How General Motors Destroyed Pontiac

They should have killed Buick instead.


Let me start with the fact that I have been a Pontiac customer for many years and I chose the brand because it had a special place for me amongst all the other North American car companies. Pontiac was a sportier choice aimed at a segment of the marketplace that liked a car to look as good as it drove while the customer wasn’t likely to be a family man in need of utility transportation for more than two people.

Pontiac started to go astray when it tried to market the Transporter family van. It went deeper into the grave when some marketing genius decided to name the cars G6, G5, G3, etc. The Pontiac car names were just as important as its unique look compared to its sister line Chevrolet which caters more to the family driver and blue collar types. So honoured names like Bonneville, Grand Prix, Le Mans, GTO, Grand Am, Firebird, Trans Am and even the Sunbird disappeared from the new car marketplace. When the Sunfire came out, it was the beginning of the end. The Sunfire was almost a carbon copy of the Cavalier and no longer was a visually different choice from Pontiac from that of the Chevy fold. It also was an overly round and boring look that had its roots in the wind tunnel for purposes of “better mileage” only. The truth is it was another cost cutting move from GM to try and consolidate the proliferation of models that had developed through the years.

The Corvette has a very distinct market. Chevrolet is well-entrenched as a solid choice for the blue collar family man. Cadillac is the choice of those that want to drive around on their expensive living room sofa (so trying to develop performance cars in that line is somewhat questionable). Oldsmobile and Buick were a lower priced version of the Cadillac approach of driving around on your living room sofa that catered to an older market like Cadillac. Pontiac was a sportier car that catered to individuals of all ages that were looking for something a little different from the other GM cars as well as those offered from Chrysler, Ford and AMC.

So it makes one wonder why GM would walk away from the “performance” market by killing Pontiac and trying to resurrect Buick when the Buick/Oldmosbile loyal buyers were literally dying off due to old age. Clearly General Motors has a distorted view of the North American new car market of today. Once again the big companies are trying to force feed their idea of acceptable product offering on the marketplace instead of providing what the market wants. That is simply that drivers want an affordable car that drives well, looks good and is reasonably economical and has creature comforts catering to their individual needs. So not everyone has a family, needs baby seats, has to drive the team to practice, and has to have a door for every seat but the problem is that a lot of these buyers decided to buy cars made and designed off shore to suit their needs.

It has always been an inherent weakness of North American marketing in that the company is more interested in doing large volumes of business and tries to build something that caters to the masses instead of trying to examine the customer base and build products directed at the different segments of that market. Mass production in larger plants eventually fails since it can’t adapt quickly to market changes. The steel industry learned that it can’t build large steel plants anymore in North America and succeed. They have to be much smaller and cater to local market conditions.

With today’s global market, it remains to be seen what happens to General Motors over time. Frankly, I am going to run my 2002 Grand AM GT (2 door) into the ground before I even consider buying another car. I can’t afford what is offered out their now anyway for my more limited needs at my age and I use my mountain bike more than my car if weather permits. I recently moved to a smaller Canadian city that has lots of bike paths, a pretty good bus service and lots of roads with not too many cars. Maybe I will just adjust my lifestyle and only rent a car occasionally since it doesn’t seem that any of the Big 3 has anything to offer in the way of affordable and interesting transportation.

GM killed Pontiac but I wonder how long it will be before the rest of the body dies. Hybrids and electric cars are not the answer since they are too expensive for the average user. When I first started driving cars had bench seats, shifters on the steering column, windows opened with cranks and if you wanted to cool down in the car you rolled down the window and drove faster. Sure a lot of improvements are nice in today’s cars but they all make that vehicle too pricey for the first time buyer and our ever aging population. We need another “Beetle” but not the one being offered today since it is too pricey but it would be nice if it had the look of a Pontiac, but we know that isn’t going to happen any day soon.

So walking and riding a bicycle is a lot better for my health and there are lots of places that will rent me a car if I really need one. I might have bought my last car by the looks of this writing and I am sure I will learn how to adjust to that way or life. Meanwhile, my Pontiac is still nice to drive.

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Comments 1 comment

David R Bradley profile image

David R Bradley 5 years ago from The Active Side of Infinity

This is an interesting insight and thoughtful consideration. I sold Buick, Pontiac, GMC and Cadillac from 2008 to 2011. Pontiac could have survived had they got out the carbon copies of Chevy and went with a unique line of performance cars. Had it been me, I'd have kept it and gone after that niche with the G8 to compete with a 5 series BMW, the Solstice to go toe to toe with Porche. Giving the American brand a shot in a very Euro heavy market.

I got to tell you though, keeping Buick was a very smart move. Buick is crushing it with the redesigns bringing lots of converts away from Lexus, Acura and dare I say Mercedes!

I, like you will miss Pontiac, but GM as a whole is a great car company with significantly more potential than many markets give it, like Los Angeles, where I sold them.

Best of luck GM!!!!

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