Pontiac’s War: The Battle for Pontiac Customers Continues

By Charles Krome

Here in the Detroit area,  I still see a fair number of Pontiacs. There are last-generation Grand Prixes all over the place, a fair number of Vibes, and the occasional G8 or two. A friend of a neighbor even parked a G5 in front of our house the other day. And that last one—essentially a Chevy Cobalt coupe with a Pontiac front clip—is a perfect example of how far the Driving Excitement brand had fallen when General Motors decided to pull the plug.

But rather than keep beating a dead brand, let’s take a look at where all the ex-Pontiac owners have been going recently, courtesy of some numbers from Bashar Cholagh at R.L. Polk. Cholagh leveraged Polk’s registration data to determine the top 15 brands that former Pontiac owners purchased from in 2010, when 57,641 of them went shopping for new vehicles.

First, it’s notable that GM’s new core brands—Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC—held onto 53.3 percent of the ex-Pontiac buyers. Roughly 33.5 percent of the buyers replaced their Pontiac vehicles with Chevrolets, which makes plenty of sense. Drivers of cars like the G5, as noted, were essentially already driving Chevy models, as were owners of “Pontiacs” like the G3 (aka, Chevrolet Aveo) and Torrent (see the first-gen Chevrolet Equinox).

But interestingly, it was GMC that was the second-most popular brand (both among GM divisions and in the marketplace overall) for the Pontiac purchasers. About 11.7 percent of the drivers went from Pontiac, which only had one “truck,” the Torrent, to GMC, which is all trucks.

Three mainstream mass-appeal brands then followed GMC in terms of capturing Pontiac owners: Ford, with 10.5 percent, then Toyota and Honda, at 7.7 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively. No real surprises there, either, but those makes were followed by Buick, which snagged 6.7 percent of the ex-Pontiac people. I read this as further evidence of Buick’s success in changing customer perceptions to attract a different, younger type of buyer, courtesy of a growing lineup of more dynamic vehicles.

Nissan, which saw just under 6 percent of the shoppers in question buy from its lineup, was next on the list, and I really thought this automaker would have been higher, as both it and Pontiac have/had relatively similar positioning in the marketplace. And I would have lumped Dodge in with this group, too, but that brand’s share of Pontiac customers (3.2 percent) trailed that of Hyundai (3.6 percent). Of course, this likely reflects Hyundai’s surprisingly strong appeal more than any kind of “fault” with Nissan or Dodge. Kia rounded out the top 10, as the brand of choice for 2.9 percent of 2010’s Pontiac buyers.

There’s then a steep drop off before you get to Cadillac, Mazda, Jeep, Chrysler and Volkswagen, none of which grabbed sales from more than about 1.5 percent (900) of last year’s Pontiac owners.

Another way to slice the numbers: While some 16 percent of the owners defected to other domestic brands, almost 31 percent chose foreign models.

The bottom line here is that while GM’s current four brands did manage to hold onto 53.3 percent of the former Pontiac buyers who bought a new vehicle last year, as I mentioned above, that compares to a 60 percent loyalty rate for Pontiac owners before the brand was axed.

All things considered, that’s not too shabby.

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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  1. I wonder where the G8 buyers will go next, that’s what I wonder. It doesn’t seem like there are a lot of places for them to go in order to equal the bang for the buck in a RWD car that they got with the G8. Everything else that size with that much performance is VERY expensive.

  2. The Dodge Charger is an obvious equivalent to the G8. If future gas prices weren’t such an issue (and forgetting about the cost of a new car), I’d be all over a Charger SRT8, and I have loved the G8 GXP from the moment I set eyes on it.

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