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Pontiac: Nothing but rwd cars?

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Pontiac: Nothing but rwd cars?

GM proposal plays up performance cars in attempt to revive ailing brand

Jamie LaReau | Automotive News / May 29, 2006

http://autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?...1/1003&refsect=

Pontiac plan

GM officials will unveil a rwd concept vehicle for Pontiac at the 2007 Detroit auto show. To revive the brand, GM also is considering:

- Fielding a lineup of all rwd cars

- Replacing the Grand Prix with a higher-priced sedan

- Replacing the GTO with a vehicle built on Camaro architecture

DETROIT -- After debating Pontiac's viability this year, General Motors' leadership plans to revive the brand's heritage of performance with a product lineup of exclusively rear-wheel-drive cars.

There would be no trucks and - after the next generation of vehicles - no front-wheel-drive cars either.

GM will unveil a rwd sedan concept at January's Detroit auto show, company sources say. This echoes the strategy that GM adopted with the 1999 Evoq concept, which revealed Cadillac's new brand "look."

The Pontiac plan is not final. GM executives continue to build a business case for it. This ambitious proposal is a plan to save the brand, which has suffered declining sales. GM sold 437,806 Pontiacs in the United States last year, compared with 599,123 in 1995.

One insider says it would take five years to convert the brand to rwd. That's why Pontiac will get one more generation of fwd and all-wheel-drive small cars.

A Pontiac spokesman declined to comment on the brand's plans. Fwd cars will not go away soon, but rwd vehicles will become more prominent "in the near term," the spokesman said.

Sources inside GM and close to Pontiac say GM leaders are debating:

- The future of the Grand Prix sedan.

- A possible GTO replacement based on the Chevrolet Camaro.

- A Firebird muscle car.

Not so 'damaged'

In recent years, Pontiac has been wracked by debate over its future. During a controversial speech at the New York auto show last year, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz called Pontiac "a damaged brand."

In a recent interview with Automotive News, Lutz said he had never asserted that the brand was "irreparably" damaged. While Pontiac is still struggling, GM is repairing the damage, and the bleeding has stopped, Lutz says.

Nevertheless, sources say top-level GM executives did debate a phaseout of the brand. In January, senior executives met to discuss Pontiac's future. GM decided to revive Pontiac as a pure performance brand.

GM will trim product lineups as it consolidates Buick, Pontiac and GMC into three-brand dealerships under its retail channel strategy. In a recent interview, Lutz told Automotive News that Pontiac and Buick will not carry trucks.

Lutz declined to speculate whether the Pontiac Torrent crossover, a rebadged Chevrolet Equinox, would one day go to GMC, but industry sources say it's likely.

The strategy will force Pontiac to sort out its product plans for the Grand Prix. While GM hasn't set a time frame, it's likely the automaker will discontinue the current incarnation of the fwd Grand Prix after the 2008 model year, industry sources say.

GM is considering a new mid-sized rwd sedan to replace it, says an industry insider. The source says the vehicle will be "one notch up" from the present Grand Prix, which has a base price of $21,990, including shipping. Whether that vehicle keeps the Grand Prix name is uncertain.

A rwd lineup could give Pontiac performance credibility, says John Pitre, general manager of Motor City Auto Center in Bakersfield, Calif. "They're right on track with the performance division of GM," he says. "BMW has been born and raised on rear-wheel drive. For us on the West Coast, rear-wheel drive feels better to drive and seems to last longer."

But Pontiac's drive to become a pure performance division would sacrifice sales volume, predicts Doug Scott, industry analyst at GfK Automotive in Southfield, Mich. For example, many G6 buyers in northern climates want a front-wheel-drive car for winter conditions.

Scott also said GM is pressuring dealers to combine Buick, Pontiac and GMC franchises into single stores by cutting the brands' product lineups.

"They really want to narrow the range of products and narrow the sales objective," Scott says. It means sacrificing sales volume at dealerships for profit at corporate level. "It's forcing the channeling strategy," he says.

Like a Camaro

Pontiac brand executives hope that if GM builds the Camaro for Chevrolet, the architecture could provide a similar product for Pontiac. The previous generation of GM muscle cars included the rwd Pontiac Firebird, a sibling of the Camaro.

But Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson is quick to add, "We want a truly differentiated product. We don't want a rebadged vehicle."

Company insiders say that if GM decides to build the Camaro, GM will not revive a Firebird version. "There will be no Firebird," says one source. "Rear-wheel drive? Yes. Pony car? No."

Dealers also want a replacement for the GTO, one of only two current rwd Pontiac cars, the other being the Solstice two-seater. Pontiac will kill the Australia-produced coupe this fall after just three model years.

Insiders say there will be a replacement for the GTO, but the product gap will remain for a couple of years.

Says Pontiac's Hopson: "We haven't made any bones about the fact that Pontiac needs a rear-wheel-drive performance vehicle."

-------------------------------------------------------

I'm glad GM has finally realized what Pontiac's niche should be. :thumbsup: It sure took them long enough.

I have a feeling that if Lutz didn't come on board Pontiac would be six feet under by the time this all comes to life.

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Fantastic idea. I think they need a Grand Prix like sedan (performance oriented though) to add volume to the brand. The only potential pitfall I see is to convert Pontiac into a brand exclusively made of sports cars. They need to maintain those volume cars, albeit with more performance emphasis. I'm optimistic about this! :pbjtime:

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Huh.

http://www.cheersandgears.com/forums/index...?showtopic=8802

Then you have the Pontiac-Buick-GMC consolidation. Its my opinion and hope that the three divisions will move toward a near-lux and luxury lineup, competitive with Lexus (Buick, GMC with trucks/SUVs) and Acura (Pontiac). Pontiac will move to small and mid-size RWD vehicles.

-Solstice, both ragtop and coupe

-some RWD midsize sedan and hatch/wagon

-entry-level sporty RWD/AWD 5-passenger SUV

-and some mid-size RWD coupe, ala GTO or something.

Huh.

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Well, I hope this pans out to the "T". I see no potential sacrifice in sales volume in doing this. They can still offer entry-level models, they'll just be RWD. The first Sunbird was RWD, remember? They will still need Solstice, and then 3 sizes of coupes, sedans, convertibles and one sportwagon, all RWD with optional AWD.

Returning to real model names is also in order.

This is what so many Pontiac enthusiasts have been hoping for for many years, and GM needs to get started on this project sooner rather than later. This is very encouraging news.

Edited by ocnblu

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Well, I hope this pans out to the "T".  I see no potential sacrifice in sales volume in doing this.  They can still offer entry-level models, they'll just be RWD.  The first Sunbird was RWD, remember?  They will still need Solstice, and then 3 sizes of coupes, sedans, convertibles and one sportwagon, all RWD with optional AWD.

Returning to real model names is also in order. 

This is what so many Pontiac enthusiasts have been hoping for for many years, and GM needs to get started on this project sooner rather than later.  This is very encouraging news.

Not too big of a deal to me, but I hope this means that Chevy and Saturn are going to STAY predominantly FWD. There is a very large market for mid/full size FWD cars (look at sales of the Camry, Accord, Even the Impala). Despite the use of traction and stability controll, I know many people who live in areas where the winter weather gets bad (I have much family in or near Buffalo, NY) that is not interested in RWD at all. With that said, if Pontiac goes all RWD, then it can be a good thing to give consumers a choice, just make sure you offer full and mid sized cars still in FWD.

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Just go back to where the G6 was originally planned in the concept: AWD. The G5 just die already, and I think they can scale Zeta down to make a 3-series like compact sedan.

I'm perfectly fine with RWD and AWD only lineup. It can very well just become the poor man's BMW again.

Somewhat like this:

1-Series Hatch -> Vibe

3-Series Coupe/Sedan -> G6

5-Series -> Grand Prix

6-Series -> GTO

7-Series -> Bonneville

X3 -> Torrent

Not direct competition, just one-to-one mapping of the lineup.

Although I haven't really take into consideration of Buick yet...

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YES!

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I'm not sure if I like the idea of a GTO based on the Camaro. What's wrong with making it a coupe Zeta?

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I hope this becomes a reality. Pontiac should have been the way they are thinking a while back. I was looking recently at Pontiac of the past in the thread about "Everything Old is New Again on the GM News Section,

and I noticed something..

No one fondly remembers the Pontiac of the 1990's or the late 80's. It was not until recently people became excited about Pontiac with the Solstice.

all too often on this board and other places, I hear to it referred to as front wheel drive crap. No one will fondly remember the early 1990's Grand Prix sedans. They will fondly remember the Pontiac 6000 STE. It is what the Toyota Camry is now.

It is the Pontiac of the 1960's the 1970's and early 1980's they fondly remember.

People fondly remember the:

Firebird/Trans Am

Grand Prix

Bonneville/Grand Ville/Parisienne/Catalina/Grand Safari

GTO

Grand Am(the one from the 1970's and early to mid 1980's)

Grand LeMans and Luxury LeMans (1960's and 1970's)

Fiero

Honestly... look at the interior of the 1977-1987 Grand Prix. Then look at the current Grand Prix. I like the current Grand Prix, but it comes up short.

Pontiac used to use wood trim and distinct interiors and exteriors. The reason why they started with all that body cladding in the 1980's was they needed to stand out from other GM divisions. They then became dependent on that as a crutch. Pontiac then became style and no substance.

I am here to tell you.. If the last Bonneville 2000-2005 was rear wheel drive and had more interior room and a different instrumentation panel it would have been a different story. They finally started getting it right in 2004-2005 and it still came up short because it was front wheel drive. The Grand Prix is suffering right now for the same reason.

GM is starting to figure it out people. The last time GM was truly successful was in the 1980-1986 era. That is when most divisions were rear drive and were distinct and semi independent. All of them were making a profit and selling at least 700,000 cars a year.

GM was putting more cars on fewer platforms in the 1960's and 1970's. By the 1980's and 1990's they had too many platforms and not enough distinction. That whole consolidation businesss of 1984 under Roger Smith and then the business of the 1990's and early part of the 21st Century under Zarella did not help.

Holden has Commodore, UTE, Statesman, Caprice, Calais, Aventra and a few others off the same platform. All are rear drive.

GM got in trouble for the same reason Ford did.

1. Quality

2. Missing the point and not having a sense of the market and buyers.

3. MOST IMPORTANTLY( trying to out Japanese the Japanese.) They spent at 20 years and lost time trying to do that.

Several have said it here before:

You bring a car to the market copying someone else, by the time you get it to market, they competition has moved ahead to the next level.

Rear wheel drive is no longer a compromise and you can have rear drive that handles just as well as a front drive car.

I can only hope that they are realizing this with Buick.

Do I think Pontiac can be saved?? Yes, but it takes time and a clear image and effort and money like they did with Cadillac.

The new GM is starting to shape up.

It is clear what Chevrolet is. It is clear Saturn is Opel/Vauxhall North America.

It is clear what Cadillac is

It is also clear what SAAB is also.

What Pontiac and Buick and GMC will be has to be shaped out. It may become Holden North America with three distinct product offerings from three different brands marketed as one.

I also still feel Oldsmobile could have been saved. I also still feel someday they could be revived. If it did return, it would not be the 1997-2004 Oldsmobile either. It would not be a full line division either.

I am glad GM is realizing it has rich history and heritage and a foundation to work with. This is something the Asian imports do not have.

1. Design is first

2. Quality is second

3. perception is third.

At one point and time, Pontiac used to define performance. Why can't it be that way again.

In order to understand what Pontiac should be, go look at the 1960's- early to mid 1980's Pontiac.

Edited by NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

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Ninety-8-R know's what's what. I agree with 100% of

his post. I come off like an ignorant RWD-loving

fanatic but he's nailed it in B&W. This is the next big

step for GM. If they can pull this off they just might

be able to kick Toyota's @$$ after all. Even if they

loose #1 status and don't get it back they'll at least be

making cars people will give a damn about again.

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I'm not sure if I like the idea of a GTO based on the Camaro. What's wrong with making it a coupe Zeta?

I think that just means they're going to share the platform. The platform should be fine for the GTO as it's basically the same wheelbase as the current one (slightly longer).

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'bout time.

It would seem that GM actually gets it this time. This plan is a no-brainer and should have been in place circa MY2000. Imagine the cars we could have by now!

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I really hope that is what happens. I don't think Pontiac will be losing that many sales with the switch to RWD. Retail sales, not fleet sales. The only reason Pontiac has the volume it still does is due to fleet sales. I'm guessing their true sales are only 300,000. I think that can be matched even being all RWD/AWD, and at higher prices. This is exciting!!!!

GM. Don't forget one key element while doing this, Manual transmissions for all sizes/engines/trim levels.

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'bout time.

It would seem that GM actually gets it this time. This plan is a no-brainer and should have been in place circa MY2000. Imagine the cars we could have by now!

Imagine how nice a car the 97-03 Grand Prixs would have been with RWD and a manual.

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This is a great idea only if Pontiac have at least one of their vehicles exclusive to Pontiac.

Chevy does not need everything that Pontiac has and visa versa.

But, needs to fast track this plan because Pontiac is only limping along and the Solstice will not save the brand.

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I hope GM does this. Only 2 things missing though:

1) A crossover SUV. RWD or not, Pontiac could do well here if it gets the Torrent right

2) Real names, not the quasi-Lexus/BMW alphanumeric stuff. Names like Bonneville, Grand Prix, Firebird/Firehawk, Tempest, and so on...

I kind of like the idea of Pontiac being a poor-man's BMW. I think that Pontiac could pull this off.

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I hope this shift to RWD moves forward.

I remeber (@ AH-HA's website) someone commenting on a design proposal for the next GTO as a 4-door coupe (a CLS-like car). Maybe Pontiac could use it for the "more expensive than the Grand Prix" model, call it the GTO, and have a really unique entry at that price range!

Edited by ZL-1

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I hope this shift to RWD moves forward.

I remeber (@ AH-HA's website) someone commenting on a design proposal for the next GTO as a 4-door coupe (a CLS-like car). Maybe Pontiac could use it for the "more expensive than the Grand Prix" model, call it the GTO, and have a really unique entry at that price range!

Or better yet, call it Tempest, or even keep the name Grand Prix. Lets keep the GTO name on true coupes only. Then have a car above that, and call it Bonneville.

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This should have been done along time ago. They should emulate BMW's lineup and become the everyman's BMW. I still hate that Buick is part of the sales channel. If it's given the right attention, it could easily stand alone with a full lineup of three sedans, a couple of crossovers, and a coupe/vert. Pontiac and GMC should have been paired alone; they're a perfect match, IMHO.

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1-Series Hatch -> Vibe

3-Series Coupe/Sedan -> G6

5-Series -> Grand Prix

6-Series -> GTO

7-Series -> Bonneville

X3 -> Torrent

Not direct competition, just one-to-one mapping of the lineup.

I agree with this 100%. Been saying it for awhile. Long with GMC trucks, you'd have a full like of narrowly focuded cars and trucks. It's a shame Buick was tossed aside and thrown in the mix with them.

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