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C&G & NYIAS: Interview with Pontiac Execs

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Shortly after my conversation with Mr. Jan-Willem Vester of Saab, we began piling into the seating area at The Park restaurant, and I had the privilege of sitting next to David Poniatowski (product manager for the Solstice and Vibe, former GTO product manager) and Bruce Kosbab, chief engineer for the Solstice. Here are main points of our conversation

  • Building the Solstice using as mny off-the-shelf GM parts as possible wasn't only cost effective, it was also a lot of fun. The program felt almost like an episode of "Junkyard Wars"
  • The Kappa architecture is actually smilar to a BOF vehicle, except that the body is welded to the frame instead of bolted to it.
  • The base Sky suspension has slightly more travel than that of the base Solstice, resulting in a more compliant ride without sacrificing handling. The Solstice GXP and Sky Red Line use the same suspension components
  • When I asked about the truk space in the Solstice Targa, Mr. Koshbab stated that it had "a better shape to the trunk" It may have the same number of cubic feet, but it will be more usable due to its shape and height, and the presence of storage bins. The Targa will carry two people in the cockpit with enough for a weekend getaway stowed solely in the trunk.
  • Mr. Koshbab prefers the production Solstice roadster and targa to the concept. Now that the production cars are out and about, he feels the concepts seem kind of cartoonish and unrealistic.
  • A Sky Targa isn't on the immediate horizon. Due to the different trunk opening on the Sky vs. the Solstice, they just can't do it. They are "working on something" though.
  • Mr. Poniatowski was upset over the negative critcism surrounding the GTO after its debut. He said the biggest detriment to the car was its name, that it had to take on the legacy of an absolute icon, and had it been given any other name it wouldn't be fine. He wasn't knocking the GTO as much as the ignorance surrounding the perception of it. He stated that those who said it looked plain and was nothing special seemed to forgot that the first GTO was just a ho-hum Tempest with a hot engine. As for those who comlained that it didn't look like a GTO, he stated that he wasn't sure which GTO from 1964-1972 they would like to have seen.
  • Mr. Poniatowski has driven a GTO from California to Detriot over 48 or so hours, and after pulling into his home he immediately got out of it and played with his kids. It's that comfortable.
  • The LS engines used in the VX, VY, and VE Holdens are all built here and shipped to Australia. He joked that by the time a GTO or G8 is ever driven in NA, the engines already have 25K miles on them.
  • The differences in hp between the LS3 in the Corvette and the G8 GXP are through, among other things, a slightly hotter cam and different timing in the Corvette.
  • The Vibe is more Pontiac than I thought (though I would still never get one). Pontiac designs the car from the ground up: size, shape, peformance, economy, and handling requirements. Once every spec on the car is complete they forward it to Toyota, who executes it using their parts bin.
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Mr. Poniatowski was upset over the negative critcism surrounding the GTO after its debut. He said the biggest detriment to the car was its name, that it had to take on the legacy of an absolute icon, and had it been given any other name it wouldn't be fine. He wasn't knocking the GTO as much as the ignorance surrounding the perception of it. He stated that those who said it looked plain and was nothing special seemed to forgot that the first GTO was just a ho-hum Tempest with a hot engine. As for those who comlained that it didn't look like a GTO, he stated that he wasn't sure which GTO from 1964-1972 they would like to have seen.

I'm sure David was upset over the negative criticism surrounding the GTO, he's right, it should have never been called a GTO, because it wasn't and never will be. But in his defense he was only following orders that he was given. Just like all GM employees do, well most of them anyway! :AH-HA_wink:

As for what generation of the previous GTO's they should have used, my vote would have been for the old A body from 1968 - 1972, perhaps GM should have taken a vote on their website as to what GTO to harken back to, just as Pontiac is doing with the name of the G8 Sport truck, but they didn't. I can only hope that Pontiac's management has learned from the GTO debacle.

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[*]Mr. Poniatowski was upset over the negative critcism surrounding the GTO after its debut. He said the biggest detriment to the car was its name, that it had to take on the legacy of an absolute icon, and had it been given any other name it wouldn't be fine. He wasn't knocking the GTO as much as the ignorance surrounding the perception of it. He stated that those who said it looked plain and was nothing special seemed to forgot that the first GTO was just a ho-hum Tempest with a hot engine. As for those who comlained that it didn't look like a GTO, he stated that he wasn't sure which GTO from 1964-1972 they would like to have seen.

I've always said the same thing to people, that the original GTO was a average car with a big motor. The GTO was ruined as soon as the retro "new" Mustang pics started flying around, which happened to be around 2003 when the GTO was brought into production. I remember back in the late '90's at Woodward I ran across a GM exec. driving around a right hand drive Holden (vehicle the GTO came from). Hard to believe that was almost 10 years ago.

[*]The LS engines used in the VX, VY, and VE Holdens are all built here and shipped to Australia. He joked that by the time a GTO or G8 is ever driven in NA, the engines already have 25K miles on them.

LOL! I like that!

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I'm sure David was upset over the negative criticism surrounding the GTO, he's right, it should have never been called a GTO, because it wasn't and never will be.

I couldn't disagree more, the 2004-06 GTO was exactly what a GTO should be in the context of the times. If GMNA hadn't dropped the ball on RWD cars, it might have more distinctly Pontiac. However, given what GMNA had done to Pontiac, we might have gotten something much less GTO than what we did. The Holden-sourced car raised the bar for all of GM, not just Pontiac. And that was something desperately needed.

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I couldn't disagree more, the 2004-06 GTO was exactly what a GTO should be in the context of the times. If GMNA hadn't dropped the ball on RWD cars, it might have more distinctly Pontiac. However, given what GMNA had done to Pontiac, we might have gotten something much less GTO than what we did. The Holden-sourced car raised the bar for all of GM, not just Pontiac. And that was something desperately needed.

True that...

Anyone remember the Grand Am SC/T show car?

Anyone remember that the Zarella GM WANTED to produce that car under the GTO nomenclature?

Yeah... I know. LOL.

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Hind sight is always 20-20. But the fact is GM created the car and rushed to the market to revitalize the RWD and GM as a whole, as Camino said. The main botch was that it should have gotten that additional 50hp from start and should have sat about 2k lower in price. Call it coincidence, but Mustang GT hastened GTO's demise along with outrageous markups.

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True that...

Anyone remember the Grand Am SC/T show car?

Anyone remember that the Zarella GM WANTED to produce that car under the GTO nomenclature?

Yeah... I know. LOL.

Yeah, I remember that. I'm sure some people also wanted to badge a version of the FWD Grand Prix as a GTO instead of a GTP/GXP/whatever.

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Hind sight is always 20-20. But the fact is GM created the car and rushed to the market to revitalize the RWD and GM as a whole, as Camino said. The main botch was that it should have gotten that additional 50hp from start and should have sat about 2k lower in price. Call it coincidence, but Mustang GT hastened GTO's demise along with outrageous markups.

We've covered this ground before, but the power and price were just fine (even on the 04s). Dealer misconduct certainly impacted the launch in a negative way, as did distribution mistakes. The Mustang had only a minor impact and didn't hasten the end of the run as the GTO was meant to be a 3 year run from the start. As Lutz has said, the biggest mistake with the GTO was not getting it here when the design was fresh and the platform still had a decent run ahead of it. By the time we got the GTO, the VE was well on its way. If the GTO had arrived when the Monaro did, it would have enjoyed a unique place in the market and its styling would have been more in sync with the times. The approach with VE is much better, though still a bit later than optimal.

Even so, the GTO has engendered an extremely loyal following among owners. Most GTOs are cared for obsessively, and spend time at gatherings with other enthusiastic owners. There is a huge well of goodwill toward Holden, Pontiac, and GM in general - because of the GTO. The owners love their cars, and are a ready base for G8 sales. Add the fact that every GTO was essentially a bonus sale over the Monaro business case, and the GTO has been a huge net positive for GM.

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I couldn't disagree more, the 2004-06 GTO was exactly what a GTO should be in the context of the times. If GMNA hadn't dropped the ball on RWD cars, it might have more distinctly Pontiac. However, given what GMNA had done to Pontiac, we might have gotten something much less GTO than what we did. The Holden-sourced car raised the bar for all of GM, not just Pontiac. And that was something desperately needed.

I couldn't agree more, Camino.

Chris

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Anyone remember the Grand Am SC/T show car?

112_0002_pontiacg_l.jpg

the lower facia is so dodge themed, and for the power it made.. nice, but of course now that power could almost be made with the 2.0L turbo ( peaks )

it would've been low production like GNX's, but would've been cool to see around... whether it was fun to drive or not.

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  • Mr. Koshbab prefers the production Solstice roadster and targa to the concept. Now that the production cars are out and about, he feels the concepts seem kind of cartoonish and unrealistic.

I don't like this guy because of that statement.

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Hind sight is always 20-20. But the fact is GM created the car and rushed to the market to revitalize the RWD and GM as a whole, as Camino said. The main botch was that it should have gotten that additional 50hp from start and should have sat about 2k lower in price. Call it coincidence, but Mustang GT hastened GTO's demise along with outrageous markups.

According to David, the plan was always to have 350hp for 04 and 400 for 05. Simple reason - the LS2 wasn't going to be ready in time for the 04. Switching to the LS2 wasn't a reactionary move in the least.

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