped camaro, it wasnt cheeper, it just a different take on the same platform and some people perfered the style over the carmaro (for instance me).

    i honsestly felt the 4 gen trans ams (expecially the 98-02) looked alot sharpper then the camaro. it had more argressive lines and a over all more sinister presence. if they could mock up a 67-69 trans am concept like the camaro it might be the jump start pontiac needs? or maybe not at this point tho the brand is probibly dead and that would have worked if it was anounced with the camaro.

    ive said this before but i think GM should axe pontiac buick and olds, use caddy for there old fart cars and just completly bring over Holden as a new brand in america? the idea of a new "hip" "flashy" "sportly" car company with cars that arent rebadged chevys might rekindle the lost love for the ponitac crowd and give a good home for the G8 and UTE? you know... its original home? :o

    but :dunno:
     
  20. CJPA

    CJPA New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2002
    Messages:
    114,304
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    AZ, USA
    In for dismantling shitty brands and bringing Holden in :bowdown:

    As for the Camaro/Firebird thing:

    "A different take on the same platform"--yeah, visually maybe. Starting w/ the 3rd gen, the car was mechanically the same as the Camaro. Same drivetrains and everything. All you'd (probably) have with a new Firebird is the same drivetrain w/ different sheetmetal. Don't see how that helps to consolidate sales into one car--it can only divide the segment. More of what GM doesn't need.

    :hs:
     
  21. Fareo

    Fareo New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2004
    Messages:
    8,646
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    http://www.fistfullofpotions.com/
    Gm doesnt need it, and thats what i ment by same platform, mechanicaly they are the same car, visually they are totally different. while that seems like a dumb reason to justife another car to you and me? the general population thought it was good enough for 30 years. but like said at the end of that paragraph, its curtins for ponitac, i was just saying that if GM would have kick started the firebird earlyer we probibly wouldnt be having this converstion right now?

    cliffs: i think we complety agree, im jus sayn...
     
  22. JM Popaleetus

    JM Popaleetus OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2007
    Messages:
    49,359
    Likes Received:
    33
    Location:
    Connecticut
    You know, I was thinking about this on the way home from work today... The exact same thing.

    Great minds and such.

    But seriously... Chevy and Cadillac. Honda and Acura, Toyota and Lexus, Nissan and Infiniti.

    No brand overlap, no problems, just good cars.
     
  23. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,596
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    It's far and away the most popular Saturn. Everything else they currently sell is flatlining hard.
     
  24. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,596
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    Sold with Chevrolet badges just like they are in the rest of the world.
     
  25. CJPA

    CJPA New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2002
    Messages:
    114,304
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    AZ, USA
    womp wompppppppppp
     

Share This Page