• Jan 25th 2009 at 11:42AM
  • 74
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.

GTO JudgeGM 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.

2009 Pontiac G3 WaveoThe 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."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Here's what I would do:
      Kill Saturn. That's the only way to make the rest of the plan work.
      Bring/move the Astra and Insignia to Pontiac, but only bring the OPC/VXR models with minimal options. This way, Pontiac can remain the performance brand with a budget.
      Keep the G8 and Solstice (duh).

      Problem solved? (Yeah, the "?" was intentional.)
      • 6 Years Ago
      Unless they genuinely distinguish Pontiac with sporty looks and decent performance, they should simply let it die. Without an adult size coupe, it's existence is pointless. The last GTO was pathetic in the looks department as it looked like a bloated Cavalier with no real character.

      They should look at saving Saturn simply because of the unique sales and service approach. It had quite a following early on because of the fixed pricing which is a great idea, so long as it's reasonably priced. Now if Saturn could just make something I fit into without protruding center consoles or bloated dashes and door panels...

      • 6 Years Ago
      I find this hilarious and sad at the same time. I am a HUGE Pontiac fan when it comes to the old models. They used to be the top of the line muscle cars and sedans. GM really screwed over Pontiac and their good name since the turn of the century. Pontiac has the WORST lineup in its history. They might as well call them Saturns. It really makes me mad, but this seems typical of GM. Screwing over brands that didn't or don't deserve it. GM does this to themselves. They made Pontiac from a highlight to a smudge on their automotive resume. I am truly sorry Pontiac.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Too bad Pontiac is now redundant because in the grand days of GM (1940s through '70s) Pontiac was a well regarded brand.

      Then, the late, not great, Roger Smith ruined the distinctiveness of GM's brands in the 1980s killing all the good that was done at the company in previous decades. GM cars were so much alike that it made no sense to "trade up" as in the past.

      GM's current market share has fallen so far that the company cannot support 5 domestic car brands along with Hummer, Saab, and GMC trucks. Dropping Oldsmobile did nothing........GM just traded the Oldsmobile brand for Saturn.

      Best for GM to build 3 levels of cars: entry, mid-range, and luxury. Chevy, Buick, and Cadillac suffice. Buick is big stuff in China, so it should remain, but Pontiac, Hummer, Saab, and GMC should go. Chevy offers all the trucks GM needs.

      Pontiac's sporty cars can be branded with Chevy. Why not? The Corvette is the best of all the sporty GM cars and it's been a Chevy since 1953!

      Dealers can be combined into all-GM shops carrying Chevy, Buick, and Cadillac which can be clearly differentiated--sharing some platforms, of course, but NO BADGE ENGINEERING!

      GM would be a better company if its lines and dealers were simplified which might take a Chapter 11 filing to accomplish, but that's where GM is headed anyway. Watching GM deteriorate so slowly is agonizing.
      • 6 Years Ago
      With some history of actually buying 3 Pontiacs over the past 25 years, I can say ... I don't care anymore. My hopes of a Pontiac rebound into an honest, tasteful (not the usually sleazy, cartoonish styling of Pontiac) performace car division have waned.

      Go ahead GM, focus like you have on Hummers and Escalades ... or get your head on straight and hope you can pull yourselves from the fire. Keep Pontiac, it could be cheaper alternative to BMW type CARS!. Buick and Cadillac will never be on my radar screen, Chevy maybe but The Chief would be my preference.
      • 6 Years Ago
      General Motors made their first mistake by making the same platform and adding several different name badges to them. Why do we really need 4 versions of the same vehicles with only slight visual differences? Another mistake they made for Pontiac was to do away with the Trans Am and Firebird line. Then lets not forget the "Holden" they tried to pawn off on us as a GTO. Yeah that made a lot of sense. And lets also not forget that anything they make that they want to call a performance car still relies on the Corvette engine. Why not just buy the Vette and be done with it?
      And the really big joke was the introduction of the Saab version of the Trail Blazer ah err ummm slash Bravada. Then we have the Cobalt. Hmm what the Cavalier should have been years ago. Did they not just take the same junk and make slight improvements to it? Same platform with slightly different body cladding and it's supposed to be something new? Come on people! Each brand needs to have it's own design. Why not scrap the whole GMC line since Chevy has the very same vehicles already? Way too much copy catting and brand sharing. We consumers are not stupid and we want something different!
      • 6 Years Ago
      It just needs to end. Wish it didn't, but it's not 1984 anymore and they missed their chance by trying to split the very thin lane between Chevrolet and Oldsmobile.

      Kill Pontiac, GMC, Hummer and, maybe, Saab and there might be enough market share and marketing money to support Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Holden, Opel, Saturn and Vauxhall.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I would start combining brands at the dealers rather than cutting brands.
      You don't want to lose any loyal customers. Let the dealers sort out winners & losers instead of paying them to close.

      Overtime the brands can blend as the lines blurr. Then brand culling can be an option after several years.

      Hummer - GMC
      Pontiac - Buick
      Chevy - stand alone
      Cadillac - stand alone
      Saturn - Saab + GM specialty imports.
        • 6 Years Ago
        That's actually a good idea! Except I would put buick with Cadillac and Pontiac with chevrolet,
        Then leave Saturn, Saab and any misc. imports together(HSV would be nice!)

        I like the idea of letting similar brands merge together in the consumers eye.

      • 6 Years Ago

      Folks, I think you all may be way to close to this thing and mired in details. At this point this entire company of GM is about to become irrelevant if they cannot get focused with their limited resources. The bailout is an embarrassment to our country, our system, and our way of life. We have become France circa 1970.

      #1 Reality: The entirety of GM is at best a 2-brand company with 4 models that hold any value in the marketplace. Chevrolet trucks including Silvarado, Tahoe, suburban, all the same damn thing. Corvette, Malibu, and the Cadillac CTS.


      It is this simple. And when everyone stops whining about the UAW, dealer groups, and the Volt then perhaps this organization can be saved. Right not I am not optimistic anyone at GM, congress, or on this board has any situational awareness.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It's really quite simple to make each brand a success.

      Take the new OPEL INSIGNIA for starters:

      SATURN would offer a 2.0L DI version.

      CHEVROLET would offer a 3.0L DI version.

      PONTIAC would offer only a 2.0L DI TURBOCHARGED version with sporty interior and exterior package including air dams, rear spoiler, custom wheels. Also add a sportier road handling suspension and you've got a winner!

      BUICK would offer only a 3.0L DI SUPERCHARGED version with upscale interior and exterior package including luxury wheels. Also add luxurious touring suspension and you've got another winner.

      Notice that the cars are all based on the same platform and to an extent are rebadged for greater economies of scale, BUT there the similarities end because each one is a distinct and separate product. Styling and design cues would further differentiate each model.

      Isn't this kind of program more feasible than GM's current redundancies?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Jamie, I agree.
        Ford should also use this same concept to differentiate Ford & Mercury.

        For all the talk of no badging, quality interiors, and the like...it still requires economy of scale to pay for tooling, engineering, and the like. Without economies of scale, the sell price required to generate profits would be too high.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Ooops! Forgot to mention that in BUICK you could throw in AWD as an option.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Whats interesting about the INSIGNIA is that it WAS Saturns car. The New Buick La Saber with a slightly lesser interior was the Aura replacement due in 2010. The drivechain even betrays this fact as its using the same Engine and Tranny as the current Aura.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I just don't understand why GM is holding onto Buick. Explain to me what purpose that brand serves? Want luxury, go to Cadillac. Want affordable, go to Chevy. Want a truck, GMC. Want performance (in theory, try not to laugh), go to Pontiac. Want one last car before you go to the nursing home, go Buick? I just don't get it. Buick will never compete with the likes of Lexus, Acura, Infiniti, etc. If you ask me (and I know you haven't), keep Cadillac, Chevy, and GMC. GM needs to be lean and mean, no room left for badge jobs. I'd say Buick has far less identify than Oldsmobile ever had. At least they had some somewhat unique offerings before they were axed. Maybe you could keep Buick for the China market, but there's no need for it in the US.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Kill Pontiac, turn the G8 into a Chevy, they already make a Chevy version for the middle east so it won't coast them anything. Give the car a chance to build a name.
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