California Autos Examiner

Monday, April 27, 2009

Official: Pontiac is a Goner

Since word had already "leaked" out last week, no one was shocked today when GM announced the death of the sporty brand. Eliminating Pontiac means that there will be one less distraction for the General as it attempts to heal thyself. GM said that no Pontiac models will be rebadged as Chevrolets, but that won't stop me from speculating.

It might be curtains for the sexy Solstice roadster. Since Saturn is leaving the GM fold one way or the other and Opel's relationship with GM is in flux there really is no place for the roadster in the grand scheme of things. Oh sure, GM could make it a Chevrolet or spruce it up and make it a Buick, but I sincerely doubt it. The volume just isn't there to justify this. I'll never forget zipping around GM's proving grounds in one of these roadsters several years ago. The air was crisp, the paint was bright and I was having a blast. I still hope to own one of these cars someday.

The G8 sedan is a different story. GM's Australian brand, Holden, needs the volume and this sedan is actually very competent and favorably reviewed. Since all the work has been done, it would make a lot of sense to offer this sedan as a Chevrolet, especially since they do it in the Middle East already (see above photo). However, given fuel economy standards, GM may decide that it is not worth the trouble to keep this model in the States.

The Vibe is the only other model I can think of in the Pontiac range that has a chance. The sharp looking hatchback built in cooperation with Toyota has a loyal following. It would seem a shame to lose all that equity. The problem is, Chevrolet dealers are stuffed to the gills. It's a great problem to have, but still one that needs to be thought about. Since the HHR hatch will be moving up in size when the Orlando hits, it would make sense that the Vibe could slide in to fill the gap. Given the unique way in which the Vibe is made, I'm not sure how much the General makes on each model sold. It might not be worth the trouble to keep the Vibe around. Instead, what might happen is that GM phases out its agreement with Toyota and then eventually places a Cruze-derived hatch of similar size into the Chevrolet lineup. It's my strong belief that Chevrolet must have a hedge against the competition's hatches. While true that Chevrolet will have the Spark hatch, that vehicle will be substantially smaller. Ford will have the excellent Focus hatch, Chrysler will have any number of Fiat derived hatches, and the list goes on.

All the rest of Pontiac's "me too" lineup will undoubtedly be euthanized. It's a sad day, but sometimes you have to cut off a limb in order to survive.

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