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Death of Pontiac – GM ‘Shuts Down’ the Original Muscle Car Brand

Death of Pontiac – GM ‘Shuts Down’ the Original Muscle Car Brand

General Motors will ‘Shut Down’ the ‘excitement division’ – Pontiac – by the end of 2010. Their decision to cut the long time muscle car brand was among several aggressive steps listed in a recently updated survival plan to the federal government. This leaves GM with four core brands to place their focus: Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac. Have we regressed to the beginning of the 20th century?

The fate of Saturn, Saab, and Hummer are still to be decided. At this time it appears they will either be sold or also shut down.

Interestingly enough, the problem for Pontiac was not sales, according to GM CEO Fritz Henderson. Instead, it was their long running addiction – profits. Indeed, Pontiac was the company’s third best selling brand, lead by Chevy and GMC. Pontiac sold twice as many as Buick which is currently set to survive the federal shakeup.

Back to the 1950’s

Pontiac’s identity as a ‘muscle car’ brand goes back to the lat 1950’s and early 1960’s. These cars were originally designed with wider bodies and pushed out wheels. This ‘wide track’ design made the cars look agile and aggressive – and remained with the brand up until modern times.

After producing the now famous Pontiac Temptest LeMans GTO in 1964, Pontiac secured its place as the first true ‘muscle car’.

“There was a time, a long way back now, when you knew exactly what Pontiac stood for,” said Kevin Smith, editorial director for the automotive Web site Edmunds.com.

Recent efforts from vice chairman Bob Lutz tried to revive Pontiac’s image. His plans called for Pontiac to produce mainly rear-drive ‘modernized’ muscle cars – such as the 2004 GTO or the rwd G8 sedan. This would have given them a unique selling point over other front wheel drive American cars, in addition to competing with RWD performance brands like BMW.

Unfortunately Pontiac’s revival was not to be. Their most popular car remains the G6, followed by the Vibe. The australian based GTO and G8 had only dismal sales. Bob’s plans were further crushed when gas prices soared and the EPA further tightened their grip on consumer transportation with tougher fuel economy regulations. So Pontiac returned to selling rebadged Chevrolet counterparts by offering the G3.

Pontiac’s lack of providing true value as a brand may finally have brought its demise, said Smith. “That’s just death in a marketplace where there’s so much competition and so much quality,” he said.