Bubblegum Death Experience: Pontiac Gets What It Deserves

bubblegum death experience pontiac gets what it deserves

“Hi Mr. Baruth. First, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to assist you and please feel free to email or call me at the number provided if you have any other questions you need answered. I have a vehicle with a MSRP of $29,995. I can sell you that for $29,482.” Interesting. In the middle of the American automotive market’s worst implosion in living memory, what car could possibly be so valuable, so desired, so smoking hot that the maximum negotiating room possible would amount to an ungenerous five hundred and thirteen dollars off sticker? Give up? It’s a Pontiac G8. A 2008-model Pontiac G8.

My first exposure to Pontiac’s Holden-by-any-other-name came at the San Diego press launch last summer, and I was so smitten that I permitted myself to be videotaped by the General’s PR flacks gushing incoherently about how the G8 “challenges the BMW 5er on home ground and carries away a win on value” or something equally inane. I also made a call from the hotel that evening to my younger brother, a multiple-Mazda owner and SCCA National Solo trophy recipient, suggesting that he investigate the possibility of buying one himself. I knew he’d been interested in the G8 from the moment the first photos appeared but had been waiting to hear the full scoop on the faux-Pontiac’s over-the-road capabilities.

“Go ahead and buy one,” was my advice, “and the V6, if you’re so inclined, is almost as good as the V8.” That’s true, by the way: it would be perfectly possible for a so-called “performance buyer” to enjoy driving the plain-Jane G8. During my evaluation of the V6 model in the curvy canyons south of San Diego, I utterly humiliated a group of hardcore Ducati-mounted sportbikers in such egregious fashion that I received a written reprimand after the event from a GM corporate toad for “dangerous vehicle operation”. A good car, solidly executed.

I flew home from San Diego full of hope that Pontiac finally had a car for which very few excuses need be made. Yes, the G8 had a few weak spots – flimsy interior pieces, unfortunate color choices, a visual distinction between the “standard” and GT models so miniscule that GM’s own flunkies repeatedly mis-identified the two during the press event – but it also had solid pretensions of automotive greatness. It was worth buying.

Ay, there’s the rub: buying the thing. In the six months that followed, my brother learned firsthand about the misery of dealing with Pontiac dealers. This is the same group of people, remember, who effectively held the first batches of 2004 GTOs hostage, demanding ten-grand markups and no-questions-asked deposits before finally panicking and selling the backlog of unwanted Goats for invoice minus holdback in enormous, humiliating newspaper ads which inadvertently slaughtered the car’s residual value. The attitudes of these domestic dealer ding-dongs, seemingly formed during the brief halcyon days where the Grand Am was GM’s best-selling automobile and served as the exclusive transport option of every stripper, Wal-Mart cashier, and three-hundred-pound, trailer-park-bound, human hippopotamus in the Midwest, could best be described as “aggressively unfriendly”.

My brother’s experience started with an attempt to “pre-order” the car. He was assured time and time again that the cars would be “impossible to get” and that only a sizable deposit would guarantee a spot in line. When the G8 began to pile up in dealer lots despite the predicted shortage, he was repeatedly denied a test drive despite being a respectable-looking thirty-year-old who wore Canali suits and appeared with his wife and young son in tow. After multiple incidents where dealership personnel made it plainly obvious to him that it would be doing him a favor to let him so much as sniff a G8, he gave up and bought another Mazda. I can’t blame him.

Still, hope springs eternal in the human breast, particularly when the human breast involved spent hours watching “Knight Rider” as a child and longingly watching the third-generation Trans Am “GTA” roll thunderously through the neighborhood. With nearly half the G8s ever produced still silently flat-spotting their tires in dealer lots, my brother thought he’d try one more. Again, he visited, called, emailed tirelessly, serenading his office with the sound of the various dealers’ on-hold music via his desk speakerphone, waiting for a low-options G8 GT at a reasonable price. The e-mail which opened this article represents the best offer he’s yet seen. Mark my words: when the last Pontiac dealership in this country is either razed to the ground or ignominiously remodeled to sell Chinese crapwagons, it won’t take a Heinrich Schliemann to discover the story of why GM’s Excitement brand found itself stripped of its flaming chicken wings and buried in the cold, dead ground.

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  • Tankd0g Tankd0g on Jan 25, 2009

    It's the GTO all over again. Don't import enough of them to meet the meager demand, declare the pubic doesn't want imports, kill it.

  • Tankd0g Tankd0g on Jan 25, 2009

    "Bridge2far : January 9th, 2009 at 11:56 pm So, why don’t we get our story straight here. There is huge criticism for massive discounting, red tag sales etc as destroying the value of a vehicle. Yet, you lament the absence of huge discounts on a G8?" This is the fruit those tactics bear, now a GM car without a deep discount is an obvious scam.

  • DenverMike When was it ever a mystery? The Fairmont maybe, but only the 4-door "Futura" trim, that was distinctively upscale. The Citation and Volare didn't have competing trims, nor was there a base stripper Maxima at the time, if ever, crank windows, vinyl seats, 2-doors, etc. So it wasn't a "massacre", not even in spirit, just different market segments. It could be that the Maxima was intended to compete with those, but everything coming from Japan at the time had to take it up a notch, if not two.Thanks to the Japanese "voluntary" trade restriction, everything had extra options, if not hard loaded. The restriction limited how many vehicles were shipped, not what they retailed at. So Japanese automakers naturally raised the "price" (or stakes) without raising MSRP. What the dealers charged (gouged) was a different story.Realistically, the Maxima was going up against entry luxury sedans (except Cimarron lol), especially Euro/German, same as the Cressida. It definitely worked in Japanese automaker's favor, not to mention inspiring Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
  • Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
  • Car65688392 thankyou for the information
  • Car65688392 Thankyou for your valuable information
  • MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.