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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

GM plans to keep Pontiac owners loyal through good service

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GM plans to keep Pontiac owners loyal through good service

RICHARD TRUETT

AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

SEPTEMBER 21, 2009 - 12:01 AM ET

When General Motors Co. sells the last new Pontiac sometime in the next few months, the 84-year-old brand will pass into the history books. But it will linger in GM's corporate rearview mirror for years.

That's because more than 1 million Pontiacs on the road are still under warranty.

GM is bound by federal law to provide replacement parts for Pontiacs for at least 10 years or the useful life of a vehicle. But GM has another motive for making sure those drivers stay happy: It wants to shift Pontiac owners to one of its four surviving brands -- Chevrolet, GMC, Buick or Cadillac -- for new purchases.

That will be difficult. At a recent dealer meeting in suburban Detroit, GM officials told Buick-GMC-Pontiac dealers that the company must do a better job of retaining Pontiac owners than it did keeping Oldsmobile buyers when that brand died in 2004.

In the past five years, 80 percent of Oldsmobile drivers have defected to non-GM brands.

"We have to do a better job of focusing on what the customers' needs are and how we can respond better than we have in the past," GM spokesman John McDonald says.

The service route

GM hopes to retain service business from Pontiac owners by

• Giving Pontiac owners contact information for nearby GM dealers

• Enabling all GM dealers to provide parts for Pontiacs

• Making it easy to find dealers online and by phone

• Encouraging Pontiac owners to use OnStar to get dealer location information

• Making special tools available to non-Pontiac dealers

Pontiac's free agents

GM has appointed a team of marketing, warranty, customer relations and sales executives to devise plans to retain customers from all of the brands GM is shedding, including Saab, Saturn and Hummer. GM calls these customers free agents.

But Pontiac's million customers with cars under warranty is by far the biggest chunk of free agents.

Providing outstanding parts and service to Pontiac drivers will be a huge factor in whether these customers stay in a GM vehicle, says Gary Dilts, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates.

"They have a bunch of customers out there that everyone is out to get," Dilts says. "Service is the way to reach them. I'd be bringing them in the door with every kind of service I could offer."

Dilts says a 50 percent customer retention rate is realistic.

Chances are that Pontiac customers will be able to get service at the stores where they bought their cars. GM has to provide service until warranties run out. Pontiacs carry a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Of the 2,680 Pontiac dealerships at the start of 2009, only about 50 were stand-alones. The rest are bundled with Buick and GMC, and about 2,100 of those stores will remain in business, says Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson. Also, Pontiac owners will be able to get their cars serviced at other GM stores, even ones that never sold Pontiacs, Hopson says.

Service for all

GM plans to communicate better and more often with Pontiac owners than it did with Oldsmobile drivers, says spokesman McDonald: "We will reach out and tell them that we'd love to keep their business, and here's where a dealer is who is close by."

Some cars -- such as the Vibe, which uses a Toyota drivetrain -- might require special tools. Hopson says any special equipment needed to service Pontiacs will be made available to Chevrolet, Buick-GMC and Cadillac dealers.

Says McDonald: "We'll have a dealer network that is the largest in the country. We are still going to have a significant presence in all areas of the country, but some people may have to drive farther for service."

Edited by NINETY EIGHT REGENCY
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Unless Chevrolet gets it's $h! together soon, I'll be looking to Ford or the new, more appealing sounding (and very Pontiac-esque) Dodge.

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Pontiac didn't offer anything great in terms of service when they were in business, now that they are gone they will step it up?

If GM wants to retain Pontiac owners (or retain any GM customer or attract a new ones) they need to build cars people want. Mazda and Nissan build better products than what Pontiac had, those looking for sporty handling at that price point may go to those 2 brands. Although Pontiac had a ton of fleet sales, so they aren't missing out on much.

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Pontiac didn't offer anything great in terms of service when they were in business, now that they are gone they will step it up?

This is true. I've heard tones of stories about lackluster service from their dealers.

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Pontiac didn't offer anything great in terms of service when they were in business, now that they are gone they will step it up?

If GM wants to retain Pontiac owners (or retain any GM customer or attract a new ones) they need to build cars people want. Mazda and Nissan build better products than what Pontiac had, those looking for sporty handling at that price point may go to those 2 brands. Although Pontiac had a ton of fleet sales, so they aren't missing out on much.

mazda is the new queen of pontiac cladded style. immature boy racer chick car style. excitement! the mazda3 is the new boy racer car. not one ounce of dignity in owning that new one.

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Except the Mazda has no cladding and no boy racer parts. Mazdas problem is that stupid smiling face. Besides that they are very good cars, I just can't get past the smile.

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Customer dropped off his 2010 Mazda 3 Enterprise rental yesterday afternoon and picked up his V70 wagon.
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Except the Mazda has no cladding and no boy racer parts. Mazdas problem is that stupid smiling face. Besides that they are very good cars, I just can't get past the smile.

regardless of whether the look comes via tack ons or not.....the mazda3 has the same immature character that folks chastised the pontiac line for for years.

the mazda 3 has terrible boy racer styling cues that go beyond just the dumb as hell grille. the side character line is terrible.

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I said it before and I will say it again.. Oldsmobile people do not want Buicks or Chevrolets. Cadillac is too flashy. We would consider or buy a Pontiac. You now understand why I am keeping my cars and why GM does not get it yet.. If 80 % defected, that means the other 20% like me have kept their Oldsmobiles.

I can tell you this... the only car that is equal to my Ninety Eight I own is not even made by GM. You all know what it is.. A Lincoln. The Lincoln Town Car. This is going away. The only GM car that I like is sold in Ausltralia. The Holden Caprice/Statesman. When they were "phasing out" Oldsmobile that GM foolishly believed that Oldsmobile buyers would go to another GM brand. I knew they would not. GM was arrogant and acted like it was still king of the road with 50% of the market. This was a different time and not the 1950's, 1960's or 1970's or early to mid 1980's. If what GM said was true, then there would be a Buick Park Avenue and Buick Riviera in my driveway. There is not.

GM fails to see people never associated the GM brands( Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac, GMC, Saturn, SAAB, Hummer, Holden, Opel, Vauxhall, Daewoo ) with each other. In the United States for decades each GM brand was semi independent and ran that way. GM was the holding company and the brands shared parts and nothing else. They would get a platform and each division made it different. When GM was heavily mismanaged in the 1980's and beyond that they tried integrating things in house and that is when the brands lost clear identity. In 1984, GM created CPC( Chevrolet Pontiac Group Canada) and BOC ( Buick Oldsmobile Cadillac) CPC was responsible for small cars and things of that nature. BOC was responsible for midsize and larger cars. This is why the lines became blurred between the cars. Then add Saturn to that mix and SAAB and Hummer. You see why brands got lost and more. You understand why it was hard to spend money on different brands.

For decades in the United States, GM was only Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. Each brand had fewer models, but they sold more cars too. Let me scare you.. At one point in the 1980's, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick all had the same models under different names. The only ones they did not share were: Firebird and Reatta. Every other model each brand had. That was due to mismanagement.

Let's look briefly at new GM:

GM is trying to position Chevrolet to fill the space Chevrolet held and pick up Pontiac slack.

GM is trying to position Buick to be the Lexus fighter or near luxury brand.

GM is putting Cadillac to be the standard of the world and European luxury fighter.

GM is positioning GMC trucks to be professional grade and more luxurious than Chevrolet trucks and look different.

Several things wrong with this:

1. Buick is not nor will it been seen by the buying public as a Lexus or import fighter. No one believes that but GM. Buick does not have the same high regard as they do in China.

2. Chevrolet is being spread too thin trying to cover a larger segment of the market.

3. Cadillac has a real chance of being the luxury brand it wants to be if it is done right.

4. There are now massive holes in the GM North American line up.

5. GM refuses to accept or believe the buyers want a certain brand. It is not "just GM".

6. GM also does not see that Buick and Cadillac positioning in the market is not reality. It is GM's reality. People are already saying new Buick is pushing into Cadillac territory with the new La Crosse and Enclave.

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Still waiting to see anything on this more substantial than platitudes in press releases.

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I said it before and I will say it again.. Oldsmobile people do not want Buicks or Chevrolets. Cadillac is too flashy. We would consider or buy a Pontiac. You now understand why I am keeping my cars and why GM does not get it yet.. If 80 % defected, that means the other 20% like me have kept their Oldsmobiles.

I can tell you this... the only car that is equal to my Ninety Eight I own is not even made by GM. You all know what it is.. A Lincoln. The Lincoln Town Car. This is going away.

How about the Lucerne? Similar platform and drivetrain (v6 model) to the 98...very similar style of car--quiet, sedate comfy lux FWD full size.

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How about the Lucerne? Similar platform and drivetrain (v6 model) to the 98...very similar style of car--quiet, sedate comfy lux FWD full size.

Not the same. No digital gauges, the seat controls are on the side of the seat and not on the door, the trunk is smaller too. There are features I have I am not giving up Lucerne does not offer. The car is not as wide either. I am not a fan of the car as much as I tried to like the car. I do not hate Buicks because they are GM cars, but Buick does not appeal to me in any way....

Bonneville SLE and GXP and SSE were closer even though it was lacking some features. It is hard to describe, but it is more than just a feeling.

Buick especially now as it transforms will not offer anything bigger than La Crosse and it does not have a bench seat period....

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98, I think part of your problem too is, a lot of the features you mention (digital gauges, seat controls on door) are not going to be found in any car you buy save something that is prohibitively expensive. Or have not been in high demand for quite awhile (bench seat, large trunk).

At least you have a car that you are happy with and maybe some of these features will return.

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98, I think part of your problem too is, a lot of the features you mention (digital gauges, seat controls on door) are not going to be found in any car you buy save something that is prohibitively expensive. Or have not been in high demand for quite awhile (bench seat, large trunk).

At least you have a car that you are happy with and maybe some of these features will return.

Does anything have digital guages anymore? I know the Grand Marquis has a digital speedometer, but also regular gauges. Mostly, though, it seems like an '80s-90s gimmick. Seat controls on the door are nice, but seat-mounted ones work fine for me w/ the ones on my Jeep..intuitive and seat-shaped, work well by feel.

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98, I think part of your problem too is, a lot of the features you mention (digital gauges, seat controls on door) are not going to be found in any car you buy save something that is prohibitively expensive. Or have not been in high demand for quite awhile (bench seat, large trunk).

At least you have a car that you are happy with and maybe some of these features will return.

That is the thing... GM and Ford need to understand their is still a market for this. The police force too are dirt out of luck right now too because they not want what is out there. That is why those Holden Commodores look promising to them. They want something durable and no one offers it domestically. The Holden is the only viable option. Not every one wants or needs bucket seats. They put them in everything. My first Ninety Eight had analog gauges. I hated them. They broke too. If I wanted to look at needs and dials , I would get a watch. Digital gauges are offered on Porches and a few other cars.

GM could make a contemporary looking car that had the features I wanted and sell it at a fair price. Like everyone one else, they think it has to be like Honda or Toyota or Lexus.

I have two. You are correct. Both have digital gauges and more.

Does anything have digital guages anymore? I know the Grand Marquis has a digital speedometer, but also regular gauges. Mostly, though, it seems like an '80s-90s gimmick. Seat controls on the door are nice, but seat-mounted ones work fine for me w/ the ones on my Jeep..intuitive and seat-shaped, work well by feel.

Yes. Lincoln Town Car, Grand Marquis, Porsche, and a few others. Some are a analog digital cluster. The DTS has a small digital cluster. It is not a 80's -90's gimmick. They just put more analog in cars. You can buy the Citroen C6 with digital gauges. That is outside the US. I hate sticking my hand on the side of the seat. You do not pay good money to stick your hand on the side of the seat. If you want to do that, but a cheaper car.

I am not making compromises in my car. I did even when I bought the cars I have. GM needs to learn to give the people what they want not what they think we should have. This is why GM has the issues it has now. I would laugh if GM made GMC a car brand in the future too.

It is interesting to note that everything switched or is switching over from analog ( tv, telephone etc and more) to digital.

The GTO could switch from analog to digital.

You are correct!! It was like that and may be that way in the other Holdens too.

Edited by NINETY EIGHT REGENCY
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The issue at hand is times have changed, markets have changed and GM has to change. Change is never fun nor painless. But at times you have to step back to move forward.

GM can no longer make 41 flavores today they have to pick and choose what they can best make money at. GM is not so much worried about just gaining back Pontiac buyers but buyers of all GM cars they have lost over the last 30 years.

Lets face it what GM has had for product was not getting the job done. If Pontiac and Olds was in that much demand and that much need where is the major outcry for them other than a handful of enthusiast. In fact even they have not been pissing and moaning as much as I would have expected.

The fact is every other company out there has been doing a bang up job of making a profit and selling a lot of cars with only 2-3 divisions. The companies that had most division are getting bailed out.

Buick can change. If Hyundia can move up market as they have is there any reason Buick can't?? It was only 9 years ago the Elan was a joke and people laughed if you bought a Hyundia. Today they have changed their rep and did so with the help of a ex Buick leader. Everyone aspired to make a better Buick and acomplished it. Isn't it time Buick builds a better Buick. From what I see GM plans too.

Chevy needs to cover a large market but I fear too many CUV and SUV type vehicles. I would like to see more cars and performance option. Do they really need a Nox, Orlando, Traverse and Tahoe? Pare this down to 2 or 3 units of the correct size and be done with it. Do something innovatice like a Mini based fighter with Nomad styling. Something that stands out and is fun while being affordable. That is what has help sell a lot of HHR's when many said it was to late to market. Build a better American Mini and they will buy. Just look at how many Minis have been sold in the last few years.

Cadillac has accomplished it's first goal as it is now again Americas best luxury car. It is now trying to earn it's world status. The CTS has done well in the 2nd gen. The 3rd gen will be the water mark of make it or break it. GM has to be the best the 3rd time as there will be no more excuses.

The ATS will also need to make a statment and needs to be better out of the box than Benz, Audi and BMW. There is not time to wait 3 gens to get it right.

The Cadillac SUV needed to be better than the Lexus the class leader it now is and only needs to convice that market to give it a try. Building a class leader is not that hard but gaining the rep is much tougher.

As Cadillac gains respect and image it will be able to move more up market and move away from Buick. Today one has to be nuts to think anyone will pay $75K plus for any Cadillac. The XTS can not be the car it needs to be the first time out. It will have to work up market. VW found this out with the Phaeton. It was a great car but too much too soon for the market to accept a VW at that kind of price.

GM is also doing better int he way of PR. They are doing things like killing the Buick Vue. The public hated it and they killed it. [some say it already was killed and was more a PR move to show they lisened.]

GM also needs to listen to less clinics and more to the talented people who work for them. They have some of the best engineers and designers around. Lutz's has tried to empower them and the recent cars show what they can so. It is time for Henderson to do the same and have their backs to do the work they can do.

I was at a recent car show here locally. It had cars like Dusenbergs, Benz 540's, Ferarri 25 Lusso, and many other great cars. I love these cars. But to expect Benz and Ferarri to build cars like this today is nuts.

All the respect to those who dream of the 60'-80's car those times are gone and it is time for you to move on with the rest of us. If you like them restore and enjoy them but don't expect GM to offer cars with 1970 Features.

Anyway enough of my rant. most people that bought Pontiac's in the last few years did so because they were cheap. Discounts sold a lot of G5-G6-Grand Ams and Grand Prix. Just check the resale values because of the discounted prices. Just ask me about my resale on my GTP. I don't see it improving even if Pontiac was still around.

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Does anything have digital guages anymore? I know the Grand Marquis has a digital speedometer, but also regular gauges. Mostly, though, it seems like an '80s-90s gimmick. Seat controls on the door are nice, but seat-mounted ones work fine for me w/ the ones on my Jeep..intuitive and seat-shaped, work well by feel.

A lot of cars have digital. The new Lacrosse has HUD as does Cadillac and the Vette. Soon the Camaro will also have HUD.

The new Nox I just drove has digital in the center of the dash and analog speedo beside it.

Most cars have the seat controls on the seat but most are getting the auto set with the door opener so you have no need for door mounted switches.

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Lets face it what GM has had for product was not getting the job done. If Pontiac and Olds was in that much demand and that much need where is the major outcry for them other than a handful of enthusiast. In fact even they have not been pissing and moaning as much as I would have expected.

Honestly, at this point, I think all of GM's brands could have disappeared and nobody save a handful of enthusiasts would have cared.

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That's nice....most of those people who are buying the last Pontiacs are buying them for the deal anyways.

Then they'll move on to the next deal.....

People are not brand loyal any more. You'd have to be stupid to do so....

My next new car will be a compact. GM has two chances at the moment. The new Cruze or the Aveo. (granted, this could change)

The Ford lineup is looking pretty good. As does the Mazda 3 and the Kia Forte.

GM is going to have to earn my business this time....

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Honestly, at this point, I think all of GM's brands could have disappeared and nobody save a handful of enthusiasts would have cared.

He has a point... Buick is just as damaged as the other are. The only reason they are alive is because of the Chinese Connection. Sounds like I am talking about a Bruce Lee film....

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A lot of cars have digital. The new Lacrosse has HUD as does Cadillac and the Vette. Soon the Camaro will also have HUD.

I wasn't talking about HUD...I was thinking about all digital, like some cars in the '80s-90s had.. like the '80s Corvettes. No analog gauges.

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Still waiting to see anything on this more substantial than platitudes in press releases.

I am surprised that GM didn't release a press release to discuss how they will have more effective press releases in the future.

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I am surprised that GM didn't release a press release to discuss how they will have more effective press releases in the future.

I fully expect there to be loyality cash handed out and when it is handed out, there will be products there that will be attractive to the owners who are trading in their Pontiacs. Another thing to remember also is MANY people are buying year old pontiacs off the used market *cough* previous rentals *cough* that are really cheap.

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That's nice....most of those people who are buying the last Pontiacs are buying them for the deal anyways.

Then they'll move on to the next deal.....

People are not brand loyal any more. You'd have to be stupid to do so....

My next new car will be a compact. GM has two chances at the moment. The new Cruze or the Aveo. (granted, this could change)

The Ford lineup is looking pretty good. As does the Mazda 3 and the Kia Forte.

GM is going to have to earn my business this time....

That is just it the majority of the market is not brand loyal anymore. Every company needs to earn the sale. The days of repeat buyers or buyer because their father owned that brand are over.

Everyone claims to hate Walmart but they earn most the sales buy giving more for the dollar even when we all complain that many products come from China. The same with the big box hardware stores. Many no longer shop the loyal local hardware where dad and grand dad shopped. The old way of doing buisness has gone away.

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