After 84 years General Motors has decided to permanently park the iconic Pontiac Brand. After collapsing into bankruptcy due to sales decline over the past few years, the Pontiac brand of automobiles will cease to exist.
The muscle cars that once drag-raced down boulevards across the country, parked at drive-ins, roared across many television and movie screens and proudly bore the name Pontiac on their bodies is sadly going out of business. General Motors has made the decision to no longer produce this brand that once was one of the most popular brands of automobiles in America.
Formed in 1926, Pontiac made cars for the working class until a sales slump in the 1950’s nearly killed it. General Motors revived the brand by connecting it to auto racing. From then on the Pontiac sales boom was driven by speed.
The brands most storied muscle car, the GTO came about when some GM engineers took a small car, called the “Tempest” and put a powerful V8 engine under the hood. The letters stood for “Gran Turismo Omologato”, Italian for “ready to race”. Sparked by the GTO, Pontiac thrived, making up to 17% of the 5.4 million cars and trucks GM sold in the US in 1968.
Pontiac models like the GTO, Trans AM and Catalina were packed with horsepower and sported colors like “Tiger Gold”. They seemed to be “unstoppable” in their prime. The 1970’s hit movie Smokey & The Bandit featured Burt Reynolds and Sally Fields fleeing the law law in a Firebird Trans Am.
By the late 80’s though, Pontiac’s were taking off their muscle shirts and putting on suits trying to act like other cars. The brand had lost its edge. Eventually rebadaging hurt the brand, by putting the guts of less powerful GM cars inside the skins of Pontiac. Big economic shifts also damaged the brand and gas spikes steered consumers toward smaller fuel-efficient cars.
Despite spells of success in the past 30 years, Pontiac never returned to its supercharged sales of the 1960’s. Attempts to rekindle the brand just weren’t successful. This past year Pontiac sales were less then 1% of the 2.2 million cars & trucks GM is expected to sell. Their shutdown sales were 267,000 less than those sold in their peak in 1968.
A retired GM executive who led Pontiac during its “We Build Excitement” years ad campaigns in the 80’s blames the brands demise on a reorganization in 1984. “There was no longer any passion for the product”, he said.The product had to fit what was going on in the corporate system, but it wasn’t working. A combination of poor corporate strategy and changing driver tastes is the conclusion that has been drawn for the collapse of Pontiac.
About 2 dozen unsold Pontiac’s linger at dealerships across the country. After Nov.1st, any new Pontiac’s that remain on dealer lots will be considered used cars by GM. GM built its last Pontiac in May 2010.
The permanent shutdown and parking of the Pontiac Brand is almost like an end of era to many, including me.
Source: Autos on msnbc.com/10/31/2010