General Motors is expected to soon announce Pontiac, once touted as GM’s “Excitement division,” will soon cease. According to CNN.com, the dismantling of Pontiac reflects GM’s most recent “viability plan.”
Pontiac, introduced in 1926, wasn’t listed as a core brand with the automaker’s leading brands, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. Saturn, Saab and Hummer are expected to be sold or “killed off.” But Pontiac was expected to remain as a “niche brand” with a focus on selected models.
Pontiac was the third-best selling GM brand in 2008 behind Chevrolet and GMC. In 2005, vice-chairman Bob Lutz referred to Buick and Pontiac as “damaged brands” during a conference at the New York Auto Show. Speculation soon began than Buick or Pontiac would eventually be dumped.
With a focus on affordable luxury, Buick’s hopes have been revived by models like the Enclave crossover SUV. Improvements in Buick quality, which earned a top ranking in a recent J.D. Power dependability survey and a public acknowledgment by President Obama, have also helped Buick keep its place among GM names.
Pontiac’s brand status vaulted with introduction of the Pontiac Tempast LeMans, GTO, in 1964. It cost $3,081 during a time when the average U.S. yearly income was $4,396. It became known simply known as the GTO and was the car that initiated the “muscle car” class. The Pontiac Firebird also became popular, but its production ended in 2002.
The popularity of the GTO prompted Ronny and the Daytonas’ song “Little GT0.” Its lyrics include:
“Little GTO you’re really lookin’ fine
Three deuces and a four-speed and a 389
Listen to her tachin’ up now, listen to her why-ee-eye-ine
C’mon and turn it, wind it up, blow it out GTO.”
The Pontiac G8, a rear-wheel-drive four-door sedan, was introduced in 2008 to replace the GTO, Bonneville and Grand Prix. But it hasn’t sold well.
Pontiac’s most popular products remain the midsize G6 (sedan, coupe or convertible) and the Vibe, a small wagon shared with Toyota, which sells it as the Matrix.
Article Last Updated: April 24, 2009.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.