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Pontiac, maker of muscle cars, ends after 84 years

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I was watching the national sunday evening news, and they did a segment on Pontiac. I taped it. I smiled and it was still sad too. They sent it off the same way they did Oldsmobile. they showed GTO's and Trans Am and Smokey and the Bandit and more. I decided to go find news online. I found some:

Pontiac, maker of muscle cars, ends after 84 years



The Pontiac name plate is is going out of business.

The General Motors brand was known for muscle cars drag-raced down boulevards, parked at drive-ins and roared across movie screens.

The 84-year-old brand has been moribund since GM decided to kill it last year as it collapsed into bankruptcy and was in decline for years before that.

It was undone by a combination of poor corporate strategy and changing driver tastes.

GM's agreements with Pontiac dealers expire Sunday.

Pontiac's sales peaked at about 1 million in 1968, when the brand's speedier models were prized for their powerful engines and scowling grills.



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GM's Pontiac brand officially dies today

06:25 AM

After 84 years, General Motors officially says goodbye forever today to Pontiac. No more Bonnevilles. No more Firebird Trans Ams. No more GTOs.

The New York Times just wrote an obituary for the brand:

It was 84 years old. The cause of death was in dispute. Fans said Pontiac's wounds were self-inflicted, while General Motors blamed a terminal illness contracted during last year's bankruptcy. Pontiac built its last car nearly a year ago, but the official end was set for Oct. 31, when G.M.'s agreements with Pontiac dealers expire.

The Times pays special attention to the GTO, brainchild of engineering bon vivant John DeLorean, who went on to create the car in his own name and to get caught, and later acquitted, in a FBI cocaine sting.

Even now, long after Pontiac disappeared from the headlines and sales lots but before today's official end, it seems strange for it to be gone.

Remember Pontiac excitement?:

The numerous attempts to revive the brand, and Oldsmobile before it? We thought some of those efforts, resulting in cars like the fun Solstice, above, were wholly worthwhile.

But without Pontiac, it's interesting to see what GM is making of the four brands that it has left. Buick fills the niche now left by Pontiac, and while it's not a performance brand, it's clear that GM is putting a lot more resources behind Buick than it ever did when it was another name in the underfunded pack.

So goodbye Pontiac. We will still be driving the GTOs and Trans Ams that you leave behind for decades.



many more stories:


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Pontiac, maker of muscle cars, ends after 84 years

Tom Krisher / Associated Press

Detroit— Pontiac, whose muscle cars drag-raced down boulevards, parked at drive-ins and roared across movie screens, is going out of business today.

The 84-year-old brand, moribund since General Motors decided to kill it last year as it collapsed into bankruptcy, had been in decline for years. It was undone by a combination of poor corporate strategy and changing driver tastes. On Oct. 31, GM's agreements with Pontiac dealers expire.


Even before GM's bankruptcy, Pontiac's sales had fallen from their peak of nearly one million in 1968, when the brand's speedier models were prized for their powerful engines and scowling grills.

At Pontiac's pinnacle, models like the GTO, Trans Am and Catalina 2+2 were packed with horsepower and sported colors like "Tiger Gold." Burt Reynolds and Sally Field fled the law in a Firebird Trans Am which raced through the 1970s hit movie "Smokey and the Bandit."

By the late 1980s, though, Pontiacs were taking off their muscle shirts, putting on suits and trying to act like other cars. The brand had lost its edge.

Bill Hoglund, a retired GM executive who led Pontiac during its "We Build Excitement" ad campaigns in the 1980s, blames the brand's demise on a reorganization under CEO Roger Smith in 1984. That overhaul cut costs by combining Pontiac's manufacturing, engineering and design operations with those of other GM brands.

"There was no passion for the product," says Hoglund. "The product had to fit what was going on in the corporate system."

Although the moves were necessary to fend off competition from Japanese automakers with lower costs, they yielded Pontiacs that looked and drove like other GM cars.

By 2008, the last full year before GM announced Pontiac's shutdown, sales were 267,000, less than a third of those sold in 1968.

Formed in 1926, Pontiac made cars for the working class until a sales slump in the 1950s nearly killed it. GM revived the brand by connecting it to auto racing. From then on, each Pontiac sales boom was driven by speed; each bust generally featured outdated or boring rides.

The brand's most storied muscle car, the GTO, came about when some GM engineers took a small car called the Tempest and put a powerful V8 engine under the hood. The letters stood for "Gran Turismo Omologato," Italian for "ready to race."

Sparked by the GTO, the Pontiac brand thrived, making up 17 percent of the 5.4 million cars and trucks GM sold in the U.S. in 1968. The GTO even spawned its own 1960s hit song.

"C'mon and turn it on, wind it up, blow it out GTO," was the chorus of the tune by Ronny and the Daytonas.

Pontiac's decline stemmed from a lack of a consistent strategy or leadership. Executives rotated through every few years on their way up the corporate ladder, each with a different vision. Some even tried to make Pontiac a luxury brand.

One strategy that eventually hurt the brand was rebadging: putting the guts of less powerful GM cars inside the skins of Pontiacs.

Big economic shifts also damaged the brand. Two gas spikes in the 1970s steered Americans toward smaller cars with more fuel-efficient engines, areas dominated by Japanese automakers in the U.S.

About two dozen unsold Pontiacs now linger at dealerships around the country, including a maroon G5 coupe that sits awkwardly in a no-man's land between used cars and new models next to the showroom at Orr GM Superstore near Little Rock, Ark. The car, which is really just a poky Chevrolet Cobalt gussied up with a spoiler, fancy wheels and the red arrowhead Pontiac logo, has been on the lot for more than 700 days. Sales Manager Alex Valencia has knocked almost $7,000 off the sticker price, down to $16,585.

Despite spells of success during the last 30 years, Pontiac never returned to its supercharged sales of the 1960s.

A low point was the late 1990s, when Pontiac came up with Aztek, an attempt to merge campers with SUVs and win over young, outdoorsy Americans. The vehicle, which seemed more like a cross between a minivan and armored car, flopped.

In the mid-2000s, GM tried to rekindle the brand with powerful sedans, such as the G8, which harkened back to the GTO. But dealers wanted a full model lineup, and GM gave them renamed Chevrolets, diluting Pontiac's performance image, says Bob Lutz, GM's former product guru who headed up the effort to reinvigorate Pontiac.

This year, Pontiac's sales are less than 1 percent of the 2.2 million cars and trucks GM is expected to sell. GM built the last Pontiac in May.

Even after their Pontiac agreements expire, GM dealers will continue to service the cars and honor their warranties. But after this weekend, any new Pontiacs that remain on dealer lots will be considered used cars by GM.

Anthony "Tony" Augelli, owner of a Pontiac-GMC-Buick dealer in Gurnee, Ill., near Chicago, still has a gleaming orange 2009 Solstice roadster that's the first car to greet customers in his showroom. Despite its prime perch, the $32,000 car hasn't sold.

Augelli gets emotional when speaking of Pontiac's end.

"I miss it already," he says.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20101031/AUTO01/10310319/1148/auto01/Pontiac--maker-of-muscle-cars--ends-after-84-years#ixzz142BdITm8

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Pontiac, 84, Dies of Indifference

Gary McCracken for The New York Times


Published: October 29, 2010

DETROIT — Pontiac, the brand that invented the muscle car under its flamboyant engineer John Z. DeLorean, helped Burt Reynolds elude Sheriff Justice in “Smokey and the Bandit” and taught baby boomers to salivate over horsepower, but produced mostly forgettable cars for their children, will endure a lonely death on Sunday after about 40 million in sales.

It was 84 years old. The cause of death was in dispute. Fans said Pontiac’s wounds were self-inflicted, while General Motors blamed a terminal illness contracted during last year’s bankruptcy. Pontiac built its last car nearly a year ago, but the official end was set for Oct. 31, when G.M.’s agreements with Pontiac dealers expire.

“They were C.P.R.-ing a corpse for a long time,” said Larry Kummer, a retired graphic artist who has owned more than two dozen Pontiacs and runs the Web site PontiacRegistry.com.

The G.M. brand that was advertised for “driving excitement,” Pontiac brought Americans the Bonneville, GTO, Firebird and other venerable nameplates. Sportier than a Chevrolet but less uppity than an Oldsmobile or Buick, the best Pontiacs, recognizable by their split grille and red arrowhead emblem in the middle, were stylish yet affordable cars with big, macho engines.

Its biggest triumph was the GTO, developed by Mr. DeLorean, the brand’s rebellious chief engineer, in violation of a G.M. policy dictating the maximum size of a car’s engine. The GTO was a hit, and the age of the muscle car had begun.

“When the muscle-car era was in its heyday, Pontiac was king,” said Frederick Perrine, a dealer in Cranbury, N.J., whose family sold Pontiacs since the brand’s founding. “It put us through school. We were the house on the block that had the swimming pool growing up.”

Ed Dieffenbach, a retired police officer, recalls admiring Pontiacs in magazines as a boy but he never bought one. But with the brand nearing death, he drove more than 1,100 miles round trip last week from his home near Miami to the Lee Pontiac GMC dealership in Florida’s panhandle to trade in his Chevrolet Silverado truck for one of the last new Solstice two-seater coupes available anywhere in the country.

“I always wanted a hot rod, but never got around to it, so this is it,” Mr. Dieffenbach, 62, said after getting his new car home. “My wife sat in it last night and said, ‘Oh my Lord, wow.’ ”

For most of the 1960s, Pontiac ranked third in sales behind Chevy and Ford — a position now held by Toyota.

But in the decades since, Pontiac’s edge and high-powered image wore off. Repeated efforts in the 1990s and 2000s to revive the brand failed. Drivers too young to remember the GTO came to associate Pontiac with models like the DustBuster-shaped Trans Sport minivan or the Aztek, a bloated-looking crossover widely regarded as one of the ugliest vehicles of all time.

By early 2009, Pontiac had fallen to 12th place in the United States market, and its top-selling model was the G6, a sedan commonly found on car-rental lots.

Pontiac, named for the Michigan city where the company started and an 18th-century Ottawa Indian chief, found itself on the wrong end of G.M.’s government-aided bankruptcy restructuring.

“They had a lot of glory years, but from the ’70s on, Pontiac just couldn’t meet the bar,” Mr. Kummer said. “It was always living in the past.”

For the most part, Pontiac’s final months generated no more excitement than its last few decades did. G.M. said dealers had fewer than 125 new Pontiacs in stock at the end of August, mostly heavily discounted G6’s, but only eight of them were reported sold in September.

“You hate to see them go, but they were floundering and couldn’t find their place in the market,” said Tim Dye, who owns 21 Pontiacs from various eras and a huge collection of Pontiac memorabilia — started with a bottle of GTO cologne from his uncle — that he had assembled over more than 30 years.

Mr. Dye’s home in Oklahoma, along with two buildings on his property, are filled with thousands of items from Pontiac’s past, including showroom brochures, advertising posters, model cars, pencils, ashtrays and matchbooks. Now that Pontiac is gone, Mr. Dye plans to turn his collection into a museum in Pontiac, Ill., a city on Route 66.

“I can’t think of anything better to do than just visit with people about Pontiac every day,” he said.

The Pontiac Motor Division was born at G.M. in 1926 as a single model under the Oakland brand, but its roots date to the 1890s, when horse-drawn carriage-making was a big industry in Pontiac, 25 miles northwest of Detroit. The Pontiac Spring and Wagon Works started building automobiles in 1907, before merging with the nearby Oakland Motor Car Company, which was then bought by G.M. in 1909.

G.M.’s first Pontiac was an $825 model known as the “Chief of the Sixes” for its 6-cylinder engine. It sold so well that G.M. shut down Oakland to focus on Pontiacs.

Pontiac became known as a conservative brand, building stodgy cars for grandmothers, until its general manager in the late 1950s, Semon Knudsen, sought a hipper image and much younger buyer. Mr. Knudsen, the son of a former G.M. president and a fan of auto racing, unveiled Pontiac’s “wide-track” design, which improved the cars’ handling by pushing the wheels five inches farther apart.

Mr. Knudsen, known as Bunkie, said the change kept the wider-bodied 1959 Pontiacs from resembling “a football player wearing ballet slippers.” The style was distinctive, and Pontiac’s frequent wins on the racetrack in that era helped sales soar.

No innovation did as much for Pontiac’s high-performance image as the GTO, whose glory days were from 1964 to 1974. The original GTO’s 389 cubic-inch engine was larger than G.M. allowed in a car of that size, but Pontiac executives got around that rule by offering it as an upgrade package to an existing model, the Tempest, and no one at the corporate level was aware of the option before it went into production and dealers began clamoring for more.

“We got 5,000 of them out into the marketplace before we got around to telling the corporation what we were doing,” said Jim Wangers, a Pontiac ad executive who worked with Mr. DeLorean to create the GTO, short for Gran Turismo Omologato.

Mr. Wangers, who was born the same year as Pontiac and never thought he would outlive it, recalls the time that the German luxury carmaker BMW sent a team of engineers, designers and marketers to meet with Mr. DeLorean’s team and study how the brand did so well.

But Pontiac sales peaked in 1973, when 920,000 were sold, and the ride was mostly downhilll after that. Pontiac fans lament that the brand finally got a few worthy models in its final years — the G8 full-size sedan and the Solstice sports car — but by then it was too far gone.

Gary Lee Jr., an owner of the dealership that sold Mr. Dieffenbach his Solstice this week, remembers the sadness of losing Oldsmobile when G.M. killed that brand in 2004. But with Pontiac, he has just been eager to move on. Signs for Pontiac at his dealership had long been removed, and he said, thankfully, he had no more new Pontiacs to unload.

“It was a great line,” Mr. Lee said, “while it lasted.”



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By Andrew Ganz

General Motors signaled the end for its once-sporty Pontiac brand well over a year ago, but it wasn’t until yesterday – Halloween – that the last nail was hammered into the coffin and Pontiac was buried.

GM’s agreements with its dealership network officially ended yesterday, meaning that any new Pontiac left in stock is no longer officially supported by the Detroit automaker and will be considered a used car. GM will continue honoring warranties for Pontiacs and it’s unlikely that late model Pontiac-specific spare parts will be an issue for the near future, but the end of Pontiac has officially arrived.

Dealers reported about 100 untitled Pontiacs remaining in inventory. A handful have likely been preserved by Pontiac dealers hoping to cash in big in the future, but most will likely find buyers in the coming months.

Once a brand synonymous with domestic performance, it floundered by offering rebodied Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles in the 1980s and 1990s. Its high-horsepower saviors – the G8 and Solstice – arrived too late to fix GM’s most jilted brand.

Pontiac was one of three brands General Motors closed as part of its bankruptcy and restructuring. Its Saturn and Hummer units were also unceremoniously shut down and it sold its Saab brand to Dutch supercar manufacturer Spyker.



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Farewell Pontiac

The last Pontiac dealer signs off.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Nov.01, 2010

The 1964 Pontiac LeMans GTO Convertible built excitement...and sales.

The muscle car king is dead. Long live the muscle car king.

The long, lingering final act of Pontiac final came to an end, over the weekend, when dealers sold off the last new cars bearing the once formidable Pontiac logo and General Motors let its franchise agreement with the brand’s final remaining dealers expire.

The brand once known by its catchy slogan, “We build excitement,” expired with a whimper rather than the squeal of tires.

It was supposed to redefine the brand. But the Pontiac Aztek sent buyers scurrying to other marques, instead.

Officially, Pontiac’s demise was set in stone last July, when GM emerged from Chapter 11 protection. The maker has originally hoped to save the brand as an outlet for specialty products, such as the Pontiac Solstice roadster. But in the end, GM buckled under White House pressure and agreed to abandon the division, along with Hummer, Saturn and Saab – half of its North American brands – in return for a $50 billion government bailout.

Two decades before, that would have seemed unthinkable – but then again, so would the idea of GM going bankrupt.

The Pontiac nameplate first appeared in 1900. Commemorating a Michigan Indian chief who led an unsuccessful uprising against British settlers, it was the product of the Pontiac Spring & Wagon Works which, eight years later, merged to become part of the Oakland Motor Car Company.

The 2004 GTO had muscle, but none of the original "Goat's" panache.

The name reappeared in 1926, at the New York Auto Show, this time as part of the ladder strategy envisioned by former GM Chairman Alfred P. Sloan, whose mantra was “a car for every purse and purpose.” Each brand occupied a different rung up the price ladder. And, in an era when marques like Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac had far fewer model variants, GM created an assortment of secondary brands, such as LaSalle, a lower-cost version of Caddy.

Over time, those lower-status, lesser-known brands were abandoned. The exception was Pontiac which survived while the higher-priced Oakland division – which GM had bought in 1909 — was closed.

Pontiac had a series of hits-and-misses, over the years, but it hit its peak in the 1960s when the legendary John De Lorean and his colleagues put the emphasis on performance, coming up with products like the Chevelle SS and the GTO. Better known as the “Goat,” few cars could challenge it when the light turned green.

But, by the time the twin oil shocks struck, in the ‘70s, Pontiac had hit its peak, never to recover in an era where quality and fuel efficiency mattered more than horsepower to most motorists.

The Solstice roadster came as close as any model in decades to living up to Pontiac's theme, "We Build Excitement," but sales didn't match.

By mid-2009, when GM emerged from bankruptcy, Pontiac was selling barely a quarter its peak volume – it topped out in 1973 at 920,000 vehicles – and had dropped to 12th place among automotive brands.

Not that GM didn’t try. The maker struggled to find an alternative image to replace the muscle cars of the past. Hoping to come up with what former General Manager John Middlebrook once described as the “Swiss Army knife of automobiles,” the maker launched the Aztek, a much-derided offering that boasted plenty of flexibility but styling that has made the Pontiac crossover a staple of worst-ever lists.

When GM brought Bob Lutz on as its “car czar,” a decade ago, he struggled to find a way to tap into the brand’s heritage – but a remake of the GTO, using an Australian-made muscle car, flopped. So did a new version of the once popular Grand Prix sedan. Pontiac scored some good initial press with the Solstice roadster, which Lutz personally pushed through the sclerotic pre-bankruptcy GM system. But it was too little too late.

GM built the last G6 sedan on its own assembly line, appropriately enough, in suburban Pontiac, Michigan, on November 30, 2009. Shortly after, the last Pontiac Vibe ran down the line in Fremont, California, a factory GM had run as a joint venture with Toyota. That facility is now closed.

The old logo, a line drawing profile of Chief Pontiac can still be found on some old dealerships, including one near downtown Nashville. But most retailers, desperate to rebuild their businesses, are showing little interest in sentimentality. They’re tossing the signs and sales literature and moving on, many of them signing up with the foreign brands that helped drive Pontiac into the history books.



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I guess the brand signs will be coming down from Pontiac dealerships all over the country in the next couple of months...

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