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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Pontiac Notes from Autoexremist.com

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Pontiac. Publisher's Note: When getting serious about GM's "too many models, too many divisions, too many dealers" conundrum, Pontiac all of a sudden stands out as a glaring example of what continues to ail GM. In the last seven years, Cadillac, Saturn, Chevrolet, Hummer and to lesser extent, Buick, have all gotten help in terms of product and marketing muscle within GM. Even Saab has gotten a little marketing boost. But in that same period, Pontiac buried the Aztek, thankfully got out of the minivan business, abandoned the Bonneville nameplate, launched the G6 and the Solstice, rebadged the Chevy Equinox calling it the Torrent, launched and killed the GTO, and carried the Vibe and Grand Prix. In this same period, Pontiac marketers have gone big for "hip" advertising-marketing opportunities of-the-moment, chasing anything that came along - whether it was worth a $h! or not - in a desperate attempt to gain traction for the brand. And it hasn't worked. Pontiac sales in 2006 were down from 2005, and it's weak performance is starting to be a deep concern at GM. Will the new, rear-wheel-drive G8 be enough to get Pontiac back on track? I'm not so sure about that. Pontiac has been in the hands of the marketers for so long that the once fiercely proud brand has lost its way. The brand's original rebel persona within the GM family is virtually nonexistent, and without it, Pontiac is just another division. Yes, the G8 holds promise, but there's just no "buzz" around the brand on the street. And the street was where Pontiac thrived back in its heyday. Unless GM comes up with a leader for the Pontiac brand, someone who actually gets what the brand should be about, and throws enough money at it to move the needle and then some, I fear for its future. When all the talk swirled around which GM division would be "on the block" next after Bob Lutz' famous "damaged brands" comment from a couple of years ago at the NY auto show, I always thought it might be Buick, but now, Buick has a reason for being because of its hugely successful presence in China. As someone who worked on some of Pontiac's more memorable ad campaigns, to see the brand on the ropes now is just painful. Memo to GM: Do the Right Thing for Pontiac - or else just put it out of its misery. -PMD

Pontiac. Another reason the division is on shaky ground? GM is investing a total of $3.2 billion in GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co. in 2008-2009. Within GM's new "No. 2" empire, it's easy to see that funding priorities are skewed to the red-hot Pan-Asian markets. But where does this leave Pontiac in the scheme of things? The short answer? Flat broke and busted at the side of the road. Not good.

The source:

http://www.autoextremist.com/page6.shtml#table

Edited by NINETY EIGHT REGENCY
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I usually like the extremist, but disagree with almost everything he has said here.

First what I agree that Pontiac is in a world of hurt right now and is likely on the verge of going away. The question left at GM is not what to do with it (because I really do think they get that Pontiac needs to be a true performance division - they are considering an all-RWD lineup), but whether there is enough of a market for a true non-luxury performance division in today's environmentally friendly world AND whether this market is large enough to provide the returns from the significant investement it will take to make Pontiac that division.

Now for what I disagree with:

Pontiac's marketing does not suck. I know the extremist comes from the advertising world, but then he should know that it's pretty tough to market what the products don't support. Pontiac touts itself as a performance division, but their products (with the exception of the GTO and a couple of trim levels) are not performance models. Pontiac has lived on the marketing edge for GM and much of what they are doing is being closely watched throughout the advertising world.

I think it's really hard to make the argument that GM has skewed global funding priorities. Sure, GMDAT is getting a large sum of money, but how much did Saturn get for their turnaround, how much is dumped into Chevy NA each year, how much did Cadillac get for their turnaround? And that's all for a market that hasn't been making any money and hasn't been a source of growth. GMDAT has been a gold mine and is providing GM with many of the vehicles for some of their hottest growth markets. That's just good business sense. What are you supposed to do, turn your back on the brightest spots of your company?

And seriously, give GM some time with Pontiac. They have done a wonderful job on almost everything that's new for the last 2 years. They don't have an infinite pool of money to work from. If GM can justify the investment in Pontiac and consumers start reacting to GM's new products (which I think they already have), then Pontiac will get theirs. In fact, I believe that GM already has Pontiac's turnaround well planned. The real show will start with a new GTO, then a truly NA G8, then a new Solstice and finally an Alpha-based G6; and, they'll get them in quick succession much like Saturn. (Just speculation, but I could see it happening.)

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A lot of the above 'I-told-you-so' hand-wringing smacks loudly of the whole 'GM Deathwatch' farce. Time & money is what it takes, it took that for the other divisions to turn the corner, and unfortunately PMD has not gotten their check yet. But I agree with Windy-57: >>"whether there is enough of a market for a true non-luxury performance division in today's environmentally friendly world AND whether this market is large enough to provide the returns from the significant investement it will take to make Pontiac that division."<<

>>"Pontiac has been in the hands of the marketers for so long that the once fiercely proud brand has lost its way. The brand's original rebel persona within the GM family is virtually nonexistent, and without it, Pontiac is just another division."<<

This is the most accurate thing AE has yet written.

I know I've said this before, but PMD's soul was crippled when the plug was pulled on divisional engineering. PMD's pride was built on engineering and bucking the then-stoic system; they had an empowered general manager and a discretionary budget. THOSE (and of course the men running the works) are the tools tha made Pontiac great at it's peak... why not return at least some of that to the division again? At the very least- Pontiac Engineering! Also: raid the performance catalog and the aftermarket, pull another PMD/Hurst marketing maneuver, get something unique underhood again, go farther than expected and farther than the competition- that's how you earn attention. F*ck Chevy. No degree of tweaked versions of a shared model {cough-G8-cough} are going to pull a turnabout off. Pontiac did not reach their tremendous height via marketing alone; there was hardware there to back everything up. Get back on the stick, GM, cut Pontiac a check and the sparks can fly again.

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I agree with much of what was written but I would not write Pontiac off so soon or easily.

It was only a year and a half ago many of us would have and were calling for the end of Saturn and now They are starting to reach markets GM never has and getting respect in the press like GM rearly does.

Nothing is impossible to fix if you give it the right product. Pontiac has been called the Driving Excitment division for years and now it is time to offer product that are what they claim.

With Pontiac in a place to not have to being all things to all people and selling a Million cars a year they can capable of doing it with a few new models. The G8 is only the start and a proper use of some other Holden models along with a few NA Models that also could be shared with Holden or Opel in reverse they can do it.

The Bottom line is Pontiac needs to be different and sell cars that are not sold through Chevy or Saturn already. This would give them their own look and stand out. With Bbuick sharing the same idea and selling cars different than Chevy and Opel mixed with a few NA only models it will do well also.

BPG dealers could be a special tool in GM's tool box and they could react to market demads with special vehicles and show case new ideas that just can't be done in a cheaper model at Chevy.

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Pontiac is a damaged brand due to poor marketing. And yes the got rid of the mini-van but getting rid of the popular Torrent would be stupid. The mini-van had to go, agreed, but seriously with teh RWD G8, Solstice, and GTO/Firebird/Trans Am, I think they would be fine. Add to that a FWD G5 and G6 along with an FWD/AWD Torrent and the right marketing that would make for a strong line-up. Seriuosly they can do it but killing the Torrent and every FWD product isn't the way to do it. The G6 is sporty and accounts for alot of Pontiac's sales, the Grand Prix following... Going all RWD sounds great but as far as performing sales wise could back-fire and kill the brand. As much as I want RWD I am not willing to kill an excellent brand to save it.

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