The NADA annual convention is underway in New Orleans, and naturally the future of several GM brands is a red-hot topic of conversation. GM sales/service/marketing veep Mark LaNeve told Automotive News, "There's nothing that can be said today that can calm the nerves of a Saturn, Hummer or Saab dealer." That reeks of saying a lot, without saying anything -- none of it particularly good for the dealers in question. It gets no better when the topic shifts to the multiple-personality-disorder patient better known as Pontiac. Automotive News says that GM is trying to find a way to make it better compliment Buick and GMC. On that note, LaNeve offers the following: "We haven't quite figured out exactly between sports cars and entry-level cars, but it'll be a very narrowed and focused brand." Prepare to be disappointed.
GM doesn't need Pontiac to be an entry-level brand. It has Chevy for that. Pontiac's niche should be performance, but despite two legit performance cars in the lineup today -- Solstice and G8 -- the renaissance of the erstwhile "Excitement Division" remains stricken by an identity crisis. After all, Vibe, G5, G6, and the G3 are hardly stirring in the emotional sense. Mark LaNeve can give lip service to sports cars, but a brief walk down memory lane brings us to one of the great and telling lines in the history of Pontiac press releases: "The Vibe, G3, G5, and G6 prove that you don't have to sacrifice sporty design and responsive driving to achieve impressive fuel economy." This, from the people who used to make the Trans-Am. Translation: Pontiac is plenty interested in gussied-up, basic volume cars.
The unfortunate reality is that if GM were to make Pontiac a "narrowed and focused" brand specializing exclusively in sports cars, an angry mob of BPG dealers would probably storm the RenCen with torches and pitchforks at the ready. It's boring mainstream clonemobiles like the G5 that give them something they can try and sell to the average car shopper -- which they can't exactly do with the Buick (quasi-lux niche) or GMC (truck niche) brands. GM will save face by not killing off Solstice and G8, but don't be surprised if and when they're allowed to ultimately die on the vine while "sporty design" and "impressive fuel economy" become new, permanent euphemisms for "excitement."