GM Introduces 2010 Lineup, and Pontiac is a Lineup of One
By Chris Haak
Yesterday, we received word that GM had the company had posted details of its 2010 product lineup to its media website. (Here is the link; login is not required).
Overall, there’s not much new information in the guide aside from random annual enhancements such as new paint colors, new wheels, an added USB port here, a different gear ratio there. Of course, there are a few all-new models such as the 2010 Buick LaCrosse sedan, 2010 Cadillac SRX crossover, 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon, 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, 2010 Chevrolet Equinox crossover, and the 2010 GMC Terrain crossover (a vehicle whose style I still can’t get used to).
Conspicuous in their absence are a few things – namely, a couple of brands (Hummer, Saturn, and Saab; GM has tentatively sold Hummer to a Chinese company and sold Saturn to Roger Penske’s company, while Saab is still for sale and in Sweden’s equivalent of bankruptcy protection) and a couple of models.
And then there are the hybrids. Amid all of the hoopla about the proliferation of GM’s hybrid technology, the company finds itself nearly at square one as far as the number of hybrid vehicles it offers. Sure, it offers the expensive, complicated, but very good two-mode hybrid system in several light duty trucks (Silverado and Sierra pickups, Tahoe, Yukon/Denali, Escalade) but with the departure of Saturn from the fold, the Saturn Vue Hybrid and Saturn Aura Hybrid have been put out to pasture. The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, which shared a platform and powertrain with the Aura Hybrid, also was quietly dropped from the lineup.
I don’t blame GM at this juncture for killing the Malibu hybrid, because its fuel economy wasn’t very good for a hybrid, much less against the four cylinder/six-speed automatic combination (the hybrid was rated at 26 city/34 highway, while the conventional four cylinder/six-speed was rated at 22 city/33 highway). The Ford Fusion Hybrid blew the Malibu Hybrid out of the water in terms of fuel economy numbers (the Fusion Hybrid is rated at an impressive 41 city/36 highway), so GM may have figured it wasn’t worth the trouble. Not only that, but the Malibu Hybird didn’t sell very well, and losing the Saturn Hybrid volume probably made GM’s “mild” BAS (belt-alternator-starter) hybrid system a loss leader.
Knowing obviously that Pontiac’s days were limited, it was still striking to see Pontiac’s 2010 lineup: just one car, the Toyota-engineered Vibe compact hatchback. I’ve owned several Pontiacs over the past two decades, and while none of them were fantastic cars (several Grand Ams, and a Grand Prix GTP Supercharged), at least those cars kind ofkept the Pontiac performance tradition alive. As I look at the Vibe’s solitary spot in the 2010 Pontiac lineup, my mind suddenly flashes to great Pontiac icons such as the early-60s Grand Prix, the 1960s GTOs, the late-60s Firebirds (I’m a particular fan of Carousel Red (orange) ’69 Firebird coupes), the giant boats of the 1970s, the slimmed down Grand Prixs of the early ’80s, the “We Build Excitement” era of the late ’80s, with the Grand Am, Grand Prix, Trans Am, and Bonneville, the 1989 20th Anniversary Trans Am with the turbo V6 from the Buick Grand National, the “wide track” 1997 Grand Prix, a few dark years, then the Solstice GXP and the excellent G8 sedan. We won’t talk about the 1990s, as we want to remember Pontiac’s good times, not its plastic-cladded wandering-through-the-wilderness or rebadged Chevrolet era. (Oops.) Many of those cars from the 1980s, like the Grand Am and Bonneville, were actually pretty lousy cars: uncomfortable interiors, poor handling, substandard build quality – but they at least were backed up by a heck of a marketing campaign. Watching the video below almost made me want to trade my 2008 Cadillac CTS on a 20-year old 1988 Grand Am (OK, not really).
And now we’re left with nothing but memories of the once-storied Pontiac brand. Oh yeah, and the Vibe for another year. And the G6 if you’re a fleet customer. Let’s shed a tear for the Solstice roadster and coupe, and for the G8. The other ones – G3 (aka Aveo), G5 (aka Cobalt coupe), and G6 (aka Saturn Aura aka Chevrolet Malibu), I’m not going to miss, and are a large part of the reason I have to eulogize Pontiac today.
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