Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

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Thread: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

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    GMI Contributor Premium Member Ming's Avatar
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    Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?
    By Ming
    www.gminsidenews.com

    Pontiac Sunfire production has ceased, with nothing to replace it. That it is fading from dealership lots is not such a bad thing. "Old is old," and there's no getting around that. It might even be said the "economy car" philosophy behind the Sunfire and Cavalier (good, cheap transportation) - as opposed to the "premium compact" image of many imports - might have helped to spark the whole dichotomy and harsh split between Domestic and Import Sport Compact Tuners in the American car market that more often than not leaves GM FWD cars out in the cold at popular car shows like "Hot Import Nights".

    But again, all things aside, the Sunfire is dead, and no replacement is forthcoming.

    "There is nothing planned in the foreseeable future, in the next 18 to 24 months (for a replacement.) It will be some time after that if we were to figure out something that would make sense for us." -- Jim Bunnell, GM Pontiac/GMC marketing - Sourced From: Automotive News, January 24, 2005

    First, let me say that I was very pleased to hear: "We are not interested in badge engineering." -- from Bunnell regarding not bringing over a Pontiac version of the Chevy Cobalt sold in Canada, the Pontiac Pursuit.

    Of course, I wish Jim would have had that same thought before they rebadged the Equinox as the Torrent and the Uplander as the Montana SV6, but that's another discussion.

    Don't get me wrong - I like the looks of the Pursuit. But unless Pontiac had planned to put a turbocharged engine or something UNIQUE like that into it, it would have only made Pontiac that much less relevant as a separate and distinct brand in the US market (and further set it as a disposable brand, and onto the road to Oldsmobile's Fate). And when you can go to the high volume Chevy dealers and get the same thing with a volume discount (on top of GM rebates, etc.) - you have to ask "why?"

    Pontiac has enough Chevy rebadges as it stands. If Pontiac must get rebadged product, at least mix it up a bit and don't make so many of them Chevies. A Pontiac Sport Compact would need to be something that stands out as unusual and worthy of the "performance" tag.

    The Vibe Factor

    Yes, the Pontiac Vibe could be considered a "Sport Compact", especially in GT form. But I must say that the Vibe is not what I consider the best choice for a Pontiac entry level volume sales car representing the brand to the Youth Market. Most buyers of the Pontiac Vibe are most probably internet-saavy and aren't fooled into thinking they are driving a GM designed vehicle with GM parts. Respect for one Automaker's brand / product cannot be solidly built upon the engineering work of its competitor. Is the Vibe a convenient product for Pontiac dealers to sell that might bring Import Enthusiasts or people who wouldn't otherwise consider Pontiac into GM showrooms? Sure. But are they there to purchase a GM product? Not if they've read just about every Pontiac Vibe article in existence out there, which makes it clear that the Vibe is a Toyota for the most part, with a little GM cosmetic design here and there. If they think highly of their their Vibes, that they know to be Toyotas, and see them as "reliable", will they be more likely to buy a Pontiac or Toyota product? GM can only hope it is the former.

    Potential Replacements for the Sunfire...the "G4"?

    So what's the cure? What can Pontiac do to get itself on the buying list of young Americans looking for a compact car with street cred?

    Here are a few ideas:

    1. A mildly restyled Opel Astra design - built alongside the Cobalt



    With the Opel utilized 2.0-liter turbo - offered right from the first year, tell me this looker wouldn't be a hit. The problem with this option is, as a more premium compact car, it might end up competing directly with the Vibe. I wouldn't mind seeing the Vibe go somewhere else (like back to Japan), but GM Beancounters would have a fit, and changing the status quo and ditching the Anachronism that is NUMMI would also be difficult, I'm sure, and might not serve GM's bottom line very well.

    The headlights also now have a "Saturn" look to them, and the changes required might be extensive. And since there is no hatchback version of the Cobalt currently in similar form to the Astra coupe, GM would have a lot of engineering to do to get the Opel sheetmetal design to work in its Cobalt factory.

    so, enter...

    2. A Suzuki Forenza / Daewoo Lacetti with a tuned/improved engine and suspension.



    What? Another GM Daewoo product!? Well, consider that Chevy has the cheaper, lower-end Aveo, and that it is the best-selling car in its class before you dismiss this idea. (Yeah, I remember all you Aveo naysayers out there ) The engine is lackluster in its current form, to be sure, and would need a horsepower bump before it would qualify as a "Total Performance" Pontiac, but my guess is that GM Daewoo has been watching its competition at Hyundai (which has upped the ante with VVT on its Lacetti-level car) and plans some engine upgrades of its own.

    I like this idea a lot, because it would meet a low "entry level" price point, is technically "GM product", has already been modified for the US market by Suzuki, isn't very well known or recognized, and elevates Pontiac's entry offering above Chevy's, but just enough so it slots nicely under the Vibe. Not to mention it has crisp, pleasing modern lines, and judging by the different global front fascias it wears internationally, a twin-port grille would not be hard to do.

    But can the engine be improved enough to make it a contender? Well, a modified version of the Lacetti (A Chevrolet) IS competing in Road Racing in Europe, so it is not inconceivable.

    A similar idea would be the 5-door Canadian Chevrolet Optra, sold as the Suzuki Reno in the U.S. (also based on the Lacetti), which would also require a horsepower bump out of the same engine. I think the front fascia would do better with less 90's looking headlights, however.



    If not, consider...

    3.Market a stripper, manual transmission Pontiac G6 4-cylinder model as a Sport Compact of sorts



    The main concern of course being, the weight. With a sedan Curb Weight of around 3300 pounds, this would be a hard thing to get around. But I haven't seen the weight specs on the 4-cylinder coupe yet - we could be pleasantly surprised.

    A "Sport Tuner Package" or something could be offered on the G6 2.4L VVT 4-cylinder. It could eliminate insulation, put in lightweight racing seats, and otherwise get rid of weighty things that serious sport compact folks get rid of to make their rides more competitive.

    4.A restyled Suzuki Aerio.



    As a GM Alliance partner partially owned by GM, Suzuki is more "GM" than Toyota ever will be, and isn't a direct competitor. Like Alliance Partner Subaru making Saabs, and with the Tracker gone, Suzuki could use this to further strengthen direct ties once more with GM (not just indirectly through GM Daewoo). The Aerio is a great little car, but suffers from lack of volume sales and recognition in the US market. The bigger sales volume could help Suzuki justify the Aerio remaining in their lineup despite sluggish sales.

    The 2.3L 155 horsepower engine in the Aerio is a feisty little 4-cylinder, and worthy of Pontiac's image. And the base price of the Aerio is only $13,499 - making it a good entry vehicle for the brand.

    But if that plan flops...

    5. Take the Pursuit after all, but differentiate the powertrain.

    Let's face it - this is the most likely scenario, given GM's recent decisions to give Pontiac other Chevrolet rebadges. But need it be a complete rebadge?

    Remember the Sunbird Turbo of the 1980s? It was different enough from the Cavalier of the time to give the Pontiac version a reason to exist - not just a "lazy" reskin like the Sunfire.



    6. A whole new product or something entirely unexpected - like an affordable 2+2 coupe based on Kappa. Unlikely from GM, since at least publicly they are saying that they have no plans for a Sunfire replacement. Not unless you are willing to wait until 2010 to get it, or GM has some secret plans like a Torana or a more affordable Solstice-based hardtop coupe that they've not made us aware of. RWD, 4 seats, maybe even a hatch like the Chevrolet Kappa Nomad concept? Sounds good to me!

    Sport Compacts are a Vital Part of "Performance" Today



    Regardless of what Pontiac decides to go with of the above choices, they absolutely must consider that Pontiac's sales success with the Youth Market (as I see it) hinges upon the existence of a GM or GM Alliance Partner engineered product proving itself on the track and on the street as an affordable, light weight, and yes, even "aspirational" vehicle in the 15,000 dollar price range.

    Bottom line - Pontiac has a void where the Sunfire was, and needs to think about filling that void with something appropriate, something affordable, moderately utilitarian (4 doors or a hatch), and something that says "Pontiac" and "GM" all over it.
    Last edited by Ming; 07-21-2005 at 01:56 PM.

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    Re: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    I agree the Astra GTC hatch is an attractive vehicle. However, it appears GM is set on using the Astra Designs for Saturns future vehicles. Quite honestly I'd be very happy if the Astra GTC hatch is the future replacement for the Ion (we really do need some choices in the US for new hatchbacks).

    Where does that leave Pontiac I'm not quite so sure though.

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    Re: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    yes i think it can manage just fine. sunfire IMO was a piece of crap - pontiac can do fine without a compact - it will raise their image a little, it was hard to take the sunfire seriously c'mon - sunfire didn't exactly scream pontiac "total performance" - if they want a sunfire, they can get a cobalt ss

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    Re: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    Quote Originally Posted by jbartley
    sunfire IMO was a piece of crap - pontiac can do fine without a compact
    <----Apart from the rattling interior and the driver's side visor bumping the rearview mirror, my '05 GT is just fine Respectable opinion, however, so I'll say no more

    Besides, in Canada, we've got the Pursuit, so we have our replacement

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    Re: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    Quote Originally Posted by Relik86
    <----Apart from the rattling interior and the driver's side visor bumping the rearview mirror, my '05 GT is just fine Respectable opinion, however, so I'll say no more

    Besides, in Canada, we've got the Pursuit, so we have our replacement
    The Pursuit GT looks pretty nice but no 2.0L turbo and no coupe.

    :-(

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    Question Re: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    Quote Originally Posted by jbartley
    yes i think it can manage just fine. sunfire IMO was a piece of crap - pontiac can do fine without a compact - it will raise their image a little, it was hard to take the sunfire seriously c'mon - sunfire didn't exactly scream pontiac "total performance" - if they want a sunfire, they can get a cobalt ss
    What year Sunfire did you have? I had a 95 GT, and loved it. Had it for 3 years, (95-98), and about 50,000 miles, when I traded it in. Never thought anything about it was a piece of crap. When it came out in 95, it was quite awesome, especially the looks. It was my first new car, and I was quite proud to be driving around in it. What a step up from the Sunbird. What was wrong with the car you had? Just curious to know what went wrong on yours to make you think it was a piece of crap????

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    Re: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    I had two Sunfire Gt's: a 1997 and 99 and loved them both. Great power, good handling and good ride quality-interior had a few rattles in both-but so does my friends new Mercedes CLK-500. they wer both dead reliable and fun to drive-the ride quality especially was above average and actually quite plush for a car with low profile tires and firm suspension. I sold the 99 to my niece and she loves it-still going strong with 150k on the odometer and no repairs outside of routine maintenance.

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    Re: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    I'm not convinced that Pontiac needs "sport compact" cars. The kids who do this sort of thing rarely buy new cars anyway so what's the point? Image perhaps. Around here Trans Ams, Camaros, and 'Stangs are becoming ever more popular with the kids as they drop in price on the used market. Little cars that can only pretend to perform are a fad, IMO, but we'll see. Used Solstices will do more for Pontiac's "sport compact" image than anything else, anyway. Kids will most likely be jumping all over them in a few years when they hit 10-13K.

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    GMI Contributor Premium Member Ming's Avatar
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    Re: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    Quote Originally Posted by banzai79
    IUsed Solstices will do more for Pontiac's "sport compact" image than anything else, anyway. Kids will most likely be jumping all over them in a few years when they hit 10-13K.
    Isn't GM (at least considering) severely limiting the amount of Solstices sold per year? I recall reading that somewhere recently. 20,000 per year is hardly the kind of volume that would land them cheaply in the "kids" hands. Regardless of the constraints or no, the volume will be nowhere near Civic / Neon / Focus volume.

    And I can't speak for others, but if I ever get a Solstice, I don't plan on parting with it for a good 10 years, at least.

    I'm not convinced that the Solstice is what the youth market wants, either. The Miata was never huge with the "tuner" crowd. The S2000 was (despite low volume), but it had the Honda badge on its side.

    I'd like to say that the whole "sport compact" thing is a "fad", but I think we are beyond that point now. What was it, the early 90's that started the whole Honda CRX craze?

    Trans Ams, Stangs and Camaros will always be somewhat popular. But it is a different market than the very image-conscious group that is into Sport Compacts, with the fancy paint jobs and techy-looking interiors, and talk of VVT, hprsepower per liter, and turbochargers. The muscle / pony-car club is for people who put performance first and secondly want a "macho" car. There are folks like that who are in the Import scene as well, but you'll find them tuning Supras or Nissan Z's.
    Last edited by Ming; 02-18-2005 at 11:59 PM.

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    Re: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    OHH MING SINNED! he said "Yes, it shares the Delta platform with the ION and Cobalt"! ...look here and you'll see what I mean. (see 5th post) I do love the idea of the Astra GTC stateside but I was hoping for it to be a Saturn. Assuming the Astra goes to Saturn I think the next best thing for Pontiac would be to go the Lacetti route, ONLY if it was executed as Ming Specified. (that pic of the Chevy racing version looks awesome)
    All in all, another great editorial from Ming!
    Last edited by GM_Fanatic; 02-19-2005 at 12:01 AM.
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    GMI Contributor Premium Member Ming's Avatar
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    Re: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    Quote Originally Posted by GM_Fanatic
    OHH MING SINNED! he said "Yes, it shares the Delta platform with the ION and Cobalt"! ...look here and you'll see what I mean. I do love the idea of the Astra GTC stateside but I was hoping for it to be a Saturn. Assuming the Astra goes to Saturn I think the next best thing for Pontiac would be to go the Lacetti, ONLY if it was executed as Ming Specified. (that pick of the Chevy racing version looks awesome)
    All in all, another great editorial from Ming!
    Ah yes, I'd heard that, thanks for pointing it out GM_Fanatic! That was kinda drummed into my head, having Astra=Delta repeated so many times. At least I've recently stopped confusing Delta with Epsilon! I did that about 100 times, at least. Editing time...! I'll remove mention of Delta to erase any doubt. Hey, now it would be even MORE unique, eh?

    Lesse here, ah here's a quote I recall reading:

    The new mark 5 Astra (presently in hatchback and wagon form only) does share the Delta architecture with the Cobalt, however the Coupe and Convertible are carried over from the mark 4 Astra. That said, some years ago there were rumblings that the mark 4 Astra itself would replace the Cavalier, following the success Ford had in North America with the Focus. However, that plan never materialised.
    http://forums.autoweek.com/thread.js...ssageID=216789

    Hmmm...the mystery deepens. I mean, I can tell by one glance that the convertible Astra is the old gen, but the OPC?

    This is an older article:

    the next-generation Opel Astra due in 2004 or 2005. Losing the Cavalier/Sunfire replacement would virtually eliminate any significant economies of scale GM hoped to realize with the Delta program. However, the automaker says it still may adopt the Delta for future Opel models. The decision not to use the Delta platform for the Astra does allow for more regional styling differences, says AN, including more U.S. styling cues for the Cavalier/Sunfire replacements. Meanwhile, GM is making incremental changes on its current U.S. small cars regardless of what happens with the Delta program, including restyling the Cavalier and Sunfire for 2003.The automaker also plans to improve the vehicles' ride and handling characteristics and will make the optional 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine standard
    http://64.233.187.104/search?q=cache...platform&hl=en

    And more...!

    Adam Opel AG will use a Fiat platform, not a General Motors version, for its next Astra compact. The decision means GM is increasing its platform sharing with Fiat Auto. It also means that GM's Delta architecture, originally designed for the Astra in Europe and for North American cars, will appear primarily in North America. That will cut Delta's expected annual volume in half to about 500,000 and reduce GM's economies of scale. Opel will put the next version of the compact Astra, due in 2004 or 2005, on Fiat's C Frame, according to supplier sources ...
    http://www.findarticles.com/p/articl...02/ai_n6706062
    Last edited by Ming; 02-19-2005 at 12:25 AM.

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    Re: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    No problem Ming, I only pointed it out because after I found out Astra does not equal Delta I felt like an idiot because I must have said the exact same thing 50 times and no one pointed it out to me.

    WAIT!....now your telling me it is! I'm SO CON FUSED
    Last edited by GM_Fanatic; 02-19-2005 at 12:13 AM.
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    Re: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    I think we need an Opel fan to set us straight about the new hatch and the platforms out there. Too much conflicting info on da web.

    And I like the Opel OPC:

    http://forums.gminsidenews.com/showt...highlight=opel

    New Astra OPC: Sport-Compact with Striking Looks
    The new Astra OPC’s engine is based on the 200 hp 2.0-liter turbo gasoline unit with maximum torque of 262 Nm, the top motorization for the other Astra variants. The OPC’s increased power is a result of optimizations to the intake and exhaust manifold, use of highest quality engine components as well as enhancements to the turbocharger and injection system.

    Last edited by Ming; 02-19-2005 at 12:27 AM.

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    Re: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    Wait...explain to me how another Delta based car didnt qualify for this, and how we just jumped to a "rebadge" version of something already out?
    How about scrapping the Pursuit version, and coming up with a Delta-based 3, 4, and 5dr model? Style it like the Vibe, so this kills two birds with one stone, getting rid of Toyota product, and bringing in a unique GM based chassis with a GM engine and GM trans, etc etc.
    No Daewoos or Zukes, sorry. Pack it with the 2.0 SC motor for the GXP, while GTP gets 2.4, and base/GT share the 2.2, only GT gets tigher suspension and shorter gears/shifter.
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    Re: Can Pontiac claim "Total Performance" without its own Sport Compact?

    Those have to be some of the most amazing headlights I have ever seen! Blows Bimmers "angel eye" crap out of the water!...(maybe not but its close)
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