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Pontiac Tries High-Performance Revival

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Pontiac Tries High-Performance Revival

Saturday March 15, 4:49 am ET

By Dee-Ann Durbin, AP Auto Writer

Pontiac Attempts a High-Performance Revival With 2 New Vehicles

DETROIT (AP) -- Pontiac wants to beef up its performance credentials with two new rear-wheel-drive vehicles that will debut at next week's New York International Auto Show, but the timing couldn't be worse as high gas prices test consumers' appetite for growling engines.

The 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP upgrades the G8 sedan with a new 6.2-liter small-block V-8 engine that's rated at 402 horsepower. Pontiac says the G8 GXP will be able to go from zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. The GXP also has a specially tuned suspension and an optional new six-speed manual transmission. The sedan will go on sale late this year.

Pontiac will also launch the 2010 Pontiac G8 sport truck, a two-seater built on the G8 platform with a 73-inch cargo bed. The sport truck has the same 361-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8 used in the G8 GT sedan. It's expected in dealerships in late 2009.

"There's simply nothing else like the G8 sport truck on the road today, and we definitely believe that there are customers who will be excited by its distinctive design, performance and cargo capabilities," Jim Bunnell, general manager of Pontiac, Buick and GMC, said in a statement.

Pontiac plans to let consumers name the new sport truck in a monthlong contest on its Web site that ends April 15.

Both vehicles will be built in Australia by Holden, General Motors Corp.'s Australian subsidiary, which developed the new rear-wheel-drive architecture. The Pontiac G8, which went on sale this year, is a rebadged Holden Commodore.

Pontiac has been due for the kind of overhaul that's reinvigorating Cadillac and Buick. In New York three years ago, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz called Pontiac a damaged and undernourished brand and said GM's resources should be focused on healthier brands such as Hummer and GMC. Pontiac's U.S. sales have fallen by 31 percent since 2002, to 358,000 vehicles last year, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank.

The high-performance G8 family was supposed to help repair the brand, but a new federal law mandating increases in the corporate average fuel economy -- or CAFE -- could put up a roadblock. Aaron Bragman, an auto analyst with the consulting company Global Insight, now considers Pontiac the most at-risk of GM's eight brands.

"The renaissance was on the books, but it's basically been thrown into confusion with the new CAFE rules," Bragman said. "The future depends on what they can do with Pontiac. Can they make it a four-cylinder, turbocharged brand, or are Americans so set on it being the rumbly, rear-wheel-drive V-8 division that anything else is not going to fly?"

Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson said performance doesn't necessarily mean horsepower, but can also mean sporty handling in a crossover like the Vibe, which gets 36 miles per gallon on the highway.

"We will provide an appropriate level of performance in every segment in which we play, but that doesn't necessarily mean every car we have is going to be a rear-wheel-drive V-8," he said.

But Bragman suggests Pontiac's image as a sporty, high-performance brand also has been diluted by staid crossovers like the Vibe. Stand-alone Pontiac dealers have demanded such vehicles to ensure a full lineup, but Bragman said Pontiac needs freedom to concentrate on performance. That could happen as GM continues its push for dealers to offer Buick, GMC and Pontiac under one roof, he said.

Jack Nerad, executive market analyst for Irvine, Calif.-based Kelley Blue Book, said Pontiac's return to its performance roots is a positive step, but years of lukewarm vehicles have made the brand irrelevant to many consumers.

"They're on the brink of either great success or marginalization," Nerad said.

Hopson said when he joined Pontiac six years ago, many customers were angry at the brand for abandoning its performance heritage, which dates to the John DeLorean-designed 1964 Pontiac GTO muscle car. Hopson said he considered it positive that people were upset, and not just apathetic, about Pontiac.

"Pontiac has always been about style and performance. There have certainly been times that we've fulfilled that mission better than others," he said. "We're again getting the vehicles that fulfill that mission very clearly."

The New York show opens to the public Friday after two days of media previews.

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The high-performance G8 family was supposed to help repair the brand, but a new federal law mandating increases in the corporate average fuel economy -- or CAFE -- could put up a roadblock. Aaron Bragman, an auto analyst with the consulting company Global Insight, now considers Pontiac the most at-risk of GM's eight brands.

If he only knew! :AH-HA_wink:

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It is at least nice to see Pontiac getting some decent product. I can see why Cadillac might not like Pontiac getting the G8 as it may have distilled the "driving experience" aspect of the BMW 5-Series without the added "luxury" the CTS focused on.

As a BMW owner, I find the G8 GXP far more interesting as a potential purchase than the CTS-V.

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The CTS has so much more class than the G8, that I don't think the two will compete that often for customers.

For Pontiac to really make a comeback they do need to start building smaller rear wheel drive "sports" sedan, coupes and such.

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It is at least nice to see Pontiac getting some decent product. I can see why Cadillac might not like Pontiac getting the G8 as it may have distilled the "driving experience" aspect of the BMW 5-Series without the added "luxury" the CTS focused on.

As a BMW owner, I find the G8 GXP far more interesting as a potential purchase than the CTS-V.

X2

I would never buy a CTS, but a G8 is just right.

Of course mine will come with a bed. :AH-HA_wink:

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I would never buy a CTS, but a G8 is just right.

Of course mine will come with a bed. :AH-HA_wink:

LOL!

How'd I know? ;)

I don't know, I still find it very interesting that Ch#$r%*et/GM keep pointing towards CAFE as the reason for the Impala not returning ... yet, don't mention CAFE at all with G8 and its variants, along with the huge SUVs....

*shrugs*

At any rate ... very cool news. It will be interesting to see how well they do....

Cort:34swm."Mr Monte Carlo.Mr Road Trip".pig valve&pacemaker

WRMNshowcase.legos.HO.models.MCs.RTs.CHD = http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort

"Who do you think you’re talkin’ to?" ... Lee Roy Parnell ... 'What Kind Of Fool Do You Think I Am?'

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LOL!

How'd I know? ;)

I don't know, I still find it very interesting that Ch#$r%*et/GM keep pointing towards CAFE as the reason for the Impala not returning ... yet, don't mention CAFE at all with G8 and its variants, along with the huge SUVs....

*shrugs*

At any rate ... very cool news. It will be interesting to see how well they do....

Cort:34swm."Mr Monte Carlo.Mr Road Trip".pig valve&pacemaker

WRMNshowcase.legos.HO.models.MCs.RTs.CHD = http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort

"Who do you think you're talkin' to?" ... Lee Roy Parnell ... 'What Kind Of Fool Do You Think I Am?'

I think, they are afraid that the volume Impy may bring will bring them on the brinks of CAFE. The combined effort of Pontiac will be less than 100,000 sales annually. While Impy can easily beat that number.

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Pontiac has lived near two decades on 3-4 cars.

The 80's were all Grand Am, TA and Bonneville.

The 90's were all Grand Am, GP, TA and Bonneville.

All other models were never a factor.

The Future a Solstice, G8 line, an Alpha G6 and a small Mini Like FWD would work fine with a Buick, GMC Pontiac line up. No pressure for high volume if all models are shared world platforms.

If Pontiac survived with too many models when only few sold they can live with a few models when only a few are expected.

Quality over quanitiy.

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>>"The 80's were all Grand Am, TA and Bonneville."<<

Not quite:

Sunbird & 6000 were also heavy sellers: J2000/Sunbird averaged 120K from '82-87, 6000 averaged 157K '84-87. 1986: GA- 223K, 6000: 211K. Even the Fiero kicked in 137K in '84! PMD sold 827K in '84, 735K in '85 and 952K in '86, and it was based on far more than 3-4 models... but you know that, hyp.

Tho I don't have the totals handy for the '90s, I have little doubt there are also more solid contributors there than 3-4, too.

>>"If Pontiac survived with too many models when only few sold they can live with a few models when only a few are expected. "<<

At some point, like HP & TRQ, there's a point of intersection... the question is where is it, even within a fully-realized B-P-GMC channel?

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