Look for big changes as Pontiac sets out to redefine its concept of automotive excitement.
The General Motors division has been rolling out an array of new product and more is on the way, from the compact Grand Am replacement to the newly reborn GTO muscle car. Think of them as "transitional," stresses Pontiac General Manager Lynn Meyers, for even more changes are coming. And while the GM veteran isn't giving out the details, those changes could include a fast remake of the GTO.
With its 350-horsepower LS1 engine promising 0-to-60 mph times in the 5.5-second range, the GTO is designed to revive the era when Pontiac was king of the road. But while there's been plenty of advance praise for the Australian import's performance, its jellybean styling has generated a decidedly more tepid response.
"We do understand that," acknowledges Meyers, noting that there are already aftermarket programs underway to develop accessories, such as hood scoops, that would give the "goat" a more traditional, muscle car appearance. And GM "is looking at how fast we can do one, as well."
Sources inside GM and on the supplier side of the business have been hinting there's an aggressive effort underway to restyle the GTO, perhaps in as little as two years after its upcoming launch.
"It always was in our thinking that we would do other things relative to appearance. It always was in our thinking, from Day One," says Meyers, though she won't say how far GM might go - nor how soon.
One thing she doesn't sidestep is the dramatic change in the definition of performance since cars like the GTO ruled the road. In those days, 0-to-60 mph times were just about all that mattered. These days, there are plenty of other numbers that matter, everything from the size of the gaps between body panels, to the number of defects per 100 vehicles as they roll out of the plant.
"We have to deliver on the performance promise," says Meyer, admitting "we often haven't in recent years. We also have to give them quality and refinement, as well."
There are signs that the necessary changes are coming with products like the latest update of the Grand Prix. But Meyers cautions that while that mid-size sedan has made some big improvements in both interior and exterior styling, "it is a transitional car," and still not up to world-class levels of refinement. "We have made some improvements…but we do have some distance to go."
The basic Pontiac product range must also undergo a transition. That began with the addition of a minivan and Pontiac tried to stretch the definition of "innovation" with its much-faulted Aztek. That crossover will go away in a couple years, according to Meyers, though she again hesitates when asked to discuss its replacement. A true sport-utility vehicle is almost certainly not in the cards, as SUVs are the purview of Pontiac's sister division, GMC. But another crossover is reportedly in development.
"Every brand out there," hints Meyers, "needs to be a player in the SUV or crossover segment to be relevant in today's marketplace, and Pontiac's going to be relevant."