By on November 1, 2013

Photo courtesy of GMauthority.com

So I read earlier this week that Bob Lutz is saying that the US Government killed Pontiac. He says that GM had big plans to rescue the struggling brand with innovative, rear-wheel designs that included small performance cars that would have set the Germans back on their heels. Had these plans come to fruition, he hints, enthusiasts would have been busting down the doors and the brand would have quickly returned to good health. Sounds like new golden age for Pontiac was just around the corner. And it would have worked too, if it weren’t for those meddling Feds. That’s what Bob says anyhow, but I’m not so sure. The way I remember it, I had a hand in killing Pontiac, too.

Oh sure, there were probably some government guys there at the end but they just turned off the machine that was keeping Pontiac alive. I’m one of the guys who put it in the hospital. I’ll tell you honestly that I didn’t want to kill the brand, I actually really liked it, – well I liked what they said they were building anyhow – but the truth is that they never delivered. Now that I think about it, they sort of had it coming…

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By the time I started buying new cars in the 1980s, Pontiac’s heyday was already long gone. Even so, if you had walked into your local Buick/Pontiac/GMC shop smack-dab in the middle of the spandex decade you would have found lots of interesting models to choose from including a mid-engine two seat sports car, a muscle car, a RWD personal luxury coupe, a smaller, more modern FWD personal luxury coupe, a full-size RWD luxury barge, a generic FWD mid-sizer, a generic RWD mid-sizer and a couple of different economy cars wearing the Pontiac arrowhead. Hindsight tells us that some of these cars were less than stellar, of course, but for the most part they were a step up from the darkest days of the malaise era and owning a new Pontiac was something a young man could be proud of. If I’d had my way, I’d have taken one home, but a person making a whopping $3.35 an hour really shouldn’t be buying new cars and so I didn’t.

Just five years later, much of that formerly huge Pontiac line-up had gone away. With the exception of the very dated Firebird all the rear wheel drivers had been dropped and customers were left with, in addition to the aforementioned F body, a choice between the Bonneville, 6000, Grand-Am, Grand-Prix, Sunbird, the Transsport min-van and the foreign built Lemans and Firefly subcompacts. With the exception of the Turbo Grand-Prix, there is nothing of interest there for me and so I stayed comfortably at home, my money in my pocket.

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From this point in the article I could talk about how Pontiac’s line-up changed every so often and how, basically, they never really made anything else I ever wanted. I won’t do that because you’re probably already familiar with the cars Pontiac sold over the past couple of decades and you don’t need me to lead you on a walk through year after year of silly looking designs. So, cutting to the chase, I’m simply going to say that over the past two decades there were only a few Pontiacs that really got my attention. They are: The WS6 Trans-Am, which was pretty on the outside but cramped on the inside, later model Bonnevilles, which, depending upon your angle of approach are either really cool looking or a hopeless mish-mash of bodylines coming together at odd points, the Vibe wagon, which is actually a Toyota and the Torrent CUV, (which I did eventually buy) which is really a badge engineered Chevrolet Equinox. That’s all, folks.

Those rear wheel drivers Bob Lutz was depending upon to save Pontiac? Yeah, they weren’t even on my radar. Sure, I saw their pictures in the magazines but the G8 and the GTO were not what I was looking for. To put it plainly, the GTO looked bland and the G8 was a modern take on the 1972 Dodge Polara – big and high powered, but not really the tough-looking upscale luxury sedan I would have liked. OK, I know that’s insulting, I actually kind of like the old-school Polara so I don’t want you Dodge boys getting on my case, but you get my point. These cars weren’t going to save Pontiac and, while they were good enough that didn’t deserve to have their runs cut short, they weren’t ever going to chalk up huge sales numbers either.

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So, there you have it. I stood dead center in the middle of Pontiac’s target demographic for almost three decades and the only car they managed to sell me was a badge engineered Chevy. (Maybe they should put that on the back of TTAC’s next T-shirt.) Bob Lutz can point his finger at the evil Feds and talk pie-in-the-sky Pontiacs all day long, but the truth is that Pontiac let us down year after year and eventually we cared so little about the brand that on the day it died most of us didn’t even know it was sick. Instead of blaming the evil Feds, GM needs to think about what really happened, otherwise history could repeat itself.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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75 Comments on “The Feds Didn’t Kill Pontiac, I did....”


  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    Now if someone could kill the rest of GM….

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    Bravo. About damn time someone called out Minimum Bob for all of his fairy tales. This guy needs to just stay on the golf course and shut his trap.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I’m surprised he doesn’t run for office–always blaming others, contradicting himself, thinking he knows more about everyone else than they do about themselves, building his own personal brand & empire instead of the company’s, etc.–he’s already got all the tools to be a politician.

  • avatar
    2kriss2kross

    I lament the loss of Pontiac and Saturn. Pontiac was bringing some Aussie muscle and Saturn was bringing Opels/Opel based products, they were getting interesting in their final years. I will always wonder why GMC survived, nobody deserved the ax more than GMC.

    • 0 avatar
      DGA

      After they looked at the books…GMC had a profit margin that Pontiac wished they could. It was simple in the end and pretty much boiled down to what Tom describes here, very tepid interest in the brand’s offering made for very lukewarm profit figures, if that.

    • 0 avatar
      Pockets

      Killing off Saturn makes perfect sense; it doesn’t really stand for much. It makes much more sense to use those products to strengthen a brand like Buick (or Pontiac, if they’d been kept instead) rather than to try and make Saturn into something memorable.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      Opel is dying, what’s the big deal? They share platforms with Chevy, again, whats the big deal?

      Enough of the “GM should have kept all the brands, since I liked to memorize them!”

  • avatar
    Dipstick

    If someone could tell the remaining owners of Pontiac cars to stop trying to convince everybody their cars are sporty by driving aggressively.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I vehemently disagree with your assessment of the brand in the 3rd and 4th paragraph.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      By 1983, David Hasselhoff was promoting Firebirds, enough said. They didn’t have the character of the Bandit era cars. Cars with actual Pontiac motors were long gone from showrooms.

      F Body became a joke by late 80′s, as the ‘HS Bully’ car. Meanwhile Mustang 5.0 developed a huge aftermarket and survived.

  • avatar
    epsilonkore

    Granted there were few Pontiacs worth owning, manufactured in my lifetime. Sadly the lineup at the very end was the best it had been in the last 20 years, even that was too little too late. The G8 GT and Solstice GXP offered performance, at a value that created buzz when they debuted. True even those two cars were behind where they should have been in one area or another (interior materials), but another generation of refinement could have made them quite competitive.
    The G5,G6,Vibe and even the authors Torrent, were not inline with the “rear drive Pontiac” that Lutz speaks of. If that was his real intention, they needed to get started fast replacing or removing each of those FWD cars and updating the only two that qualified his story… basically gutting the current Pontiac. Solution? Kill it.

    My only regret… GM killing the Kappa platform (which had a new generation already in the works) entirely and not putting it under another brand :/

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Agreed on Kappa.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      It would have taken a decade or more with a good lineup to even start to recover the reputation. A decade of marginal sales and negative profits is not something a company that’s about to go into bankruptcy can afford to tolerate.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      Kappa didn’t make money. That’s why none of them transitioned to Chevy when they killed Pontiac.

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        Mostly true. It didn’t make money but the biggest reason it didn’t make money and wasn’t transitioned to Chevy was the fact that tooling/production was in Delaware at a plant that had nothing else going for it….by nothing I mean zero other vehicles. Outside of Corvette plant which is very small, its hard to justify a plant cranking out 30,000 units a year…especially when it transacted in the mid 20k range.

        Had Kappa been blended into production at a plant building other profitable vehicles, it would have moved over as it was just a few years into its life cycle and sold well in its segment. The fact that it was the only vehicle in that plant doomed it during/after the bankruptcy.

        • 0 avatar
          84Cressida

          I don’t know why they couldn’t have built them at their Hamtrack facility, or Orion. Delaware seems like so far out of the way to build a car. Didn’t GM have another plant in that area they closed? I know they had the Linden, NJ plant where they built the Blazer and they had one in MD where they built the Astro and Safari.

          • 0 avatar
            sunridge place

            They had excess capacity everywhere back then. Have no idea why they chose Wilmington DE for Kappa versus another plant back then…but they did. It was a empty big plant that used to crank out Caprices/Berettas/Olds88′s etc…they had other empty plants to choose from back then.

            But, once it all crashed, they left Wilmington in Old GM along with a few other plants and finally got their manufacturing footprint where it needed to be. Kappa was a victim.

            Its not like they could just pack the tooling on a moving van to Hamtrack or Orion and start production like a traveling circus. Its not that simple.

            Especially when the tooling was supporting a product that, even though #1 in its segment for a year, had 30-40k per year volume at fairly low margins and transaction prices on a platform that wasn’t shared by other products.

      • 0 avatar
        chicagoland

        The Solstace was a ‘halo’ car to get feet in showrooms, and then push G5, G6, or Vibe. No sales of those at profit, no brand.

        Kappa should have been put into a ‘flex’ plant, but Lutz ha ‘pie in sky’ dreams, and wanted to ‘save’ Delaware plant.

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          I always thought the Kappa platform would have made a great entry level sport sedan/coupe or roadster for Cadillac just below the CTS. Now there is the ATS.

  • avatar
    MattPete

    In the 1980s, Pontiac made interesting cars.

    in the 1990s, Pontiac made over-the-top cars clad in plastic ribbing.

    In the 2000s, Pontiac made…did they make anything? Whatever they did make seemed to be too boring, cheap, and flimsy for anyone to care. The G8/GTO seemed like a great idea on paper, but their execution was meh.

    GM killed Pontiac by designing cars nobody wanted.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      From the article: “Sounds like new golden age for Pontiac was just around the corner.”

      This was the case for every year after ~1973 – too bad it never happened.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Ya, the G8 execution was just meh.

      The poached BMW engineers that designed Zeta built a car that matched the 535 tick for tick in performance, was within millimeters dimensionally identical for $20K less. Yup – those 535i are sure meh.

      The same poached BMW engineers when developing the LFA version (which we didn’t get in the states) built a car that would eat the same gen M5 alive in all respects, for about $30K less.

      What’s the resale on a 2008 535i???

      Meh

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        I’m with you. I rarely would defend GM but I fail to see a problem with the G8. Yeah the interior might not be 100% equivalent to what you get in a 5 series, but for the price point it was pretty good. When they killed of Pontiac and were blowing these out, I wish I could have taken advantage. You could have bought a G8 GXP, driven it for a year and sold it for a profit.

        I get GM’s frustration with the G8. It was the car everyone wanted them to build. They built it and nobody wanted them until they got axed. All of a sudden they are in demand and fetching some interesting premiums.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I bought my G8 GXP in May 2009 for almost $2000 under MSRP with a 0% 72-month loan.

          By three months later, the supply had dried up, and the few remaining examples on dealer lots were selling for several thousand over MSRP.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            There have been articles right here in TTAC about how difficult Pontiac dealers made it for people to even test drive, much less buy a G8, including one guy who couldn’t get a test drive without putting cash down and signing a purchase order. If I remember correctly, Pontiac never sold its full allotment of G8s. The dealer lots selling over MSRP with dried up supply must have been a local condition.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            In late summer 2009, there were only 5-10 GXPs left across the country.

            By contrast, in May 2009, I had four offers from DC-area dealers well under MSRP on manual GXPs. No one gave me any nonsense about a test drive or made me put down a deposit.

      • 0 avatar
        MattPete

        Yes, the execution was ‘meh’. Aesthetically, it would have been a hit in 1992. But it looked dated and bland (with some muscular highlights) in 2008.

      • 0 avatar
        chicagoland

        Even with ‘poached BMW engineers’, no way was any American Yuppie going to buy anything with same name as the the ‘a$$**les in HS’ drove.

        Sure high prices now since no more new ones. But need more than 18,000 sales a year to maintain a whole plant, shipping, and not to mention CAFE laws.

        Used BMW’s are now what Generation Why actually buys, not a cladded, lipstick red, Grand Prix/Am that the pizza delivery guy drives.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          “Used BMW’s are now what Generation Why actually buys”

          I was at the airport Thursday waiting in line for security. I heard a couple of Gen-Y Thousands Standing Around employees talking about the ’09 BMW one had just bought.

          I chuckled, but in an entirely non-terrorist way.

        • 0 avatar

          This last part cracks me up. I wish I had thought to include that image in the article above, it’s so true.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    Lest we forget that the very last Pontiac introduced and ever built was the G3 aka a Chevy Aveo. That happend.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I’m glad commenting was opened on this post because I wanted to say that I agree 100%. When I was getting ready to graduate college in 1997, my goal was to buy a new (at the time) Firebird Formula 5.7. I had the books, studied what I could in a pre-Internet world, and bided my time.

    Of course the purchase never happened. My automotive interests matured and Pontiac was sort of left behind.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sorry comments weren’t open on this. All I can think is that I must have made some sort of error when I was doing the data entry on it. It certainly wasn’t by design, if y’all knew how closely I watched post counts you’d know I’ve been freaking out all day.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    So, given that I have owned 6 vehicles but never bought one new, or used from a dealer, and only go to dealers for parts I can’t find elsewhere, and plan on buying my next two vehicles used (03ish Sonoma and 08+ Accord V6/6MT Coupe)…

    Am I killing car companies too?

    I ask with complete sincerity because I have noticed that, while a car enthusiast, I seem to go out of my way to give as little of my money as possible to the very people who produce the subject of my passion.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      That’s OK. Your money has use for other interests as well. And with car dealerships, there’s some sense in not wanting to pay for a dirt bath.

    • 0 avatar
      DubTee1480

      Not really, your demand for used cars allows others to buy new every few years. Not your demand personally, but if there were no such thing as a used market everyone would likely drive their cars into the ground.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Alright Gents, follow up question.

      Invariably, Company X announces the 2015 Brown Manual AWD Diesel Wagon.

      TTAC’ers say how great it is, but then lament its not as good as the 2004 BAMDW that we all lust after but only 14 were sold and they are all either destroyed or asking 114% MSRP. And then Company X says, its now a non-brown A Segment FWD Hatch 0.6 L 2 cylinder turbo gas with a 9 speed dual clutch developed by hated domestic automaker Z.

      There have been a lot of comments on TTAC lately calling people out for not buying the model (the BAMDW), or basically for not putting their money where their mouth is.

      I don’t buy new cars at all. I may not be part of the solution, but I don’t think I’m part of the problem, i.e. I’m not sabotaging the BADW by buying a Camcord because it was just such a good deal.

      Thoughts?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I think OEMs seldom make money selling to a minority like the enthusiast but at the same time many enthusiasts prefer used over new for fiscal reasons. If an OEM is going to release a model like BADW they are going to have to come up with a way to get their target audience (the high credit score enthusiast) to pony up the money and actually buy one new. One way I would imagine is to release the near ultimate BADW (for whatever it’s price point is to be mind you) offer high margin customization packages (as Scion does/did with tC) and then purposely sell them in limited quantities in order to keep up resale. The Pontiac G8 serves as inadvertent evidence of how releasing a very well made enthusiast car in limited quantities can pent up used demand and reward the first owner with low depreciation (also see Mustang GT500, and to a lesser extent Camaro SS).

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          Great line 28CL

          ” how releasing a very well made enthusiast car in limited quantities can pent up used demand and reward the first owner with low depreciation”

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    The only part of this diatribe I disagree with is right here:

    Even so, if you had walked into your local Buick/Pontiac/GMC shop smack-dab in the middle of the spandex decade

    I have a son in high school here in New Jersey. I recently picked him up and was at the security desk when classes changed.

    I told my son that the last time I saw half as much spandex was in a Jane Fonda workout tape. It’s the spandex decade now.

  • avatar
    Tim_Turbo

    I had a 99 Grand Prix GTP 2 door that I bought used in 2003. By no means was it one of my favorite cars, but it was good enough at the time and I never had any trouble with it. I was just out of college so I was not as picky about fit and finish things that would bother me today. It was also one of those cars that could surprise some more expensive “faster” cars. Funny thing is I think that body style (97-03 I belive) looks better than the last generation Grand Prix to this day.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      I also think the 97-03 Grand Prix was better looking than the final generation. It was however, poorly packaged. Somehow, the smaller Alero contrives to be much more versatile. The Grand Prix had nice hidden trunk hinges but then ruined it with a small opening that totally defeated the purpose, as an example.

      Gotta love the 3800 though.

      • 0 avatar
        DubTee1480

        I liked those hinges on my ’04 Impala also… I still crush stuff in the trunk of my ’05 Civic and my wife’s ’05 Accord from time to time.
        Idk how much interior space the GP shared with it’s stablemate Impala but I packed some stuff into that car. With the rear seats folded down once I packed in a 12×12 EZ-UP canopy, 2 6′ tables and 24 steel folding chairs.

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          The problem I had with the GP wasn’t the size of the trunk, it was the size/shape of the opening. I couldn’t fit large square items such as my big Coleman cooler into it, yet the Alero, due to its bigger opening area swallows it with ease. This to me causes more problems than the goose neck hinges.

          I have to think the Impala, due to its more staid and less “racy” design relative to the Grand Prix must have had a more useful opening.

          Similarly, the Grand Am trunk, while having similar volume to the Alero, is let down by a trunk lid that has to accommodate the tail lights of the Grand Am.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            The trunk lids are getting smaller in all cars, thanks to raked rear windows and shorter rear overhangs, not to mention high sills, a real problem with heavy items of any size.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree with you and I think it was a matter of GM reshaping the models among the different brands. So for Impala they went with a more traditional/conservative approach with the trunk opening or height of the trunk door. For the Grand Prix (the “driver’s car” version), its probably the same dimensions but the entire car is very shapely, and given the body language it probably wasn’t possible to have the same size of trunk opening. Ditto to Grand Am vs Alero.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Huh…

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/09/2008-pontiac-g8-gt-take-two/

    ..and then…

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/04/review-200-pontiac-g8-gxp/

    I’ll close with if the G8 was that big of a failure why do GXPs still command 75% of their value give or take, GTs command 66% of their value give or take, and base models about 55% – these cars are 5 and 6 model years old now with some of the highest resale values you can find.

    Solstice coupes sell for about sticker price – and digging through SCCA Autocross results at nationals the Solstice is more than class competitive.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      They were good cars (albeit needy of parts as they age), but they didn’t pay their bills and neither did anything else sold as a Pontiac in the 2000s.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        I think you miss my point. I don’t question the lack of profitability or the “why” on Pontiac was killed. I have constantly defended the saving of Buick (China) and the death of Pontiac (zero brand equity and no profit). My understanding is the only reason GMC survived is when the feds asked the same question, it was apparent GMC was (or could easily be made) quite profitable. Big ass money to be made slightly tarting up Silverados and Suburbans.

        But there is a fair amount of hater-ade above and below directed specifically at the G8 which is really, unwarranted (it would have been exciting in 1992?!? Ya, because there was a bevy of RWD 6-speed 365 HP sports sedans for $18K (adjusting for inflation) in 1992).

        As I linked to – even TTAC – which would give NOTHING with a GM badge on it love in 2008 or 2009 – loved the G8 GT and G8 GXP. One can look through many of the posts about what kind of used car to buy discussions since 2010 and there is recommendation after recommendation for the
        G8. One can also find loads of snark in 2009 and 2010 in the B&B of, well when the G8 loses 50% of its value next month, I might buy one. You hard pressed to find a 6 year old 2008 V6 optionless stripper at 50% of its original sticker price (non-salvage) today. Clean five year old GTs are still selling in the 20s – high mile (think 90K miles plus) still command $18K to $20K – salvage around $14K to $15K. GXPs with low miles still get over $30K, easily.

        Sure, generation Y, the fraction that can afford a car, is buying their used BMWs and bitching on every forum about replacing LCAs every 30K miles, blown up fuel pumps, and the relative “joy” that comes with owning a 5 to 7 year old European car. There are stories after story and comment after comment in the B&B that it takes a special kind of masochism to buy a used European car today. [THIS IS WHERE A VW OWNER SCREAMS THAT REPLACING IGNITION COILS EVERY 30K MILES IS REGULAR MAINTENANCE, HONEST!]

        Snob appeal sells – but it comes at a high price. The rest of us, enjoy the bargain – and I have the time slips to back up this claim. Stock for stock, a 335i gets a lovely view of my taillights pulling away.

        0 to 60 in 5.01, 1/4 mile in 13.227, and I can do the Kessel run in less than ELEVEN parsecs. Take that Millennium Falcon. ;-)

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          They’re vastly larger than anything I’d buy, but I like them well enough as they are. My main gripes are the excessive weight and the whore paint GM applied to the clean Holden look. Putting the Pontiac badge on them consigned them to the ignominy of mullet-wearing, meth-cooking, wife-beating redneck stereotypes.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      It was a great car but it was very expensive to produce and lost Pontiac money (except for the $40k+ GXP).

      I’m a G8 GXP owner and everyone except hardcore gearheads just thinks I’m stupid for having spent $40k on a Pontiac. The brand’s reputation was completely gone.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      The business case for the G8 depended on base models selling in volume. Just as the Mustang has done for 50 years.

      And some forget, GM was bankrupt and could not support all their brands and models!

      Used cars don’t contribute a cent to bottom line. Hence, the Ford Panther is dead.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Correct. And the bean counters or the we must differentiate idiots made sure the base model would not sell.

        They gave it the hobbled version of the 3.6 with 242 HP, instead of the 285 HP or 303 HP versions available to them. They got the 5-speed automatic instead of the six, and a pretty base interior/climate control/stereo setup. Then the real icing on the cake – the premium for the GT was barely $2K.

        For $2K you got 80 more HP, over 100 more pound feet of torque, only lost 1 MPG city and 1 MPG highway, got an extra cog in the tranny, taken right from the Corvette, slightly bigger front brakes, the upgraded stereo with full color screen, dual zone climate control, the brushed metal exterior trim, and more that escapes me at the moment.

        My first experience with a G8 was a 2008 base model rental – and I was stunned at how good it was. Part of the reason I bought one. When I did the research (as I felt the V6 would be plenty for me) I concluded it would be outright stupid to buy the V6 base model over a GT – the price delta was so small, the performance improvement giant, almost no impact to MPG, and way more “standard” equipment that even before two extra cylinders and an extra gear in the tranny, was close to the price premium on its own.

        Heck, even Consumer Reports wrote an editorial basically begging for GM to keep the G8, call it an Impala and shoot the W-body in the head.

        I’m very curious to know if they will make money on the Chevrolet SS at $43K sticker. It’s content is vastly higher than the G8 GXP with a 8% price premium from 2009 sticker versus 2014 sticker. That 8% doesn’t even cover inflation.

        I would consider an SS – but to snob appeal – it wears a bowtie. Now had they called it a Buick Grand National…

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Some DeLoreans command good prices these days, so they must have been good cars produced by a well-run company.

      I’ll never forget the time I realized that the GTO tail bore a striking similarity to the tail of a Nissan Sentra.

      http://nozama.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/02/08/gto2.jpg

      http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/3/2832/1721/32078360139_large.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      Blackcloud_9

      I think the case of the G8 was “too little, too late”. Yes, it was a good car but it wasn’t enough to justify the saving of Pontiac.
      I’ll use this this analogy…
      Towards the end of WW II the Germans came came out with the ME262 the first jet powered fighter to have production in meaningful numbers. It was vastly superior to anything Allies flew at that time. But for all of its superiority it wasn’t enough to turn the tide of the war. Had it come out a few years earlier it might have made a difference.
      My point is one good car wasn’t enough to save a foundering division

  • avatar
    nguyenvuminh

    Thomas Kreutzer – I would like to compliment you on your calling out Bob Lutz. He’s great as a product line manager (specific car model that he was responsible for) but he was in a leadership position at Chrysler and GM and those two are weak. He wasn’t able to change them and has a tendency of blaming others.

  • avatar
    morbo

    I gladly helped kill Pontiac. I bought a new Bonneville in 2003, as a mid 20′s white collar professionals first new car. I was commuting from NJ to DC a lot, so it made sense on paper. 6 months of constant breakdowns, and 1 month of shoptime later I traded it in on for a different car. I lost a lot of cash trading it in on a Japanese sedan. Lesson learned as a mid 20′s white collar professional, Never buy anything from GM, EVER. Ford, Honda, and Chrysler have made good money off of me (and my group) since then.

    Regardless of what product they put out at the end, they were lost to my generation (or at least those of us on the east coast that buy new cars). Pontiac for my generation is warmed over W-bodies and Grand Ams clad in plastic, with odor emitting dashes designed by C. Thulu, or rebadged Chevy’s with somehow worse fit and finish. Bob Lutz can say what he wants, but unless they offered a Lexus like value proposition (offer a $60K car for $30K to build the brand), nothing was bringing Pontiac back from the grave.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The best placed country to manufacture relatively small runs of vehicles to beat the Germans is being closed down in a few years, Australia.

    GMH was General Motors darling performance and prestige car producer.

    The short sighted General Motors managers could of made GMH a global prestige and high performance manufacturer/designer.

    Oh, well. Judging by past decisions by General Motors they are doomed to be eventually bought out by Ford when they go bust again.

    • 0 avatar

      If that ever happens, I can see the General’s truck-based assets spun off as a brand-new company while the rest is sold piecemeal to Chinese buyers in search of a quick and easy way of gaining access to the U.S. market.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      But no one wants to pay the premium for those “darling” Holdens from AUS. Only if they put in tariff and trade laws can they make a case.

      Rich car fans want Euro [GER] and nothing else.

  • avatar
    GST

    Pontiac had a hot car reputaion in the 60′s. My Dad bought a new 1960 Pontiac Catalina, white. It had some kind of a big V8. He put glasspacks, and fender skirts on it. What a great sound! The big question is why he allowed me, a high school senior to drive it?

    Yes, if you were not careful, you could probably have destroyed the tires in one wild night.

    Thanks, Dad

    I wonder how many readers today don’t know what glasspacks were?

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Said this before about ‘if only Pontiac lived’ complaints:

    Gearheads stuck in 1968 would complain about the newer RWD cars’ styling & price, and say “gimme a Holley Carb!” Look how much the Car Craft old timers, some younger than 50, hated the 2004-06 GTO.

    Beemer owners were no way going to set foot in a BPG dealer. No further discussion.

    And those who wanted Holden’s RWD cars, literally said “I’ll get one cheap used”. Or, “I’ll wait for huge rebates”.

    GM is better off making what sells. And they already have RWD ‘sporty’ cars at Cadillac and Chevy stores. Only when GM had 50% share was 5 brands needed, but even in the 50′s hey-day, Pontiac was on chopping block.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      There’s a big divide (actually several) with Pontiac fans: The GTO fan, the Trans Am fans and the rest of them.

      For the GTO fans, nothing but a 1964 (or ’67 or ’69 or ’71) is a Pontiac to them; sometimes they’re OK with the big older Ponchos but mostly it’s the A-body. And nothing else. Do not even mention the 1974 X-body or the 2004-06 versions. *Those* are not GTO’s…

      For the Trans Am fans, they all think they’re movie stars, driving around in S/E Trans Ams from the late 70′s. The early 70′s and most of the ’80′s-90′s TA’s get some love here, but the bulk of them are still chasing the Frog.

      For the rest of them they’re the folks who like the newer FWD cars or the SUV versions, or the old RWD cars from the 50′s & 60′s. Many of them are people like me who are old enough to remember the 60-70-80′s heydays of Pontiac ownership, but need a daily driver. Or in my case, I needed a new car, but found a better deal on a G6 than a Malibu. Actually, there were a lot of Chrysler and Mercury owners who ended up this way, too…

      In 33 years of car ownership, I’ve had six Pontiacs, three of them leased or bought new (since 2000). I’d always liked the Pontiac styling, it was the most consistent over the years. Some of the cars were great, some were poop, but I feel any manufacturer has the same odds of producing great vs. poop.

      Now that they’re gone, I’m pretty sure the next new car I buy will be a Chevy (my wife has her eyes on a 2014 Camaro). I don’t see myself as a Buick buyer and I don’t have the $$’s for a new Caddy…

      It would be great if Pontiac were to come back, but I can’t imagine how it would all work. Besides, I’m getting to the point in life where I won’t need so many more cars (probably)and it’s likely that almost any Chevy would work just fine.

      The one thing that sticks in the back of my mind, is that GM never sold off the rights to the Pontiac name (as opposed to Hummer or Saturn). I don’t know what that means for the future, but it IS interesting to consider.

      • 0 avatar

        Wonderful post. I don’t disagree. I actually miss Pontiac, they made some really cool cars over the years but for whatever reason there was always a disconnect when the time came for me to put down the cash and I don’t think I am alone in this.

        Pontiac really needed to connect with its history, to make those GTO guys you talk about really think the new cars were worthy of the name, but they really missed the mark. What’s worse is that they made the same mistake over and over and over. There wasn’t any government conspiracy to kill Pontiac, what really killed it was people like me – people who really wanted them to make something that we wanted to buy and that we could actually afford. Year after year that failed to happen and so we forgot about the brand and spent our money elsewhere.

        • 0 avatar
          Les

          I remember the ‘disconnect between when I wanted to buy and what I wanted buying’ related to general product-types rather than across the range in a specific brand.

          Very-small 4x4s were big, greatly desired one as a first car. Result: ‘Mini-SUVs’ all but dead when the time for the first car came around.

          Subaru Baja comes out, so much want.. but had just purchased second car already so had to wait to justify getting a Baja new. Result: Subaru Baja discontinued by the time was ready for third car.

          Ford Sport-Track was making me go ‘Ooooh’ at one time, but was knee-deep in third-car ownership at the time. Result: third car starts showing it’s age and justifying replacement exactly one year after Sport-Track is discontinued.

          Could that be a possible reason why so many cool things in the car world don’t last? It’s not that nobody wants one, but nobody wants one Right Now?

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I still miss my 1954 Pontiac Coupe , three tone paint , factory AC , skirts , visor and dual Hydromatic slushbox tranny mated to that long L Head 8 cylinder engine .

    Whatta car ! .

    Even Chief Pontiac’s head on the hood ornament lit up at night .

    The Delco radio played great too , having a huge speaker .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The clay mock up of a 2dr SUV/CUV behind him looks interesting. A cross between a Saab 9-4 and SRX.

  • avatar
    willmanhattan

    Thomas, I usually enjoy your articles and I agree that Bob was exaggerating… I heard one account that a G6 replacement was never planned, even though the Opel Insignia was being readied as the next Saturn Aura, and that Pontiac was scheduled to be closed in 2012 and bankruptcy just sped that up.

    However, I did not like this article. It reminded me of Time calling everybody the person of the year. When I see a headline like yours on a website, I think, “Awesome! Is this a guest columnist with an insider’s view?” You make some valid criticisms of Pontiac too but I completely and utterly disagree with your take on the G8.

  • avatar
    George B

    Every time I considered buying a Pontiac, I cross-shopped Chevrolet and found a similar car for less money. In the end I chose not to buy either one.

  • avatar
    rexs73gto

    All of you guys are forgetting the biggest item about Pontiac or GM in as a whole, all of the new cars look like eggs on wheels. There is no excitement in cars anymore. Since the advent of the Grand Am in 1985 the cars GM have built have just gone from each car they make weather it be a Pontiac or a buick you could tell what the car was coming down the road at 500 feet, but now you have to look on the car to see the script to see who made it . You can’t again they all look like eggs on wheel. I to will take credit for killing Pontiac with their help of course. The last new car I bought was my 73 GTO. The car had / has style & you can tell what it is when you see it. At least most can, except the little boys & girls who are now growing up on these eggs on wheel everyone sells now. Now don’t blame yourself for the demise of Pontiac BLAME Pontiac for the fact they had no one in the company who had the nadds to step up & say this is wrong we need real cars. They needed a person who had the guts like John Delorean had when he & others said were making this car ,,,, like it or not.

  • avatar
    Moanalua

    Well, ultimately EVERYONE who didn’t purchase a Pontiac, killed the brand. But, that’s water under the bridge. Going forward, as a Pontiac loyalist I’d like to see posts that talk about bringing the brand BACK. It’s not like Pontiac was moribund in the way that Mercury was, for example. Pontiac was #3 at GM, and possibly the #1 American brand in Canada. There was a lot of enthusiasm for the brand; Google “Bring Back Pontiac”, and see for yourself.

    @rexs73gto: I had TWO ’70 GTOs, and those cars could REALLY haul the mail.


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