Bubblegum Death Experience: Pontiac Gets What It Deserves

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
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.

  • Kwik_Shift A manual bug eye WRX wagon (2001-03) would interest me more.
  • El scotto Ferrari develops a way to put a virtual car in real time traffic? Will it be multiple virtual players in a possible infinite number of real drivers in real time situations?This will be one of the greatest things ever or a niche video game.
  • El scotto It's said that many military regulations are written in blood. Every ship's wheel or aircraft joystick has a human hand on it at all times when a ship or aircraft are under power. Tanks, APC's and other ground vehicles probably operate under the same rules. Even with those regulations accidents still happen. There is no such thing as an unmanned autopilot, ever. Someone has to be on the stick at all times.I do not think MB understands what a sue-happy nation the USA is. The 1st leased MB in a wreck while this Type 3 "Semi-Autonomous" driving, or whatever it is called, will result in an automatic lawsuit. Expect a class action lawsuit after the 1st personal lawsuit is filed. Yes, new MB owners can afford and ever are lawyers.Mercedes Benz; "The best wrecks or nothing!" Oh and has anyone noticed that Toyota/Lexus and Honda/Acura, the gray suit with white shirt and striped tie, automobile companies have stayed away from any autonomous driving nonsense?
  • Merc190 Very streamlined but not distinctive enough for a Mercedes. And besides, the streetcar of the early 20th century seems a far more efficient and effective method of people moving in essentially an autonomous manner. A motor car is meant to be driven with proper attention to what's important in every situation. To design it otherwise is idiotic and contradictory.
  • Abqhudson Passenger seating in recent accords has been unacceptable with my 5’2” wife forced to look at the dash while sitting in the hole provided.