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New Pontiac Ad Is An Improvement for a Brand That Needs a Roadmap for Where It's Going.

Posted by: David Kiley on March 17, 2008

It’s hard to find a more confused brand in General Motors’s outsized portfolio than Pontiac. The brand is nominally supposed to stand for “performance.” But the lineup hasn’t delivered a legit performance oriented product portfolio in a long time.

While this ad from Publicis Leo Burnett is more on track than any Pontiac ad I have seen in years (it is a riff on the 80s video-game SpyHunter, it’s hard to look at Pontiac’s monthly sales tally and not be bewildered about the future of the brand.

Most of Pontiac’s sales these days are in the G6. More than 23,000 of Pontaic’s 31,000 sales in 2008 are in that car.
There is now a G8, large, fast four-door sedan that I haven’t driven yet, but gets high grades from my old partner, James T. Healey at USA Today. There is the Pontiac Solstice, Pontiac Vibe and Pontiac Torrent. The Torrent is going to be racast as a GMC vehicle.. And there is the odd looking G5 coupe.

There was a time when Pontiac’s future was tied to a product plan for rear-drive performance cars. That made sense. But tougher fuel-economy standards and cost concerns are side-lining that idea.

Now, it looks like a strange mix of sedans with no discernible products of true distinction. Consider that we are coming out of an era, too, where Pontiac was home to the Aztek SUV, Montana minivan, GTO performance coupe, Grand Prix, Bonneville.

What a frightening hodgepodge of bad disconnected designs and cheap interiors that are only now starting to give way to better models.

Reader Comments

Pontiac Fan

March 17, 2008 2:48 PM

As the owner of a 1998 Gran Prix GTP I have always found it dead reliable and fun to drive. When I drive on the highway, which is often, I easily get up to an hones 32MPG at mainly 70MPH on regular gas. I will look at the new Pontiac as I now have well over 100,000 miles on my current one. At the time I bought it I thought it was the best hidden secret in the car world, and it looks great even today. Way to go GM.


March 18, 2008 1:05 PM

Pontiac lost it's way when beancounters became more important than engineers, stylists, and 'car guys'.

I place it at about 1979, when the the squared-off rooflines of the A-body GM quadruplets (Pontiac A6000, Chevy Celebrity, Buick Century, and Oldsmobile Cutlass-Ciera) helped convince the public that there really wasn't any difference between models and showrooms, and to shop for the lowest price.

If it wasn't for geriatric 1960's car-guy Bob Lutz resuscitating the brand one more time (first with the stillborn 'GTO' nee Australian Holden, and now with the stylish, but totally impractical Solstice, Pontiac would already have joined Oldsmobile in the 'We're officially out of ideas!' GM Brand trashheap of history.

Pontiac has become the Mercury brand of General Motors: Except for the Vibe, the red-headed stepchild spawn of NUMMI (and a mechanical twin of the Toyota Matrix), every other Pontiac offering is duplicated or triplicated within the GM family.


March 24, 2008 8:56 AM

I drive a 2006 G6 with the 200 hp V6 which I got in January of 2006. Most of my friends were confused as to what the car actually was because they'd never seen something that looks quite like the G6 and assumed it was either a Saab, or some sort of experimental Nissan. Its design just plain works, making the car look sleek, speedy and modern rather than a nostalgic, boxy holdover that's the trademark of many American cars and that's why many of my friends couldn't recognize it as a Pontiac.

After more than two years with this car, I've yet to find something to complain about and when I say that I drive a G6, I never fail to get a nod of approval from car buffs to people who couldn't care less about what they drive as long as its gets them from A to B, alike. So in my humble opinion, I'd call the G6 a major hit and hope that its the shape of things to come for American cars.

American car makers debut a few very interesting, high level concepts with lots of flair. Why don't they hedge their bets and start bringing their most critically beloved concepts to life? Is it expensive? Sure it is. Is it cheaper to strip these concepts down and make boxy shadows of these flights of design fancy? Sure. But with a choice between bankruptcy and making an expensive bet on design, I'd say they have little to lose. What good are huge plants and tens of thousands of jobs on the official documents if no one can afford to pay for them due to anemic sales?


April 2, 2008 6:21 PM

Let's face it, nobody trades in a perfectly good car because they need to. They do it for those "gotta have it" features, and the king of GHI is head turning styling. You could have a slug on the road, but if it looks gorgeous, buyers are more likely to be forgiving than if you had the best performance car and it looked like an Aztec.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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