By on September 12, 2014

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of Oprah’s now infamous “Pontiac G6 Giveaway”, where all 276 members of her studio audience won a Pontiac G6. Greg Migliore of Autoblog took a look back at the event, and even managed to track down a few recipients of Oprah’s generosity to find out what happened to the cars.

One of the most interesting parts of the story focuses on the tax liability foisted upon studio guests. Even though the cars were “free”, some guests faced a 5 figure tax bill merely for winning the car.

“William Toebe attended the show with his wife, Jillaine, and he immediately thought of the tax implications, which stretched to $6,000 or more for some audience members. It was a tough reality for many in the audience that day, some of which had been selected based on their need for a new car.

“That responsible part of me stepped forward and wondered ‘where am I going to get the money to pay the taxes?'” he recalled. Two people meant two cars – and taxes to the tune of more than $12,000. The couple took the cars, then turned around and sold them immediately, paying the required taxes and using the rest to pay off bills.

From an automotive perspective, the G6 was supposed to herald a resurgent Pontiac, being followed by the Solstice, the G8 and eventually, an all-new G6 that was to be based on the same Alpha platform that underpinned the Cadillac ATS. Alas, it was not to be. A mere 5 years later, Pontiac was sent to the gallows as part of GM’s post-bankruptcy restructuring.

 

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172 Comments on ““You Get A Car! You Get A Car! You Get A Car!”...”


  • avatar
    sirwired

    I still can’t figure out why Pontiac got the axe instead of Buick. They were producing some pretty decent vehicles selling in not-awful numbers. (And they had finally ditched that ubiquitous wavy plastic body cladding.) The Solstice wasn’t technically a better car than the Miata, but it sure was gorgeous. The G6 was a decent car (got one as a rental; the only thing I didn’t like was the gigantic turning radius.)

    I know the whole “China = Buick” argument, but I’m not buying it. I doubt Buick sells enough here to make THAT much of a dent in Buick dev costs; why could Buick not be a China-only brand?

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Forget Pontiac, why did they have to axe Olds? In the early 00s, Olds represented the best versions of whichever platform share they were a part of (Alero and Intrigue). I think the Verano Turbo would have made a kickass Olds Something Something Regency Elite Touring.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @sirwired, psssssssssss – one word: CHINA.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Olds was also NA only, and it’s hardcore customers like we’ve talked about before from the 70s were gone (either dead or screwed over by an Aurora or moved on to Lexus).

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Olds was dead. No one (excluding internet fanbois, who frankly don’t matter) respected or wanted them anymore, regardless of whether they were the “best.”

      • 0 avatar
        Chocolatedeath

        Amen..

      • 0 avatar
        honda_lawn_art

        Yeah I miss olds more. They did have better versions of everything. Like the W body cutlass supreme. I think there were times in the 70’s and 80’s that the cutlass was the best selling car in America. Anyway they sold a lot, same with the alero. I think gm didn’t want olds cannibalizing that much of Chevy’s sales when they’re trying to compete with other companies. And in olds’ original target demographic, I don’t believe they were outselling Buick at all in the years leading up to the big cut.

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      Because Cadillac could no longer make subtle luxury cars. Because Saturn was selling product that didn’t fit with its brand equity, and this excellent product was perfect for a new Buick philosophy. Because Chevy must play downmarket in addition to whatever else it does. Because Pontiac’s new “walk the talk” was too little too late, and American Sport is too low-volume of a “category” anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Because the styling doesn’t match. You can’t make a whole brand for China and then not sell it here – that’s not economical enough.

      And when it comes down to it, best to sell a Cadillac- in China and the US than keep a Chevy+, which outside of NA NOBODY is aware of.

    • 0 avatar

      The three-tier structure is ingrained. You need a mainstream (read: “cheap”) brand, a kinda nice brand and a premium brand.

      Malt-O-Meal, Mom’s, Bear Creek
      Red Circle, A&P, Ann Page
      Roadhandler, BF Goodrich, Michelin
      Crush, Sunkist, Orangina
      Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac

      There wasn’t anything Pontiac did that didn’t fit within Chevy’s brand values.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Except for plastic cladding.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Oh God it got so out of hand there in the early 00s. You know, one of my favorite Pontiac models was an early GP, where they had just minimal cladding, and those square patterns over the lights. The emblem on the front had a gold circle around it, and the whole thing looked long and angular.

          Oh and a light bar.

          http://i.wheelsage.org/pictures/p/pontiac/grand_prix/pontiac_grand_prix_le_sedan_2.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            IMO GM’s high point of design was the early 90s. All the W bodies from that era looked phenomenal, and there were some sprinkled in gems like the 2nd gen Cavalier. Tons of glass, low shoulder lines, great details. I didn’t even mind the body cladding to be honest. Fundamentally the proportions and details were all great… the problem was the cars underneath.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’ll have to consult with The Church Of 3.8 regarding the cars underneath.

            Seriously though the amount of glass on the Park Avenue (and it’s general scale) at that time was great too.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Church of 3.6?? You best repent before Pope 28 the 28th comes in and rips you a new one.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I haven’t eaten yet today! Redacted and corrected.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I think the W-body Cutlass Supreme was one of the best Oldsmobile designs EVER.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            That was the one with the blacked out bit all across the back, right? Too bad there wasn’t an LSS version of that one (I don’t think).

            These manufacturers need to realize that people LIKE full-width taillamps. Put them on large sedans, right now. The MKS would look legit with a full width rear light bar.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Yeah, they only came with a 3.1 or DOHC 3.4.

            But a 3.8SC apparently fits without too much trouble so you can fix that problem.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            W-body Cutlass Supreme was I believe available with the 3100 or possibly the 3300 depending on YoY options. I do not believe the 3800 was available from the factory, if it was, it would have only been available in the top trim as per GM “logic”.

            Church of 3.6? Don’t make me go Spanish Inquisition up in here.

            Repent ye OHC sins on the altar of torque!

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            Sajeev Mehta did a pretty great Vellum Venom on the Cutlass Supreme a while back:

            https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/vellum-venom-1989-oldsmobile-cutlass-supreme-sl/

            If he can find a same era Cavalier sedan on the road he should do one of those too. Really clean designs. I saw one on the road in great condition and immediately understood how people were fooled into buying them.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Also more tasteful styling.

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            You could get a 3800 in the W-body Regal, however (not that fun to work on vs. larger H-body cars).

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Luckily for GM, they had enough spare parts from the H-bodies to provide guages for the ATS.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @redmondjp

            This is true about Regal, there was a GS sport trim and there may have been a “middle” trim which had 3800 but other non-sport options (cloth, no roof, etc).

          • 0 avatar
            bomberpete

            @redmondjp: my mom had a ’92 Regal Custom with the 3800 and few option. Great engine, but everything else about that car was awful compared to its predecessor (’87 Pontiac 6000STE) and the ’89 Maxima I was driving.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      Because a combination of inept gm management and non car guy government beurocrats took gm through bankruptcy followed by appointing Akerson, the worst car CEO in history. There was no excuse for not killing Buick in the usa in the year 1999, Oldsmobile should have stayed based on the name plate and product portfolio at that time. Oldsmobile was better than Pontiac at that time too (save the trans am, which was unnecessary as they had f body camaro). In a world where gm had competent management, Gm should have two channels today: full line up of Chevy and separate full line up of gm/olds/Cadillac.

      Honestly though, I fear for Chrysler more than gm right now. All their success was based on pre fiat pipeline products, sergio is a huge megolomaniac and a hindrance to Chrysler developing what they are capable of. He thinks alpha and maser will go mainstream with wildly laughable volume predictions and will gimp Mopar to force it that way.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      As others have noted – China. Buick is a huge brand in China. Pu Yi, the last emperor of China owned a Buick, and the car survived well past World War II and the Communist revolution, being a favorite drive of Chou En-lai, Chairman’s Mao right hand man.

      Buick has major brand cachet in China, and the Chinese buyer is generally not familiar with malaise and bean counter era GM. For a newly minted Chinese middle class citizen (and China is creating about 4 million new middle class citizens A MONTH) nothing says to the neighbors, “I have arrived,” than a Buick in the driveway. Well the only thing that says I have arrived more than a Buick, is a Buick being driven by a chauffeur (this is why Chinese vehicles generally are longer versions than North American cars with better rear seat accommodations).

      I get that is hard to grasp in the American market. Asians are incredibly image conscious, and tend to stick to their heritage and roots more. The Chinese market still hasn’t forgotten World War II and Japanese atrocities (that make Pearl Harbor look like a Boy Scout picnic with carnival rides) and ongoing disputes with China over energy development and regional influence. Where the average American buyer would ignore such things for the most part (not pointed at Japanese products, just in general) Asian buyers don’t.

      So tie together a 100 year old legacy of Buick in China (roughly), it’s attachment to success, wealth, leadership, and happiness, and a negative perception of Japanese iron for events 70 years ago and events 7 months ago – Buick lived.

      But here is another reason Pontiac died. The brand was dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.

      It pains me to write that. It pains me to admit it. This was a case of too little too late.

      Oh yes, some of the not so bright in the B&B will be quick to dismiss the Gamma Solstice as ill handling, under powered, and fat. Nothing could be further from the truth and quick search of the SCCA race results will shows the Gamma twins broke the strangle hold the Miata had on the class – winning a number of championships. You don’t do that being ill handling, fat, and under powered. The bigger sin of Gamma for Pontiac was the Cobalt grade interior and the Rube-Goldberg roof that rendered the storage space non-existent.

      The G8 was completely too little too late. By the time car arrived in March of 2008, the economy would fall out just six months later, and by September of 2008 unless you knew Dimon and Jesus on a first name basis, you weren’t getting a loan for anything – never mind the average slob, who was terrified of becoming a street person having much will to buy any iron at the time. The G8 was doomed.

      The Solstice coupe was the last hooray, and as noted, the G6 replacement was to be based on the ATS platform. Where Buick could be reborn by the end of 2008 with a shred of interesting products (the new LaCrosse around the corner and the well receive Lambda) Pontiac was dead. But the brand was totally dead.

      So let me switch to a focus group of one.

      Seeing the hand writing on the wall, and the screaming bargain the G8 was, I bought one in May of 2009 (still have and overall happy – although I did have the AFM lifter issue covered under warranty – feckin’ crap Eaton lifters and bad GM QC). I got a lot of, “oh, is that the car Oprah gave away,” questions along with questions about it being FWD. That was even with a semi-intelligent person staring at the engine bay, and at a longitudinal mounted LS2 derived V8 right in front of them. Yes you moron, it’s front wheel drive, there is a Rube-Goldberg system that transfers the longitudinal power to a transaxle and somehow GM did it without having the engine sticking up two feet in the air above the hood. It’s weight ratio is 70% front and 30% rear, and it plows worse than a John Deere in May.

      A twist of fortune put me in a position where I could convert my G8 into the Holden version – beyond a badge job – really make it look like a Holden (but it is still LHD). This also did mean switching badges inside and out, and instrument clusters, and adding gauges, and changing out the infotainment start up image, and…

      But a funny thing happened after the transformation – because lets remember – fundamentally it is still a Pontiac. Sure the front clip and hood are modified but the doors, glass, roofline, interior layout and materials are largely the same (some added things GM bean counters cut that the average person would never notice).

      When I converted it to a Holden the attitude changed. It went from kind of a snobby sneer, “oh its a Pontiac,” to wide praise of the lines, fit, finish, interior layout, it was a stunning transformation in attitude.

      I didn’t change seats – the same better than previously offered by GM on any Pontiac at least it actually resembles leather leather seats, the same black on black on black interior. Really to the untrained eye the only difference on the inside was an Aussie spec cluster (calibrated for US operation – you have no idea how feckin’ hard that was to make happen) and the Holden lion on the replaced airbag. That’s it.

      So what changed? The car didn’t really “change.” The Aussie front end isn’t THAT different from the Pontiac one (tons of VE flavors of front clips). The only perceivable thing that changed, to the average non-car loving person (98% of the world) was – the brand.

      It was no longer a Pontiac – and suddenly this was cool, desirable, beautiful. The change was stunning.

      It is actually recently that I’ve come to the conclusion that this transformation is in part because – the brand was completely dead.

      Killed by the Iron Duke and the Fiero.

      Killed by the hideous plastic cladding that got totally out of hand by the late 90’s.

      Killed by focus group broad team bean counter crippled monstrosities like the Aztek.

      Killed by the execution of the F-body with no replacement, while still claiming to build excitement.

      Killed by the fury of thousands upon thousands of customers with failed head and manifold gaskets on 3.1 and 3.4 equipped cars with Dexcool eating those gaskets into oblivion.

      Killed by embarrassments like the G3 and the G5.

      Killed by rolling death traps like the 96 – 04 Trans Sport / Montana – which had no business being sold under the Pontiac brand in the first place (even if the plastic cladded Montana was likely the most attractive of the rather unattractive GM U-Bodies).

      Killed by Playskool interiors, mouse fur covered seats, peeling paint.

      Killed by the destruction of everything good and decent that Pontiac came up with since catalytic converters were required.

      The first generation W-body Grand Prixs were beautiful, the turbo engine was the stuff of desire, the cars were functional, sleek, and sexy – to be turned into under powered cut down bean counter plastic covered crap.

      For teasing a Mallet powered Solstice with an LS engine under the hood that could roast the Corvette, with still perfect weight distribution, and the darn engine bolted right in. Ya, you read that right – you can basically do an LS swap in a Gamma and because of the design where the engine sits so far back, the car remains damn close to 50/50 when done. They run like a raped ape. But oh no, stupid pre-bankruptcy dogma prevailed and we can’t build something that can handle, brake and accelerate better than a Corvette for less money.

      Or killing the Fiero just as it got good.

      Or even when they were playing lip service on Pontiac being the “performance brand” instead of offering a Cobalt SS they could have offered the SS version exclusively at Pontiac, and walked the walk – not talked the talk.

      I could go on – but it was very enlightening to me that the reaction toward the G8 completely changed with external and internal cosmetics (and again, this goes beyond badges, but no where close to reskinning the whole car) and suddenly it is amazing super duper wow.

      What changed? The Pontiac stain was taken off of it.

      The brand was dead – it will forever be dead – killed by arrogance, neglect, bean counting, and being completely tone deaf to the market.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        “I get that is hard to grasp in the American market. Asians are incredibly image conscious, ”

        The iPhone 6 is sold out. What was that about Americans not understanding image?

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Not the same – not even close.

          The average Apple buyer has completely forgotten or not even aware of the Newton, or Lisa, or how Apple was so on death’s door in 1998 the question wasn’t “if” when Apple goes out of business, but, “when.”

          If American’s memories weren’t so short, they would cling to that image.

          Look at how Cadillac is poo-pooed here – yet the stark reality is that the CTS is every bit as good as the E-class and 5-series. In part not just because Cadillac is finally getting right, but because BMW is getting it increasingly wrong – so the gap is closing in both directions. But no one will pay BMW (well almost no one) money for a CTS.

          Look at the B&B snark on any Buick story about blue hairs and 80 year old buyers – the national average mean age of a car buyer is 51 (almost 52), Buick is now under 56 years old and the only brand that is getting “younger,” and no longer the “oldest” buyer brand (that belongs to Lincoln).

          You won’t find many Americans who won’t buy a Toyota because of that whole World War II thing. You’ll find plenty of Koreans and Chinese however that will.

          Maybe my use of the word “status” means different things to you and me – in Asia part of is the latest bright shiny object – but another, even bigger part, is family, tradition, and entrenched belief systems – things that Americans readily dismiss.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            Full disclaimer: My grandfather fought the Japanese in WWII. He was severely wounded- twice. I will never buy a Japanese car, but this isn’t the only reason. It’s a big one, though.

            ————

            One of my cars is a 1995 LeSabre. It’s the best car I’ve ever owned- and I’ve had nicer (2001 Audi A6). The ride is smooth, the seating is very comfortable, and it has more than enough power for the average driver.

            It’s a great car! It’s nicer than a similar Lumina, and has a classy, albeit dated, interior.

            It’s much nicer than the Chevrolet, and way more attainable than a Cadillac would be. GM needed that premium brand.

            ————–

            Buick wasn’t on the death bed. The LeSabre was leading its class in sales until it was discontinued. It deserved that title.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        APaGttH,

        Bravo. Incredibly well written and considered.

      • 0 avatar

        Very nice write-up. One small quibble, though—the Solstice and Sky weren’t on the Gamma platform; they were on the Kappa platform. The Gamma (II) platform underpins the FWD GM subcompacts, like the Aveo/Sonic, Spark, Encore, Trax, etc…

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Thank you for this, APaGttH.

      • 0 avatar

        Great post.

        Now you must sell me your G8 when you decide to part with it.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Thank you our fearless leader (even if I got Kappa and Gamma confused).

          The nice thing about the G8 is there is a significant G8 tax in the used market. My car stripped of its goodies and returned as close as possible to stock would command $20K to $22K private sale in the local market. So about 33% depreciation in 5-1/2 years.

          Honestly I don’t think I’ll ever sell it. It is such a blast to drive and one day I would love to a RHD transformation.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Great post, APaGttH, and should be auto-linked any time anyone bemoans Pontiac’s death.

        What did people think of at the end when they thought of Pontiac? One of two things:

        1) body cladding, or
        2) completely forgettable FWD compact and midsize sedans, often driven by the credit-challenged.

        It would have taken a decade or more after the Alpha-G6 was introduced, banishing the last of those forgettable cars from the lineup, for perceptions to even start to turn around. It would have been silly for GM to wait a decade for that when Chevy works just fine as a performance brand.

        Personally, I love the anonymity. I have a 415 hp, V8, stickshift car with killer handling and braking which doesn’t attract the least bit of attention, from either the police or gawkers who will make the same idiot small talk on exactly the things I want people to ignore — “How fast is it? How expensive is it?”

        I think I’ve talked myself into either an SS or a TLX SH-AWD for my next car — both just as anonymous.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          From what Doc Olds explained to me what was Pontiac effectively died in the C-P-C and B-O-C division mergers in the mid 80s. GMC (GM Canada) and Pontiac were put under Chevrolet’s auspices, thus most if not all Pontiacs from this point forward were either restyled or upgraded Chevrolets.

          • 0 avatar
            cargogh

            It was apparent Pontiac was not getting a much allowance with examples like the late Parisienne and the T1000. Pontiac was supposed to stay focused on performance and GM gave it a Chevette to sell.

      • 0 avatar
        turboprius

        From what I remember, the Venture/Montana were quite successful minivans. There are still plenty on the roads, and they’re surprisingly reliable for GM products. I rode in a 2000 model last year with over 250K. Ran perfectly, seats were comfy, had lots of room, and it didn’t feel like a death trap. If anything, the minivans helped GM. Completely agreed with the Aztek; it’s unanimously called the worst vehicle of all time primarily because it killed off Pontiac.

        I once had some thoughts about a TSX SportWagon, and someone turning it into an Accord station wagon, red Honda emblems and all. The imaginary owner then thought her car looked stupid, so she put the Acura grill and badges back on. Wouldn’t it be more special to stand out with an already unique vehicle, like a G8 or a TSX SportWagon, rather than go through the time and money to make the car something it is not? I like the styling of the Australian Commodore, but the “brand reassignment” surgery is a bit too far.

        Thanks for the writeup.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        Pedant moment, but until the mid-80s, the Oldsmobile Toronado had FWD with a transversely mounted V8 (and, like, they wedged a 455 in there for several years, not some relatively compact small-block). So, between that, and the FWD/V8 Grand Prix and Bonneville GXP (yes, admittedly both transversely mounted), there’s at least precedent for thinking the G8 was FWD.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Waingrow

        You say that you could go on. Frankly, I wish you would, and even more often. This was some great read you gave us.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Bravo Hypnotoad! (slow clap).

        I too am a member of the Pontiac fan club, along with the Oldsmobile fan club. What interests me, is that you rarely find anyone that gets *that* upset about the death of Oldsmobile.

        Here we are five years later, and the Fall of the House of Pontiac is still greatly discussed, with the same passion as if it just took place last week. I think that says something about the brand, even as badly abused as it was toward the end.

        In my dreams, I’m driving one of those Alpha-based G6s, but the reality is I will be considering “leaving the family” for my next car. I’ve got a driveway full of Pontiac now, but that won’t last, not here in rusty Michigan. I’m enjoying them while I can, but like when you know your elderly dog is on his last legs, you’re counting down the days.

        I hope someone from GM reads your post and takes heed for the remaining brands.

        Well done, sir.

        • 0 avatar
          matador

          I agree completely.

          Oldsmobile buyers could get a Buick. The idea was still there- premium car, but not Cadillac.

          What would a Pontiac buyer go for? There isn’t a direct line to a brand in the entire GM portfolio.

          I don’t like Pontiacs, but I don’t know why you would kill them. GM had brand loyalty. You can’t buy that. Why kill it?

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        APaGttH, I know I’m a day late, but I want to add myself to the list thanking you for your post. Gamma, Kappa… who cares. You got the truth about Pontiac just right. Thanks for sharing the insight and doing so with so much credibility.

    • 0 avatar
      kjb911

      according to a few higher ups I have spoken to at quarterly meeting it was originally supposed to be Chevy & Cadillac as the sole re-emerging brands…A government stipulation caused Buick to be help and then a re-addressed plan by GM to include GMC as a way to create a tier structure with Chevy being a full range , Buick being offset with GMC and finally more standalone Cadillac Stores

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I had an 08 4 cylinder G6 for about 2 years to run out a family members lease. Base model, not even cruise. No PRNDL indicator on the IP, which seems trivial but it’s the little stuff like that GM seems to get wrong. Awful interior per pre-bankruptcy GM standard.

    It was free for me to use, certainly couldn’t complain about that aspect. But I immediately missed my 04 Jetta GLS 1.8T wagon nearly, which I sold to use the Pontiac.

    Reminded me every day why GM was in trouble. Was never happier to get rid of a car.Those people who couldn’t afford the taxes did themselves a big favor selling them off.

    Besides, the Saturn Aura was a much more interesting version of that platform.

    • 0 avatar

      The “2009.5” and later model years were somewhat more tolerable. GM added some of their then-corporate interfaces, including the more-advanced radio and a nicer instrument panel with a dot-matrix LCD (which may or may not have included a gear indicator). At that point, though, most people still saw right through it and went for the Malibu, which for the first time in a long time was a compelling choice in the mid-sized market.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I rented a G6 once. I certainly didn’t ask for it.

      I always did like the exterior styling of the G6. Once inside, I noted to myself with surprise that the ride/handling and NVH were perfectly tolerable. The interior, alas, was not. I couldn’t (and still can’t) believe that any interior could be so utterly incoherent that it made the whole car an unpleasant experience. It was as if they assembled it from 3 or 4 mismatching parts bins.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        You didn’t like the seats made of lint brush?
        You didn’t like the rattly sunroof panel?
        Hard plastics?
        Vibratey ride?

        Oh and one of the biggest problems. The rear doors were essentially triangle shaped, making it very hard to open the door when parked next to anything and still get out of the back without banging one thing or another.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      The Saturn Aura was grossly under appreciated.

      In that time frame it was the best implementation of Epsilon offered.

      I had one as a rental, a one option stripper model (can’t remember the one option, but it was something basic) and I was really pleased with the overall package. It was also more attractive than the G6

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    That was a perfect GM product promotion. The cars were incidental. GM paid for them. Oprah took credit for the generosity of giving new cars to people that couldn’t afford to keep them. Imbeciles.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Open your boxes…BEES!

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Classic!

    Here’s your FREE car!

    AND… drum roll… here’s your TAX BILL!!!

    Ahahahahaha!!! Goddamn, lol

    Thanks, Oprah. You’re the best :)

  • avatar
    86er

    Now in fairness, Oprah doesn’t pay taxes, so how was she supposed to be aware of this unintended consequence?

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    My wife’s cousin went to a car dealership.

    She was drooling over a used G8. I have no idea for the life of me as to why, but its what she wanted.

    They somehow financed her with her mid 600’s credit. Lo and behold, she still has it.

    At 130k its had its share of issues. Don’t ask me to elaborate I don’t know what they were.

    It’s this weird shade of green, and looks like a big old ball of “meh” to me.

    The convertibles were different though. I remember them. Didn’t even pay too much attention to those, either.

    I DID like the last of the GTO’s. Niiiice

    • 0 avatar
      Tim_Turbo

      G6 or G8? While not everyones cup of tea the G8 was a great car. I don’t think they even made a G8 in green.
      Not to mention no convertible G8 was made, at least not for the USA.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        In 2009 there was a color that was sort of a medium green-grey. “Pacific Slate Metallic.”

        G8 issues at 130k likely had to do with the front suspension or the interior electronics. If the G8 had the 3.6 V6 there might have been engine issues too. But they’re usually pretty reliable cars.

        The convertibles were G6s, not G8s. Entirely different cars. The G8 was a large rear-drive sedan based on a Holden. The G6 was a front-driver at the smaller end of the midsize class, based on the first Epsilon platform.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Holy crap. I write about people confusing the G6 with the G8 and here you go. Here you go – right here.

      There is no such thing as a convertible G8. The hard top convertible was a G6.

      The 2009 was offered in Pacific Slate Metallic green, which is basically a fair description of the color – metallic green slate, almost a blue. It is the smallest production run of the 2009 colors – if it is a G8.

      Or a G6. Is this the part where we discuss the FWD system on a longitudinal mounted modified LS2 in an Aussie L76 configuration next?

      You liked the GTO? Oh I see, the Holden VE based Monaro that is built on the same platform as the – Pontiac G8. But with a 6-speed instead of a 4-speed, and with the L76 instead of the LS2, or the LS3 in GXP trim, and a better interior than the GTO, and an exterior that didn’t look like a Chevy Cavalier coupe, and…

      I think you DGF bought a G6, not a G8 – and the GTO is based on the same platform as the G8 – with significant mechanical changes and improvement – the Monaro body style was killed, and the GTO would no longer be able to pass US required crash standards (not to mention its boring styling and gas guzzler tax made it sell like crap)

  • avatar

    Kudos to GM for pulling this stunt. I am sure it paid for itself in spades. Bet GM cleaned out all their oldest inventory (read base model) in this stunt. Coming from the motion picture industry, I can tell you that if the cost of the cars was the total cost of the stunt it was a screaming bargain. Product placement on that scale is not cheap. Plus you can pretty much know who the target demographic will be. Perhaps GM can clean out all their POS Cruze’s on another show.

    • 0 avatar

      The Cruze is hardly a POS.

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        “The Cruze is hardly a POS”

        I’ll second that notion.

        • 0 avatar
          FormerFF

          Agreed, while a Cruze isn’t high on the excitement scale, it’s a very competent sedan for someone who looks at a car as transportation, rather than excitement.

          • 0 avatar
            tankinbeans

            “Agreed, while a Cruze isn’t high on the excitement scale…”

            I read that as excrement scale.

            My friend has a 2011 with the 1.4T and he likes to ring the crap out of it. The dot-matrix dash makes me cringe. If it didn’t have the melted butt I might give it a second look, but only in *gasp* an automatic. Unless the clutch/throttle in the 1.4T are better than the base 1.8 I would not want it. I tried driving one in the same general way that I drove my Focus and it was not a very pleasant experience. I had the salesguy next to me saying, “it’s got a lot of pep fur a 4 cylinder, dudn’t it?” with a thick southern drawl. I bit my tongue when I didn’t say that it was a porker and wasn’t nearly as gutsy as my Focus was, while feeling like a skittish rodent.

          • 0 avatar

            No, the Cruze isn’t nearly as athletic or thrashable as the Focus, and if that’s really the kind of quality you’re looking for, you’d better look elsewhere. But it works well for a good number of people, who are looking for an affordable, safe and relatively-reliable car with handsome styling and lots of features.

            Also, the dot-matrix display in the Cruze is no worse than what other automakers are using.

          • 0 avatar
            tankinbeans

            I wasn’t clear. When I say I tried to drive like my Focus I meant that I wanted to shift into gear and let off the clutch with no drama, the clutch in the Cruze (1.8 litre LS) felt bouncy and tried to fight every step of the way. The Focus, to me, felt far more intuitive and easier for somebody who is looking for something easy to drive. When I drove the Cruze it felt like Chevrolet made the manual so undesirable as to force people to buy the automatic, a ~$1000 option. The styling has never grown on me. It front 98% is nice, but those taillights make me shutter.

            I make no bones about not being a speed demon, but I know that the Cruze isn’t something that I would want to deal with on a daily basis. It made me think positive thoughts about the transmission in the Kia that I had. As you might know, I liked that car generally but felt the transmission was lacking something important.

          • 0 avatar

            Gotcha. I’ve not heard other people complain about the manual transmission in the Cruze being bad, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were. Certainly it’s nowhere near as good as the one in the Focus, and I know that from experience driving each.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      This was the model’s introduction. If they were surplus cars, GM didn’t know it because they hadn’t even filled the dealer pipeline with G6s yet. As for product placement, I’m not seeing it. Very little emphasis was placed on the cars themselves. If celebrities using your product is good, what is it when your product is seen with impoverished Oprah disciples?

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t think so. I recall that most, if not all of the models, were at the very least equipped with that multipanel sunroof that GM did on the G6. Not that base.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        That’s what I remember too – Pontiac product marketing was pushing that panoroma sunroof hard on the cars. I don’t seem to remember they were “strippers” but they weren’t 3.6L V6 loaded to the teeth questionable leather with heated seats and XM radio models either.

        Hey, they got OnStar ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      Tim_Turbo

      Yeah, Pontiac must have been stressed trying to move 276 cars. What a surplus.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The only time in life Oprah ever touched a Pontiac!

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    That video warms my heart.

    America has the cleanest, prettiest indigents in the world!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      These people drove directly to Wal-Mart after the show to buy a zebra steering wheel cover, a pine tree air freshner, and a sun shade with a picture of sunglasses on it.

      • 0 avatar
        petezeiss

        Heh… you closet sociologist, you.

        BTW, I’d take the sunglasses sun shade over those twisty, sproingy, collapsible things my wife tolerates using. Which are always too small to catch the visors and mirror though they’d probably be perfect for a ’67 Beetle.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I have a springy one, that has lasted through three different cars! It’s not great, and luckily I am always parked in a garage at home and work so I don’t need it any more. It never covers all of the windshield, and looks ridiculous in a wide car, but I can fiddle it around and make it stay in any car.

          Often I slapped myself in the face with it when it wooshed open.

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            “Often I slapped myself in the face with it when it wooshed open.”

            So it’s not just me!

            Mom! Dad! See?? I AM normal after all!

  • avatar
    cargogh

    Did they offer the GTP with a 6 spd in a sedan for ’05? Like an American version of something between an A4 and S4.

  • avatar

    Assuming you didn’t have sh*t credit, couldn’t you take out a loan for the taxes against the equity you’d have in the car?

    And think Oprah and her producers learned their lessons. She gave out brand-new 2012 Beetles to the whole audience in late 2010. Of course the winners didn’t get to drive off in their new cars since the 2012 Beetle had neither been released or had its design been made public. But in that event, the winners were awarded with additional money to pay the tax bill, not to mention the fact that they didn’t get their cars for almost a full year, which gave them ample opportunity to save up.

    What was really funny was when she did the KFC two-piece giveaway in spring of 2009 (for their then-new grilled chicken offering) and the whole country fell into chaos. I managed to hear about it and get my free two-piece before that happened, though…

    • 0 avatar

      Assuming you didn’t have sh*t credit, you wouldn’t have a dire need for a new car, though.

      • 0 avatar

        Fair point.

        By the way, you have some pretty neat cars in your inventory, IMO. That Bentley Continental GT is lovely. And your customers should appreciate the fact that you’re very knowledgeable about each car. For instance, you specify “V-Tex leatherette” on the Jetta SE, where most dealers would pass it off as leather (either from ignorance or indifference). And your product descriptions are so well-written. That’s the kind of care that makes me want to buy a car from someone (though I’m not in the market at the moment).

        • 0 avatar

          Ha! Thanks for the kind words. :) Let me know where you’d like me to send the check.

          Seriously, though, if anyone’s ever in the market for anything let me know what it is and its to you for what I raise my hand for +$400 + tax and registration of course.

          P.S. Its a lot harder than it looks to fill a 2000-word description block with an compelling entisement for a Kia Rondo.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      So how does the additional money to pay off taxes work? It’s still income to the recipient – in addition to the car.

      So if the car is $10k and Oprah chips in another $3k for the estimated taxes – now all of the sudden the IRS says you received $13k from Oprah. It helps, but it doesn’t cover the entire tax bill – which these hundreds of dollars certainly matter for these paycheck-to-paycheck types.

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        You can walk it down to $0.

        Let’s say you get a car for $20k. 30% tax = 6000
        So then you get $26,000. 30% tax = $7800, BUT you have $6k in cash and your out of pocket tax is $1800.
        So add $1800 ($27800 total) and 30% on that is $540.
        $28340 * 30% = 8502, cash is $6000 + $1800 + $540 = $8340 = $162

        And on and on, to where you get a car for $20k and $8571.43 in cash, and your total tax burden is $8571.43 (.3 x $28,571.43).

        God I’m a dork.

  • avatar
    superchan7

    I’m not sure I understand. I win a $20,000 car, and assuming I don’t already owe past-due taxes, why do I have a $12,000 tax liability because of a $20k car? Sales tax can’t be more than $2,000.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Apparently the total tax liability for each car worked out to $6,000 for that couple. They each won a car. They aren’t paying the sales tax, they essentially had to pay income tax on the value of the cars.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        If they’re in the 30% tax bracket for federal and state, they should be able to come up with either the money or the credit to keep the cars if they so desired.

        I would assume a prize is not subject to FICA and Mecicare taxes as it is not earned income.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      It’s a gift so it was based on income tax. If you’re in 30% tax bracket though that means you’re making…..Ok, So I just looked it up. There is no way that they would owe 6K a piece on a 20K car based on income tax. There state probably had a sales tax fee for registration that was close to 15 or 20%.

  • avatar
    Ron

    Superchan7, because the $20,000 is income.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      So if Oprah had bought the cars herself, then sold them to the audience for $1 apiece, there would only have been a sales tax burden. Oops!

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Nope, then the value of the car minus $1 would have been income to the winners. If you sell something at a bargain price, the value of the item minus the sale price is income to the buyer.

        • 0 avatar
          kvndoom

          That must vary by state then. I know in VA they will compare the sales price to “book value” and tax the larger amount, 4%.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I’m talking about federal income tax liability (which is the bulk of the liability these people were facing).

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Anything you win is considered income to you. It is thus federally taxable, and possibly state as well, depending on the state. And in my state you would also owe 2.4% of MSRP for excise tax on a car, payable when you register it. I don’t believe any state would try to collect sales tax, but I don’t know that for certain.

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            krhodes1, some states will assess sales tax when you register the car. Both Ohio and Maryland have done that after I bought from private buyers.

            Ohio based it on the transaction value recorded on the title.

            Maryland wanted a bill of sale, which I didn’t have, so they used book value.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Yup you pay in OH sales tax for whatever amount the seller writes on the title. The DMV doesn’t question it, so sometimes if you get a nice seller you can save some $$, or use the value on the title as a bargaining chip in the sale process.

            Indiana is the same as Ohio in this regard. I believe KY uses the NADA value of the car, and you pay a car tax every year based on this value.

          • 0 avatar

            Here in Oklahoma, they’ll base the excise tax on the purchase price of the car, provided that it was within plus or minus 20% of the average resale value of the car (according to *which* resource, I don’t know). If it wasn’t within 20% of the average resale price, they’ll come up with a fictional value that satisfies that range requirement. And the purchase price can include manufacturer or dealer rebates, but it can’t include a discount due to your trade-in. So if you literally “paid” $25,000 for a car because you traded in a car that they valued at $5,000, they’ll still tax you the full $30,000 purchase price…which makes sense, because $30,000 is what it would have taken to buy the car one way or another.

            I’m okay with our excise-tax regulations because our tax is pretty low and all of the stipulations are mostly designed to prevent people from trying to cheat the system and pay tax on a “$50 car” or something ludicrous like that.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @tma1

            Also completely true in my state of Maine, if you bought the car privately or out of state and did not already pay the tax elsewhere. Except in this case there is no sale, you won the car. No money changed hands. Do they then assess a value? Genuinely curious.

            Note – this is sales tax. Excise tax is based on MSRP – it does not matter what you paid for the car or what is is currently worth. I bought an ’08 Saab new in ’09 for $13k off. I paid 5% sales tax on $23k, but 2.4% excise tax on $36k. Even at 14 years old the annual excise tax on my Range Rover is nearly $500, because it cost $80k+ new. It declines annually for 7 years, then is the same forever.

            So on a car you won, you still get to pay the full excise tax, but no sales tax.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Oprah had bought the cars herself” Hehe then Oprah would have had to spend HER money. Nah, much easier for GM to give the cars as a promotional expense, and Oprah still look good “giving” them away on her show.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Technically none of this is correct. The gifts she gave them would qualify for the gift tax exclusion (currently $14000 per individual). Amounts over that would be taxable as income.

  • avatar
    Tim_Turbo

    I managed a rental car company for a few years, I didn’t hate the G6. I actually liked the styling at the time. There was typical cheapness to it in certain areas, but I thought it was a huge step up from the Grand Am it replaced. Not a bad car at all. Of course, we only used them till about 30K or so.

    I remember the GTP/GXP versions were pretty damn quick-but holy torque steer batman.

  • avatar
    superchan7

    Reading the article again, it doesn’t clearly say whether the $12,000 tax was directly caused by the car.

    OK, so if it’s counted as $20,000 in income, how does that translate to $12,000 in income taxes outside of Sweden? My taxes are in the realm of 35%.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Whenever I was given a car by Santa Claus in 2009, beyond the tag and insurance, nothing cost anything.

    It was used, but still a $10,000.00 gift. Am I a criminal somehow?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I think every G8 owner wanted to punch Oprah in the face by spring of 2009. Conversation would go…

    Wow, that’s a great looking car, I’ve never seen one, what is it?

    It’s a Pontiac.

    A Pontiac? Really? Wow, that’s a great looking car,what it’s called,

    It’s a G8.

    Oh, isn’t that the car Oprah gave away.

    This was typically followd by, is it front wheel drive – about 75% of the time that question would be asked with the hood open and them stariing at a longitudinally mounted LS2 derived engine,

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      No one seems to notice my G8 anymore except hardcore car guys. If they do notice something, it’s the shiny polished aluminum 19″ wheels. And that’s the way I like it. I like the SS even more (in a color like black or dark gray) because it’s even more anonymous.

      • 0 avatar
        superchan7

        That’s kind of the point of the G8, isn’t it? If you wanted attention, you would have bought a Corvette drop-top.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        I converted mine over to a Holden (still LHD) and it isn’t just a badge job. I get a TON of attention still – will be writing a post above about why was Pontiac killed on my observations on this.

        I know I did a good job of checking off the right boxes – I had a guy from down under follow me into the parking lot of QFC earlier this summer, park along side when I parked and got out incredibly excited – that’s a real Holden – not a converted G8 he asked.

        Thanks man – I guess I did really good. I couldn’t break his heart and tell him no. Forgive me for fibbing.

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Foley

        Right, dal20402. In today’s commuting environment (slowpokes, texters, cameras, etc.), a very fast but generically unidentifiable car is a major asset.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Truth.

          I’ve always joked that if I ever drove like a serious butthead and someone called the police the call would go something like, “it was a white…well…a white…well it was a a sedan. I don’t know it was white and the guy just cut three people off!”

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            APaGttH, what does your insurance card say for the make/model?

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            @dfc

            It says Pontiac G8 – it has to – I’ve wondered if I was ever pulled over by a REALLY bored cop with WAY too much time on their hands and a Ferguson grade attitude, if I would get hauled off to jail on investigation of driving a stolen vehicle because the registration doesn’t “match” the car.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      I have a bad neck. I honestly think its from trying to see G8s go by.

      If i didn’t have to import one from the states to get three pedals, I WOULD have bought on for my recent purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      Dear Lord, all things Oprah are so annoying.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Like a GEE SIX baby.

  • avatar
    dwford

    It’s funny how Oprah did this twice, once with Pontiac and once with VW, and both times the automaker botched it. In Pontiac s case, the G6’s weren’t available for sale for months after, and then only in V6 form when most of the Grand Am’s were sold as 4 cylinders. In VW’s case, they only showed a silhouette of the New Beetle, not the real car, and again it wasn’t on sale to the public for months. Both squandered the PR value of the gimmick.

  • avatar
    formula m

    Mid to late 90’s Pontiac’s with a V6 and dual exhaust were one of the last mass car brands that you could identify just by the sound.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    The whole “GM should cut Buick” “No Olds” is all a wash. By 2004, they were just trim pieces. No unique engines, bodyshells, even factories. Divisional rivalry killed the ones that got cut.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I view the last Holden Monaro as a dreadful looking vehicle. It might have driven and performed acceptably, but it looks as if some one smacked it with a fugly stick.

    I really do feel sorry for the people who ended up with the tax bills.

    I would of thought if a lot of these people who won the G8 wouldn’t have much money to start with.

    Maybe Oprah should of bought them a small econobox.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Why should this be “infamous”? How many cars have been given away on TV shows? It’s been happening since the invention of TV, for cryin’ out loud. No one’s ever heard of that brand new thing called a “game show”?

    It’s a pretty simple equation: if you can pay the taxes, then you paid around $6000 for a brand new car. How’s that a bad deal? If you couldn’t pay the taxes, then you didn’t have to accept the car, or you could sell it, pay the taxes and come out pretty much even.

    It’s only “infamous” if you want to take your Two Minutes Hate out on Oprah and GM.

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