By on February 15, 2008

muscle1.jpgYup, there it was, buried in an Automotive News [AN, sub] story announcing that Pontiac dealers aren't going to get a Trans Am version of the new Chevrolet Camaro. You know, the Canadian-built rear wheel-drive muscle car that's due out this spring. Sorry, I mean fall. Winter. OK, February '09. Anyway, GM told a meeting of B-P-G (Buick, Pontiac, GMC) dealers that "new legislation requiring vehicles to reach a fleet average of 35 mpg by 2020" has plucked the screaming chicken. In fact, Pontiac "might not end up as GM's performance division." [NB: I think that means that none of GM's eight U.S. brands gets a performance remit.] "The plan is being tweaked because of the gas situation," revealed Lynn Thompson, owner of Thompson Motor Sales in Springfield, Mo. "I hope they don't give up on performance because they don't have to. You can use four-cylinder engines to achieve incredible power." To placate any B-P-G dealer deluded enough to expect something roughly akin to coherent branding from GM, the American automaker also announced that they're unleashing 12 new or special-edition vehicles over the next 20 months. (Sneak peak! Get ready for a special-edition GMC Sierra pickup called "Pro Grade.") In case you're wondering what separates a Pontiac from a Chevy, Buick or Saturn (or anything else) now that the former "We Build Excitement" division isn't building excitement, I have no idea. Does anyone?

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38 Comments on “Pontiac Performance Branding Officially Dead...”


  • avatar
    Jonathon

    Dang. I actually like the look of that Trans Am more than the forthcoming Camaro.

    Chevy = mass consumer market
    Pontiac = fleet sales?

  • avatar
    ajla

    Oh, and in case you’re wondering separates a Pontiac from a Chevy, Buick or Saturn (or anything else), now that they’re ditching the performance shtick, I have no idea. Does anyone?

    Plastic body molding, faux spoilers, and, of course, DRIVING EXCITEMENT!

  • avatar
    NickR

    At least when they had side cladding they had some sort of identity.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    How about firing everyone at GM making over $200,000 per year, promoting whoever is left.

    Tell ‘em all they have 24 months to turn it around or shut ‘er down.

    Sometimes in Scrabble the only move is to throw in your letters and start over. Clearly GM management can’t get any more incoherent than it already is.

    Advertising cars that don’t exist like the Volt, taking all the plastic cladding off Pontiac and replacing the old image with, well, nothing, spending a bunch of money to give new products to the brand nobody cares about (Saturn) and on and on.

    These guys are overpaid chimps.

  • avatar
    Jeffer

    Pontiac = Chevrolet with split grille
    Buick = Chevrolet with velour seats
    Cadillac = Chevrolet with velour seats and chrome
    GMC = Chevrolet with GMC badges
    Daewoo = Chevrolet without Chevrolet
    I have to second Jonathon, Pontiac version would look better. The all black, undisguised tester Camaro looks like it rear-ended something due to the droopy hood falling over the headlights.

  • avatar
    Wunsch

    That Trans Am does look pretty sharp. And much, much better than the forthcoming Camaro.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    How about building economical cars that drive well, like the Mazda3 or the lesser-engined BMWs that aren’t sold here? Oh, yeah, that takes true engineering and manufacturing competence.

  • avatar
    seoultrain

    low-powered-engines are not the enemy of performance. Weight is the enemy of performance. But who am I kidding? This is America.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    So what does this mean? More G5/Cobalt clones, because they’ve got the best gas mileage GM can produce out of a regular engine (granted it doesn’t meet the new CAFE standards but then, what does?). And there’s the daewoo… er, Aveo. Which might.

    *sigh* Or they can just suck it up and pay the fines, or weasel their way out of it by offering E85 versions of their cars. Which IIRC is how they’ve been getting by, up to this point.

  • avatar
    TriShield

    Not so fast, muscle isn’t quite dead at Pontiac.

    The G8 sedan and G8 ST will both carry the tire-smoking, sideways-driving, muscle car banner at Pontiac for awhile.

    The G8 line will add a GXP model for 2009 which includes the Corvette’s LS3 V8 and it will offer a six-speed manual. Holden begins production on MY2009 G8s March 2nd and more official details about it will be released this summer, or sooner perhaps.

  • avatar
    TriShield

    I do agree with the above comments though, there’s nothing Pontiac does that Chevrolet doesn’t or couldn’t do better. Holdens make fine Chevrolets in the rest of the world and it wouldn’t be any different here. They’d probably sell better under Chevrolet to boot.

    Pontiac is like Mercury, it gives GMC dealers some new cars to sell in addition to trucks. That’s pretty much the only point to it anymore.

  • avatar
    mel23

    I don’t know what ‘fleet average’ means. Over what vehicles will the average be computed? Does it mean, for example, that all Pontiacs must meet the average, all GM cars, or what? What I’m getting at really is why single out the Pontiac rebadge since it would likely sell way fewer than the Chevy version? So if you want to reduce sales of a gas hog sibling, wouldn’t it make more sense to kill the higher selling version? Maybe I’m paranoid, but it seems strange that somehow these things keep happening with the effect of starving BPG dealers. They somehow can’t come up with enough parts to meet demand for Enclaves, but they’re spending lots to crank up the Traverse.

  • avatar
    cRaCk hEaD aLLeY

    Fear Not, the 2.4L ECOTEC version will be available coupled to a driver-adaptive 4-speed automatic capable of rev-mathing when going downhill.

    The John Player Special Gold-On-Black commemorative edition will be available for rent exclusiely at selected AVIS location. Moustache, cowboy hat, CB radio and flaming chicken hood decal set included at no additional charge.

  • avatar
    TriShield

    From what I know a resurrected Firebird was never a part of GM’s plan to bring back the Camaro.

    Instead GM was going to release a new GTO with US-styling as a true 2+2 muscle coupe and a different alternative to the Camaro but the cost and CAFE have shelved it.

    Maybe GM should be pruning the endless amount of trucks and SUV things they build instead of killing cars people were actually looking forward to and wanted to buy.

  • avatar
    CupcakeF

    And then there were none.

    This is probably the stupidest thing I have ever seen GM do. Do they really think people will want the new Camaro and not a Trans Am? What are they thinking?

  • avatar

    Pontiac: We Rebadge Toyota?

    Damn shame.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Jthorner,

    I support your idea.

    No Trans-Am? Might as well close pontiac.

  • avatar
    Orian

    CAFE didn’t shelve it – GM is using CAFE as a cop-out.

    If they hadn’t put all their eggs in the large SUV/Truck market they wouldn’t have to worry about CAFE nearly as much, irregardless of how dumb the CAFE regs may be.

  • avatar
    red dawg

    I have already said Saturn needs to go (out in orbit?) to the space grave yard, so the question is: Can Pontiac be far too far behind?? Seems like it’s on life support now. GM still has too many divisions and they only need three. Kill Saturn, make Chevy the entry level brand, make Buick or Pontiac(keep only one)the mid-level brand and make Caddy the luxury brand. What to do with GMC truck and Hummer is another matter entirely !!!!!!! Can’t see why GM needs two truck brands, Chevy and GMC???????? I can’t see the need for two divisions that sell basically the same trucks just with slightly different bodies, interiors and grilles. Hummer seems to be the Jeep brand’s twin just Hummer is on more steriods !!!!!!!!

    P.S: And i have often wondered: What makes GMC trucks professional grade?? And if they are professional grade one has to wonder what Chevy trucks are???

  • avatar
    carguy1964

    I can say this…I have seen the G8 and the G6 and G5 at the auto show..I can say this…they need to kill of the Pontiac division..G8 looks like GSE Bonniville, G6 a Pontiac GTP and the G5 Sunbird…C’mon GM Put this horse out to the pasture and shoot it! by the way, does that TA come with a T-top?? It is retro.. right??

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    How about just not making a Camaro, and giving Pontiac the ONLY version?

    What does Chevy need a Camaro for, anyway?

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Remember, Pontiac’s current slogan is:

    “Pontiac is CAR”.

    When I first saw that I thought someone must have built a spoof pontiac.com website, but nope … it’s official.

    The entire current Pontiac lineup is a sales flop and an embarrassment. Not a single vehicle there is even a two-base hit, let alone a home run. I wonder what fraction of Pontiac sales are fleet these days?

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    You guys are surprised? I thought its been pretty common knowledge for the past few years or so that there wasn’t going to be a Pontiac version. Ya know, for a bunch of people that get so miffed off at badge engineering, your taking this pretty harsh.

  • avatar
    NickR

    And if they are professional grade one has to wonder what Chevy trucks are???

    Amateur grade?

  • avatar
    schempe

    I guess you can chalk up another missed opportunity for GM. As I recall GM sold quite a few Firebirds between 1967 and 1981. These were popular cars. You couldn’t drive around the block without seeing one either on the street or in a driveway. Times have changed, it seems Honda Civics have taken the Firebird’s place.

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    This will offer at least some excitement.

    2009 G8 GXP with LS3
    Production starts in March, should be available this summer.

  • avatar

    SkiD666 : This will offer at least some excitement. 2009 G8 GXP with LS3 Production starts in March, should be available this summer. There is irony here… While the G8 may turn out to be a genuine performance car, and a genuine performance car bargain, branding is about coherently occupying and relentlessly promoting a given mindspace. You can’t sell a bunch of slow, foul-handling crap (not to mention the Pontiac minivan) and call yourself a performance division. Which is why Pontiac no longer does. So… If Pontiac’s NOT GM’s performance division, THEY HAVE NO BUSINESS SELLING A PERFORMANCE CAR. Of course, that still begs the original question: what is a Pontiac? I’m coming to the conclusion that GM doesn’t know and doesn’t care. They are now trying to starve Buick (no Enclaves my ass), Pontiac, Saab and Saturn to death. Good strategy, perhaps, but their branding is in tatters across the board. Except for Hummer. And that’s what I call funny.

  • avatar
    nametag

    Pontiac really is the performance division. How often do I get stuck with a Pontiac whenever I rent a car? How often do I give my rental a zero to 60, 60 to zero, 100 on the highway for a 5 seconds, testing the ABS, and whatever else to push the limit of the car… Now THAT is excitement!

  • avatar
    L47_V8

    jthorner :
    February 16th, 2008 at 2:14 am

    Remember, Pontiac’s current slogan is:

    “Pontiac is CAR”.

    What does that make the still-in-production Torrent?

    All I have to say is the 2008 G6 has $3000 cash on the hood. And Avis still buys more G6s than the public.

  • avatar
    L47_V8

    The “Pontiac -> Action” slogan was better than “Pontiac is Car.” It actually works, if you drop the “P” and scramble the letters a bit.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Of course, that still begs the original question: what is a Pontiac?

    I guess that you haven’t seen the ad campaign. Apparently, Pontiac is CAR. It should be obvious what that means.

    Fortunately, this leaves room for a lot of possibilities. Chevrolet can be “Car”, to emphasize that isn’t selling the CARS that Pontiac is, while Cadillac would be “CAR “to distinguish it from Pontiac’s CAR. Saturn, inspired by ee cummings prose, would be “car.” Saab would be “bil” (not “Bill”), which of course is Swedish for car, because Saabs are Swedish, except for when they are selling Subarus (no, I don’t know what “CAR” is in Japanese, so back off) or Chevys with relocated ignitions.

    GMC, of course, is TRUCK, while Hummer is TRUCK. Not sure where that leaves Buick, though. Maybe that one is “Your grandfather’s CAR.”

  • avatar
    offroadinfrontier

    I’ve seen this CAFE LAME-A$$ excuse a few times, and it is driving me CRAZY. Anyone with a decent automobile/physics knowledge know that RWD does nothing to hamper gas mileage!! Adding RWD to a car adds less wight than an AWD version of the same car.

    Look at Toyota’s specs for their Rav4 – FWD hatchback more or less off of a Camry platform. Add AWD tp either engine and you’re looking at ~140lbs gain, equal to about one passenger (take in mind that this also adds a weighty transfer case not used on an RWD). The less-powerful I4 drops 1/2mpg, while the V6 loses 0/1mpg.

    The weight gain of RWD could easily be cancelled out by some simple weight elimination.

    Now my biggest gripe against GM – WHAT to they brag about their ‘Vette?! Almost every official word about the ‘Vette includes a statment about the miraculous MPG this sports car gets. Even with the big engine, the car gets awesome gas mileage. Did you know the ‘Vette gets good gas mileage? Oh, by the way, did GM post enough words on the ‘Vette’s gas mileage for you to know that it gets good gas mileage?!?

    But wait – CAFE rules insist that RWDs get BAD gas mileage. Maybe one day in the future we will see a FWD ‘Vette…

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    KARR killed KITT. NOOOO!!! Somewhere Michael Knight is hiding and crying…into his 12th beer.

  • avatar
    MPLS

    jthorner:

    The entire current Pontiac lineup is a sales flop and an embarrassment. Not a single vehicle there is even a two-base hit, let alone a home run.

    This is true for thee most part. However, the G6 sold 150,000 units in 2007 and 157,000 in 2006. When you consider that the G6 competes with the Aura and Malibu in the GM universe for midsize sedans sales those are strong sales.

    With the possible exception of the G8, the ONLY reason Pontiac exists nowdays is that BPG dealers have Chevys to sell. There is no such thang as a Pontiac, none of GM’s lineup originates from this division.

    “Pontiac is CAR”? LOL. What are they thinking?

  • avatar
    L47_V8

    MPLS :
    February 17th, 2008 at 12:44 am

    jthorner:

    The entire current Pontiac lineup is a sales flop and an embarrassment. Not a single vehicle there is even a two-base hit, let alone a home run.

    This is true for thee most part. However, the G6 sold 150,000 units in 2007 and 157,000 in 2006. When you consider that the G6 competes with the Aura and Malibu in the GM universe for midsize sedans sales those are strong sales.

    More than 60% of G6s go to fleets currently.

    And, as I said, they’re practically giving them away. Every 2008 model already has $3,000 in incentives. And they still don’t sell to the public.

  • avatar
    armadamaster

    How much more proof do we need that GM is lost when it comes to their car lineups?

    Pontiac hasn’t been Pontiac since they killed the F-body in 2002 instead of updating it.

    Instead we get an Australian import sedan that sounds like it got named at a company bingo tournament.

    Just when you think GM can’t fail anymore….they go the extra mile!

  • avatar
    MPLS

    L47_V8

    Where do you get the rental fleet perventages. Im not doubting you, Im just curious. Thanks. 60% AND a $3000 rebate. That cant be making much money selling these vehicles.

  • avatar
    George B

    At I see it, the problem is GM has to supply a bunch of Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealerships even though GM basically just makes Chevrolets, Opels, Holdens, and Cadillacs. Other than their dealer franchise contracts, why not just sell Chevrolets spiced up with some RWD Holden models like the Ute/El Camino, Opel/Saturns, and Cadillacs? Maybe GM could sell the Buick brand to the Chinese and give Pontiac and GMC all the fleet sales.


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