why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

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Thread: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

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    why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    ...was just wondering this
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    Re: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    Must be a regional thing, the Pontiac dealers in my area are closing or consolidating. I have yet to see a G8 here. Not terribly popular in my neck of the woods. Honda Civic's rule the land here.
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    Re: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    Pragmatic, well priced, and best of all, they aren't Chevys. There are a ton here, including the 5 G8s I saw today.

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    Re: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    I wondered the same thing back in the day when I first saw a Pontiac Firefly (Geo Metro).
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    Re: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    I know a lot of folks that love Pontiac -- myself included. I don't know why. Perhaps it's because a lot of folks I know in Ottawa owned a Pontiac early on and loved the car or their parents did. My dad's favourite car remains his 67 Parisienne. My 84 TA was also a favourite. My wife also loves Pontiacs. She loves their more sporty fell over Chevrolet.

    Also, during the muscle car era, everyone -- my wife included -- preferred the Pontiac offerings over those of Chevy.

    Plus, the Pontiacs were considered higher class cars than Chevrolet.

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    Re: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    t-rex auto history lesson, part 3658....

    Prior to the 1965 Auto Pact, Canada levied tariffs on imported cars, so American automakers all had auto plants in Canada. GM Canada until that time manufactured Chevy and Pontiac, and imported Olds, Buick and Cadillac.

    Low-priced cars were always bigger sellers in Canada than in the US, partially because of Canadians' lower purchasing power, and possibly because Canadians were perhaps just a bit thriftier than their neighbours to the South.

    In 1950s Canada, Chevrolet was paired with Oldsmobile, and Pontiac paired with Buick. But the Buick dealers needed something low-priced, in the Chevrolet's class, and in many remote small towns in Canada, there was only a Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealer (which is also why GMC often outsells Chevy truck in Canada), and no Chevy dealer.

    So for the Canadian market, Pontiac was marketed in the Chevrolet's price class. To reduce the cost of building different Chevrolet and Pontiac frames and engines, GM rationalised and Canadian Pontiacs were built on Chevrolet frames with Chevrolet engines, and in some years, 1949-1954 in particular, Pontiacs used Chevrolet bodies with Pontiac styling cues.

    Pontiac were doing much better in Canada, market-share wise, than in America in the pre-Bunkie Knudsen days, as GM had two offerings in the popular low-price bracket, and Pontiac's popularity soared in Canada as it did in America from the mid-fifties onward.

    Pontiac continued to use Chevrolet frames and engines, and if you ever see a '59 Canadian Pontiac, it looks a bit odd from some angles because the "wide track" Pontiac body sat atop the slightly narrower Chevy frame. Pontiac also offered base models unseen in the US, such as the early Pathfinder, and the Star Chief continued in Canada after it was discontinued in the US. Often, the base Pontiacs used Chevrolet trim.

    GM's competitors responded, and Canadian Dodges were often decontented, essentially being rebadged Plymouths, and Ford responded with "Meteor", a Canada-only brand that was a stripped-out Mercury. Ford dealers there for a number of years were given the "Monarch" brand, which were Mercurys with Ford-style grilles and trim, giving both Ford and L-M dealers virtually identical product lines.

    GM introduced "Acadian" in the early 1960s, selling thinly-disguised Novas and Chevelles through Buick-Pontiac dealers, giving them access to these popular models. For a number of years in the 1960s, Pontiac outsold Chevrolet in Canada.

    After the 1965 "Auto Pact", Detroit began to rationalise operations across the border, and gradually, Acadian disappeared, and the full-size Pontiacs were the same as the US models by 1971, except for the continued use of the "Laurentian" (Catalina) and "Parisienne" (Bonneville) model names.

    Pontiac had become entrenched in Canada as a twin to Chevrolet, and nearly all Chevrolet models had a Pontiac equivalent in Canada. For example, the Vega-clone Pontiac Astre was offered in Canada years before the US. The Pontiac Acadian was the Chevette's twin (being sold alongside the T1000 for some years), and in the 80s, the Tempest was the Corsica's twin.

    Canadian Pontiac dealers even got the "captive imports" sold by Chevrolet in the US. The Firefly and Sunburst were, respectively, twins to the Chevrolet Sprint and Spectrum. Since there was no Geo in Canada until '92/93, the Tracker was also sold as a GMC. Pontiac Canada tried to offer a Geo-like lineup, named "Asuna", but this only lasted 93-95, and consisted of the SE and GT (Daewoo LeMans), Sunrunner (Tracker), and Sunfire (Geo Storm). Prior to Asuna, was "Passport", which consisted of the Passport Optima (Daewoo LeMans) and some rebadged Isuzu SUVs. All this was dropped around '95, and the Tracker continued as the Pontiac Sunrunner for a few years.

    Saturn was set up in Canada, and began selling Saabs, and Isuzu. And occasionally, there were US models not sold in Canada, such as the Oldsmobile Bravada.

    So, long before GM decided to rationalise here in the US, they had done so in Canada, with Chevy-Olds-Caddy and Pontiac-Buick-GMC existing since the 1950s (and probably before).

    Thus, Pontiac had become long-entrenched as a low-priced brand, albeit with a slightly upmarket image, like Chevrolet, and to some Canadians was more of a "Canadian" brand, giving them sort of their "own" brand, like Holden was to Australia.

    So, while many observers and fans feel something should be done with Pontiac here, either reinventing it, or merging it with Saturn, consideration needs to be taken for the substantial Canadian market. If Pontiac ever became a niche brand, Canadians would get a host of twin-nostrilled Chevrolets to keep dealers and customers happy there.

    Canadians are less bothered by rebadged Chevrolets than we are simply because it's been practiced for so many years there, and the Pontiac name still has a bit more cachet than Chevrolet, giving Canadians the option of buying Chevrolets with a slightly more upscale brand.

    There's a brilliant book, Canadian Cars, by Perry Zavitz, published around 1984, where I got much of my information. Sadly, I lost my copy in Katrina; it's been out of print for years, and I've just been too cheap to pay the $135+ that booksellers are asking for copies of it, especially after the thousands I've spent replacing my World Cars collection (I've got '67-'85) and dozens of other major books and catalogues.
    Last edited by t-rex; 09-28-2008 at 07:11 AM.

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    Re: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    There are a couple differences here and there, but I got curious as to why they're so popular there when the American and Canadian GM lineups are basically the same.
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    Re: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    Thanks for the great post t rex, now I know.
    '07 Subaru Forester 2.5X 5MT. Bought new. 197k miles. '05 Dodge Durango Limited Hemi AWD. Mom bought new. 102k miles. '74 Buick LeSabre Luxus convertible. 455-4/7.5L. '89 Buick Reatta. 3800 SII L67/F40 six speed swap to be completed someday. Wife's: '07 Subaru Forester XT. World Rally Blue Mica.

    '87 BMW K75c. '87 Kawasaki 650SX. '85 Bayliner Capri 1952. '71 Chris Craft Coho 33'. '70? Amphicat 6x6 AATV.

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    Re: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    Great post, t-rex, says it well.

    We had similar B-Body nomenclatures, though, as in 1970 for example, we had Laurentian (Biscayne), Strato Chief (Bel Air) Catalina (Impala) and Parisenne (Bonneville).

    My 70 2+2 was actually a "Catalina 2+2". The Chev guys hated it, which I of course, loved.

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    Re: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    ... and Holden assembled Chevs and Pontiacs in the 60s came from Canadian built kits. I presume because of preferential duty treatment to a fellow Commonwealth country.
    We had Laurentian and Parisienne, Pontiacs on Chev frame and using the Chev engines, eg 327 & 350. The Pontiac being the upperclass version, both above Holden and Vauxhall which was also sold here until the mid 60s.
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    Re: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    Quote Originally Posted by marinerbc View Post
    Great post, t-rex, says it well.

    We had similar B-Body nomenclatures, though, as in 1970 for example, we had Laurentian (Biscayne), Strato Chief (Bel Air) Catalina (Impala) and Parisenne (Bonneville).

    My 70 2+2 was actually a "Catalina 2+2". The Chev guys hated it, which I of course, loved.
    Oops! It's Strato Chief, not Star Chief, as I mentioned. I'm working from precious, if not recent, memory! Thank you for that clarification, marinerbc!

    Quote Originally Posted by RedVee8
    ... and Holden assembled Chevs and Pontiacs in the 60s came from Canadian built kits. I presume because of preferential duty treatment to a fellow Commonwealth country.
    We had Laurentian and Parisienne, Pontiacs on Chev frame and using the Chev engines, eg 327 & 350. The Pontiac being the upperclass version, both above Holden and Vauxhall which was also sold here until the mid 60s.
    I think all the antipodes got Canadian CKD packs for assembly.

    South Africa got the last of the RHD CKD packs, and in fact GM stopped producing RHD products in late '69 because stricter local content regulations in South Africa spelt the end of the big Canadian products.

    GM's Canadian-based products in S.A. in the late 60s were...

    Acadian Canso (Nova)(65-67): 196 and 230-cube, 3spd or "Powerglide"
    Acadian Beaumont (Chevelle)(65-69): 230 and 250-cube, 3spd or "Powerglide"
    Chevrolet Chevy II (62-68): same engines as Canso
    Chevrolet Chevelle (65-69): same engines as Beaumont
    Chevrolet Impala (65-66)(69): 327 V8 (detuned to 240hp), "Powerglide"
    Chevrolet Caprice (67-68): 327/Powerglide
    Pontiac Parisienne (65-66)(69): 327/Powerglide
    Pontiac Grande Parisienne (67-68): 327/Powerglide

    The Grande Parisienne was the top model, with power windows and seats (a real rarity in SA in those days), and concealed headlights. I reckon Americans could consider it a "4-door Grand Prix". The fullsizers all used the same dashboard, which was from either the '65 Chevy or '65 Pontiac, not sure which.

    The new local-content laws, which went into effect 31 December, 1969, raised required content to 55% and the popularity of these cars had waned and GM weren't interested in tooling up to manufacture them. Instead, GMSA restyled the big Aussie Holden HK series and begin marketing them as the "Chevrolet Kommando" (HK) and "Chevrolet Constantia" (HK Brougham) from March, 1969. The big Canadians were assembled till year's end, when assembly ceased, and the remaining stocks were sold into 1970. The last Pontiacs were sold at a list price of R5 206 (5206 rand), which was probably about $6500-$7000 US at the time, making them quite expensive luxury cars.

    Ford had already switched to the Australians by late '68, with the Aussie Fairlane replacing the big US Galaxie, and after the "55%" law went into effect, the only US products in SA were Chrysler, who sold the "Chrysler 383" (Dodge Monaco) until 1973, and of course the popular Valiant; however from '71 the cheaper Valiants were using the Aussie VG body, while the more expensive "Valiant VIP" used the Dodge Dart body, and we also had the "Valiant Charger", a Dodge Demon with Duster tail lights, sold from '70 to '75. We never got the hot Aussie VH Charger because demand was so high in Oz, Tonsley Park told Silverton they couldn't have any Charger CKD packs!

    The AMC Hornet was also sold until late '76, when local content was again tightened up, and these cars were, funnily enough, fitted with the 250-cube Chevy six-cylinder motor from 1974, and were called the "Hornet Four-One-O" (and assembled by Toyota!)...
    Last edited by t-rex; 09-27-2008 at 02:44 PM.

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    Re: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    ^ Our Chevs & Pontiac packs from Canada ceased in 69 as well (from memory). Although I have half an idea they were the remainder of 68s that saw 69 out.

    Our Ramblers were assembled locally by AMI which went on to be taken over by Toyota...
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    Re: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    The only car we ever had in our family has been Pontiac, dunno what it is I just love the Arrowhead.

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    Re: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    Kinda mind blowing like Buick being so popular in China. That one really gets me.

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    Re: why is Pontiac so popular in Canada?

    The Pontiac logo also looks a lot better than the Chevrolet logo. I think there's a reason they don't put the "bowtie" on the Corvette's front.
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