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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Farewell Pontiac

This week we have learned that General Motors will discontinue the historic Pontiac brand. This news hurts me to the bone. I can proudly say, “I am a Pontiac guy” and I always will be. Make no mistake; Pontiac was GM’s affordable performance brand. Over the years, from “Fireball” Roberts to Rusty Wallace and John Force to Warren Johnson, Pontiac was a force in racing. I myself race a Pontiac. While the majority of the American car buying public identify themselves based on Ford vs. Chevy, there was always the select group of individuals that bought Pontiac.

The Pontiac brand separated itself on several fronts. To put it simply, Pontiac was always classier than it’s competition. What the Firebird was to the Camaro and the GMC is to the Chevy truck, Pontiac was to its competitors; a nicer, cooler car with a personality all its own. Sure, it was a little more expensive, but the separation from the masses was worth it.

Pontiac owners are a special breed of people who will have to choose among watered down selections from now on. I believe that GM is making a huge mistake getting rid of Pontiac. They were the third largest seller at the General and sold double the cars that Buick does. While Buick survives due to its popularity in China, the loss of Pontiac is a sacrifice at the alter of the economy and a shot over the bow of all performance vehicles.

Who to blame?

I have been trying to take this as well as possible, but the more I think about it, the angrier I get. General Motors was not in great shape a year ago, but they were not going bankrupt. Pontiac was moving to all rear-drive cars with high performance and attitude. The Solstice, the GXP and the G8 all proved to be exciting, well built cars for a good value. They looked cool and had personality. Now, the brand is going to be closed down for good.

So, who is to blame? First, we have to blame General Motors for the mismanagement of their own product and lack of profitability. We must blame them for falling behind in the 1980’s and losing an entire generation of young car buyers who now think Japanese brands are synonymous with quality and excitement. While that was twenty years ago, the failures of the 80’s are a major reason for GM’s troubles now. They lost the public relations war against the imports and now you would be hard pressed to find people younger than thirty that view Pontiac with excitement. Then again, I think anyone who thinks a Honda Civic is exciting has a mental problem.

Second, we must blame those who put the final nail in the coffin, the stewards of our nation’s economy the past several years. While I am not an economist, I do know that our economy was mismanaged at the highest levels. The recession and inability to get credit, not lack of interest, is what finally killed Pontiac. Those responsible for our countries economic disaster are also to blame for the loss of Pontiac. They will be forever linked as far as I’m concerned.

Each Pontiac commercial I see is a reminder of what we are losing and who is to blame. I, unfortunately, will now know what it was like to have been a “Studebaker” or “American Motors” guy. It is not something that I’m happy about but I will have to live with it. Fortunately, my family currently has ownership of four Pontiacs (78 Trans Am, 05 GTO, 08 Grand Prix and a 98 Firebird) that I will cherish until I can afford to purchase a 2010 G8. Regardless of what new vehicles are rolled out in the future I would always rather have the option of buying a Pontiac. This is a sad moment in automotive history.