It's Official: GM Starving Pontiac to Death, Ditching Saturn

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Time to update “ the future of car?” Yup. GM’s Car Czar has admitted that Pontiac has a new motto: “Pontiac is toast.” Automotive News [sub] reports that Bob Lutz has admitted that GM is trimming Pontiac’s line-up to five vehicles– if you count the Solstice hardtop as a separate model. Which we don’t. That leaves Pontiac with four vehicles: the doomed Australian-sourced G8, the G5, the Toyota co-production Vibe and the dead-in-the-water “we don’t need no stinkin’ trunk space” Solstice. Maximum Bob’s admission that Pontiac is being strategically reviewed to death comes hard on the heels of GM NA Prez Troy Clarke’s assertion that GM will “follow through with plans to shrink to four core brands.” That would be Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC; ditching HUMMER, Saab, Pontiac and… Saturn. “‘We’ve entered into a very, very open and candid dialogue with our Saturn retailers,” Clarke said. Saturn, launched 19 years ago, has been successful in terms of brand attributes, he said. But ‘it just hasn’t been a good business for us… We need some breakthrough options here. We can’t continue brands that have no prospect of earning their way.'” It took them how long to figure this out? And, by the way, whose fault is that?

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • JEC JEC on Jan 12, 2009

    My favourite quote regarding Pontiac, I believe from Car And Driver, said something along the lines of "(Car X) follows the formula of Pontiac style excitement - an overly sensitive throttle pedal and a loud exhaust." That about sums it up for me; I will lament the G8 if it dies, but not as much as I would if they put the price in line with expectations (up here in the Great White North a G8 GT retails for 42K, no incentives, while 35K will buy you a fully loaded Challenger R/T. Huh? More ridiculous is the fact that 37K will buy you a new G37 sedan, which would trounce the G8 on all fronts except number of cylinders). The local dealer in my hometown is staggering - and not in a good way. It is (deep breath) a Chevrolet/GMC/Pontiac/Buick/Cadillac/Hummer dealer. Saturn and SAAB are, thankfully, located across town. Not only that, but across the highway from that super dealer is ANOTHER Chevy/GMC dealer. I'd say it's time to seperate the wheat from the chaff, yesterday. On another note, that Solstice coupe is pretty sexy looking. I see more than a whiff of TVR in that design, and I like. Too bad it's not nearly bonkers enough to warrant that comparison.

  • Psarhjinian Psarhjinian on Jan 12, 2009
    I’m still way skeptical that they can make Cadillac a credible world luxury brand. The CTS alone won’t cut it, Europe especially will still caricature the marque by chaining it to its barge-like past. They shouldn't try. There's no shame in Cadillac being GM's luxury brand in North America, and Saab doing the same in Europe. Every brand does not need to be all things to all people---that road leads us to crap like the BLS and 9-7x, both of which fail their respective brands, while cannibalizing their intracompany equivalent. Let Saab take on Audi, and perhaps BMW, in Europe. Let Cadillac fight Lexus and Mercedes in North America. There's absolutely no shame in either brand being a niche product in their non-native markets. Let Mercedes, BMW and Audi make those mistakes. Goodness knows, products like the R-Class and X6 show they're more than willing to.
  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Jan 12, 2009

    Well Waygoner and Klutz have finally brought Pontiac to this. Way to go geniuses. Cloned Chevys, dumb meaningless letter names, no more Firebird, a G5 Cobalt clone WITHOUT even the Cobalt 2.0 DI turbo engine performance, SUV's and minivans, generic styling, FWD, imported Aussie's with Pontiac grilles, the Toyota Vibe and absolutely zero brand recognition. Expect to see market share and sales drop each year that these morons are left in charge of this once great division.

  • Akatsuki Akatsuki on Jan 12, 2009

    Everyone wants their favorite brand to stay... but I'd even cull further personally. 1. Chevy 2. Cadillac and there is no third. What does GMC bring to the table that you can't just offer with Chevy? Buick? Nothing. The label doesn't matter as much as marketers think it does, what the label represents does. If Chevy sells heavy duty trucks with good warranty service, the commercial crowd will be fine with it. If they come out with "plush" editions of their cars with fake convertible tops, the Buick crowd (I don't know if crowd is the right word) will be okay in the end too. You might need some differentiation for luxury marque. But that would mean deciding Cadillac is a luxury brand for everyone, or continue their "I'm oh so macho it hurts" styling. The only one I am sad to see go is Saturn. And that is only because it reflected my hope that we could finally get Euro-spec cars here without the inevitable softening and cheapening that usually happens. But GM probably can't even handle the two brands I am leaving them with, much less another "quirky" brand. When you have success for years on end, so much success that an operating loss year (when you still made profit) is reported in the news as a sign of doom... then you can resurrect or launch marques. But until that day keep it simple and focus on core competencies.