I Will Miss Pontiac

By Brendan Moore

04.25.2009

pontiac-logo-mediumGM is almost certainly going to announce next week that Pontiac is shutting down. The news may come as early as Monday.

GM stated initially that Pontiac would survive as a “boutique” brand, but has apparently changed its mind under pressure from the Treasury Department.

Pontiac was launched in 1926, put out bread-and-butter vehicles until the Sixties, when it kicked off the muscle-car trend with the GTO, was thereafter marketed as the “Excitement Division”, started to sag along with the rest of GM in the Seventies, and, has recently had a minor revival of sorts. The most cars Pontiac ever sold in a single year was 896,980 in 1978, which also happens to be when they were churning out mostly awful iron.

The first car I ever drove was a Pontiac Starchief convertible with a 347 with triple carbs. My father, when I was a very small boy, would slide over a bit on the seat, have me stand on the seat, and help steer the car while working the pedals. He especially liked to do this in the deserts of California on the long straight roads typical of the area while other people were coming towards us – he would duck down as far as he could behind the dash (and still be able to see the road), thereby fooling the oncoming cars into thinking a little kid was driving the car at 60 mph. Very big fun.

After awhile, I could actually steer it myself, so I did. I was driving, after a fashion.

When my mother found out, she was unhappy. And both my parents were unhappy when I got into another Pontiac sedan in the driveway a few years later, started it up and drove it down the driveway across the neighbor’s lawn and over their mailbox. I think I was seven.

Of course, my mother had a big ‘ol seven-seater Safari wagon when I was in my teens. I would borrow it when I needed a lot of friend-carrying capacity. One of my friends from a well-off family had a brand-new Pontiac Firebird given to him for a birthday, and so I ended up driving that quite a bit.

I bought a Pontiac Bonneville and a Pontiac Tempest with the OHC six in my twenties, when the cars were as old as I was. Then a long drought of Pontiacs in the late Eighties and Nineties (they weren’t making anything I wanted to buy) which has continued to this day.

I do love that G8, though. It looks as if that is going to be the last performance car that is sold by Pontiac.

The point that I am belaboring to death here is that I have a lot of memories wrapped up in that Pontiac badge.

I am not some naïf; I know all about the harsh realities of business, and, yes, it is probably time for Pontiac to go away. Except for the aforementioned G8, every other Pontiac is just a copy of something else in the GM lineup. Most consumers don’t associate Pontiac with performance or excitement anymore. There isn’t much reason for it to exist.

But despite my flinty-eyed pragmatism, the whole situation makes me a little sad. Those good feelings about those Pontiacs have staying power. I’ve been hoping all along that Pontiac would make a comeback, and that is not going to happen now. A once-great nameplate is now on borrowed time. Pontiac is a dead man walking.

Hopefully, the wonderful G8 can become a Buick or a Chevrolet.

2008-pontiac-g8-at-rest

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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4 Comments

  1. I never owned a Pontiac, although my grandparents had a 1983 Phoenix (the Citation clone). My grandparents bought it new, shortly before they retired from Oldsmobile, which is what they referred to Lansing-based GM employment back then. We only made Oldsmobiles until the 1984 Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac realignment and subsequent plant retooling. Even the paychecks said “Oldsmobile” rather than GM. My grandfather even got some flack at the plant for not buying an Olds! He fired back that it was the same damn company. Back in those days, there was still strong brand loyalty to different GM marks.

    Not much excitement in that “Iron Duke” four. But it did get better gas mileage than their Toronado (which is still in my grandparents’ barn with 30,000 miles on it).

  2. I’ll miss Pontiac too, the sad thing is in Canada, Pontiac was once #1 in front of Chevy in the Great White North in the early 1960s. I learned to drive when my dad owned a Canadian 1980 Pontiac Parisienne. I guess other Canadians who are old enough might remember when we talked of the full-size Pontiac. We talked about Laurentian (named after a Quebec mountain range) and Parisienne (named after some 1950s dream-car, the Parisienne arrived in the US when the Bonneville was “downsized” as a G-body) instead of Catalina and Bonneville (although a couple of them crossed the border until the G-body and its successor the H-body Bonneville arrived here).

    Also, even if I wasn’t born yet. I heard of these “Canadianized” version of the Chevy II and Chevelle named Acadian and Beaumont who was sold at the Canadian Pontiac dealers at the time, here some link who show more of those Canadian Pontiac.
    http://cdnclassics.chevelles.net/63/63acadian.html
    http://cdnclassics.chevelles.net/feature/earnshaw.html
    http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/main.php?g2_itemId=67826
    http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/main.php?g2_itemId=67948
    http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/main.php?g2_itemId=68189
    http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/main.php?g2_itemId=68231
    http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/main.php?g2_itemId=68344
    http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/main.php?g2_itemId=68404

  3. I had a Tempest with what I think was a 326. Good car and I put 71000 miles on it before I sold it to my cousin. It had style, more style than most cars today. The American auto industry is really taking some hits. Hope the rest of GM makes it.

  4. I’m more than a little sad. We’re witnessing the last act in a tragedy that has been unfolding for decades. Problem is, these companies would rather go out of business than fundamentally change the way they operate.

    My take here:

    http://www.truedelta.com/blog/?p=359

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