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Pontiac is the subject of Peter De Lorenzo's "rant" today. To view it, click here: http://www.autoextremist.com/

May 7, 2008

It’s all over but the hand-wringing for Pontiac.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit. It was nice to have the opportunity to drive the Pontiac G8 (as we mentioned in last week’s “On the Table”), but it was sad, too, because despite the exclamation point-drenched car magazine covers of-the-moment touting how great the G8 is - and it is a damn good car, by the way - it won’t be enough to save Pontiac from its inevitable demise.

GM’s ongoing circus juggling act - which revolves around propping up its divisional marketing and product aspirations on an as-needed basis - is finally unraveling in the worst automobile market the U.S. auto industry has seen in decades. GM is finding out the hard way that no matter how many excellent new products they’re able to bring to market, unless they can back those products with enough marketing and advertising horsepower it ultimately doesn’t matter. What good is a reinvigorated product offensive when the market is crumbling and you have too many divisional mouths to feed - and that’s before you even begin to address the competitive environment?

Not much.
 

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Re: De lorenzo: it's all over but the hand-wringing for Pontiac

Wow that was a rant in the truest sense. An excessively long page of irrelevant BS. Is Pontiac even a brand today if it doesn’t have dedicated dealers or marketing? Pontiac will continue with a small lineup of cars within PBG.
 

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Re: De lorenzo: it's all over but the hand-wringing for Pontiac

Like the tree in the forest, if nobody reads DeLorenzo's stuff, has he actually said anything? Autoextremist hasn't been "must read" stuff since 1999...and only then because it was new. Nobody pays much attention to his self-important rants anymore.
 

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Re: De lorenzo: it's all over but the hand-wringing for Pontiac

I think I have to agree with the guy on one point. Reduce the Pontiac model line to Bonneville, Grand Prix, GTO, Trans Am...but keep the Solstice.
 

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Re: De lorenzo: it's all over but the hand-wringing for Pontiac

I think I have to agree with the guy on one point. Reduce the Pontiac model line to Bonneville, Grand Prix, GTO, Trans Am...but keep the Solstice.
It's not a bad idea. I would keep the Solstice too... but only with the LNF and the small V8 he mentioned... it should be a step up in performance to the Sky.
 

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Re: De lorenzo: it's all over but the hand-wringing for Pontiac

Peter, your own rant proves one point clearly, though it's not one that you're proposing: GM's present management would ruin GM if it had 867 brands or if it had just Chevrolet and Cadillac. I'm not so sure what would magically change just because Pontiac (or Buick or Saturn or Hummer) was sent off to the scrap heap. The root of the problem-incompetent management, be that in corporate finance or in marketing-would not be addressed. It would be the same people running the show. It's just the office plaques that announce the title that would change. So how would that be good for the remaining divisions?

Oh, and about the money thing. It's funny that there's no money for marketing, allegedly, but there's plenty of money to fund deca-billion dollar healthcare funds, multibillion dollar payoffs to Fiat, and it's funny that profit-eroding incentives are pretty much right back where they were just before GM announced it wasn't playing that game anymore. Just when you think GM is out of money, they come up with a new way to spend money on all things non-automotive.

Time to start chopping and burning management. Slash and burn, baby, and that includes snipping the golden parachutes! Poor performance should not be rewarded.
 

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Re: De lorenzo: it's all over but the hand-wringing for Pontiac

Peter, your own rant proves one point clearly, though it's not one that you're proposing: GM's present management would ruin GM if it had 867 brands or if it had just Chevrolet and Cadillac. I'm not so sure what would magically change just because Pontiac (or Buick or Saturn or Hummer) was sent off to the scrap heap. The root of the problem-incompetent management, be that in corporate finance or in marketing-would not be addressed. It would be the same people running the show. It's just the office plaques that announce the title that would change. So how would that be good for the remaining divisions?

Oh, and about the money thing. It's funny that there's no money for marketing, allegedly, but there's plenty of money to fund deca-billion dollar healthcare funds, multibillion dollar payoffs to Fiat, and it's funny that profit-eroding incentives are pretty much right back where they were just before GM announced it wasn't playing that game anymore. Just when you think GM is out of money, they come up with a new way to spend money on all things non-automotive.

Time to start chopping and burning management. Slash and burn, baby, and that includes snipping the golden parachutes! Poor performance should not be rewarded.

You're absolutely on the ball here......you can kill whatever brand you want and call it good, but the problems that led to that specific action would continue unfettered.....
 

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Re: De lorenzo: it's all over but the hand-wringing for Pontiac

Peter, your own rant proves one point clearly, though it's not one that you're proposing: GM's present management would ruin GM if it had 867 brands or if it had just Chevrolet and Cadillac. I'm not so sure what would magically change just because Pontiac (or Buick or Saturn or Hummer) was sent off to the scrap heap.
I disagree. His point is that GM can't give all eight (Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac, GMC, Saab, Hummer, Saturn) US brands the individual product attention and advertising budgets they need.

I think GM would be fine if all it had was four brands or less, because each brand could get unique focus and lots of dedicated advertising.

Pontiac may not be officially discontinued because of the Buick/Pontiac/GMC dealerships, but its brand prestige and street credibility is dead. The G8 looks like a last hurrah, and it can't make up for the the G5, Vibe, G6, and Torrent. Pontiac is now as exciting as Kia and Suzuki, stick a fork in it, it's done.

The root of the problem-incompetent management, be that in corporate finance or in marketing-would not be addressed. It would be the same people running the show. It's just the office plaques that announce the title that would change. So how would that be good for the remaining divisions?

Oh, and about the money thing. It's funny that there's no money for marketing, allegedly, but there's plenty of money to fund deca-billion dollar healthcare funds, multibillion dollar payoffs to Fiat, and it's funny that profit-eroding incentives are pretty much right back where they were just before GM announced it wasn't playing that game anymore. Just when you think GM is out of money, they come up with a new way to spend money on all things non-automotive.
The multi-billion dollar health care buyout saves GM money because it's the least expensive way they can address their massive UAW health care expenses. The only other way to get out from under those health care obligations is bankruptcy (which has a ton of problems) or nukes from orbit.

The Fiat payoff was a result of stupidity in the past. GM had a legal obligation to buy the company - which would have been worse - or buy their way out of the deal.

Time to start chopping and burning management. Slash and burn, baby, and that includes snipping the golden parachutes! Poor performance should not be rewarded.
That I can agree with.
 

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GM is far too spread out and has been for decades now and has done nothing to change the way it does business. GM should be reduced down to Cheverolet and Cadillac only, similar to Ford/Lincoln, Toyota/Lexus, Honda/Acura, Nissan/Infiniti, VW/Audi, etc... They are wasting enormous sums of money supporting brands that cater to the same customer (or not enough customers). It's business as usual, they are trying to make history repeat itself decade after decade and fail every time.

Unfortunately, GM has neglected Cheverolet until recently, believing instead that the other Brands represent GM's future. Saturn has been a huge lesson that GM refuses to listen to. Cheverolet should have always represented GM's core interest and that is where the greatest potential for growth has always been. GM needs somebody in there that can make the hard decisions and change the culture.
 

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I disagree with this guy...Sorry GM needs more than just Chevy/Cadillac...Considering GM's number one brand in Europe is Opel/Vauxhall, in China it is Buick, and in Australia it is Holden. If GM continues what it is doing...refocusing the brands to what they should be doing...GM will be okay...it just takes time.
 

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Re: De lorenzo: it's all over but the hand-wringing for Pontiac

I think I have to agree with the guy on one point. Reduce the Pontiac model line to Bonneville, Grand Prix, GTO, Trans Am...but keep the Solstice.
I was thinking the same thing ... I like DeLorenzo's proposed lineup, but I'd keep Solstice.

I think his point is that GM won't have the capital to market Pontiac effectively. Also, Pontiac can't be very significant if it gets a "vehicle with attitude" every 4 or 5 years.

Chevy and Cadillac are getting the bulk of the marketing dollars within GM.
 

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As far as the G8 not being enough -- it's also too expensive to save Pontiac. It's the equivalent of the Oldsmobile Aurora, which was a very nice car, but out of reach for many Oldsmobile buyers.

Pontiac needs a volume selling smaller car that is affordable, sporty and gets good fuel economy. It has to be something that doesn't suffer from over-the-top Pontiac styling, and doesn't have a clone in Chevy showrooms with a different grille. But even with a car like that, Pontiac will have a tough time convincing people to come back in great numbers to a brand that has so often in the past just gotten poorly disguised leftover scraps and copycat cars from Chevrolet. Or a reskinned Toyota (Vibe) that sells for Toyota prices, but has Pontiac resale value. Neither the G5 or Vibe are the answer to pull young, tech and Internet saavy people in as loyal Pontiac buyers. They know a G5 is a Cobalt, and a Vibe is a Matrix. Try those tricks on gramps with his Chevy-Buick, but not on the Edmunds.com generation that turns its collective nose up at badge engineering.

The G8 is a good start, now Pontiac needs a strong, affordable car that can only be had at Pontiac. That's the best thing the G8 has going for it - now let that aspect trickle down to a volume car. If it means importing, then so be it -- that's how Japan and Korea have done business with half or more of their lineup coming from Asia. And they've done it with the "World Cars" that Jerry Flint tells us Americans don't want.

Need I remind people that the GM Daewoo-built Forenza/Reno pushed Suzuki's once slow sales to over 100,000 and gave new life to a muddling brand, on Suzuki's shoestring ad budget. And the Aveo, at least initially - before the Japanese turned to import their own small cars here - made GM a major player in the subcompact game, trouncing the Toyota Echo.

GM has resources in Asia and Brazil. Make it happen for Pontiac....or even Buick. Just make it happen so that Pontiac-Buick-GMC isn't just a slightly different reflection of the Chevy lineup. And with the Euro where it is, steer clear of Opel...for now.

It's either that or make absolutely sure that the next "G5" is a very different looking and sportier machine than the next Cobalt. And then give Pontiac another unique small car, maybe something that sells less but inspires a youth cult following.

My suggestion for something a little different for Pontiac? How about the neat little Chevy Montana from South America as a baby brother to the G8 ST, and a sedan or hatch version to complement it? They sell them right south of the border, they're very fuel efficient little haulers, and they run on E100, too.


 

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He's pretty much on target. GM is doing a good job marketing the G8, but has not given any thought to rescusitating the brand image.
The funny thing is that money is not the biggest problem. I'm sure GM paid a pretty penny to get the G6 on Oprah and to get the Solstice on "The Apprentice." Heck, they even have advertising smack dab in the center of Times Square. But none of this does anything. What are they trying to say with their advertising? What do they want the brand's image to be? "Pontiac is car." Oh, really, it's a car? Thanks for telling me.
 

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As far as the G8 not being enough -- it's also too expensive to save Pontiac. It's the equivalent of the Oldsmobile Aurora, which was a very nice car, but out of reach for many Oldsmobile buyers.

The G8 is a good start, now Pontiac needs a strong, affordable car like the one I outlined as a follow-up, and the Toyota Vibe does nothing to inspire brand loyalty - in my opinion.
Bravo. Excellent points.
 

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Being a fan of Pontiac I hate to see where the brand has gone, downhill. I think Pontiac should consist of 4 to 6 cars at most. The Solstice, G5/LeMans (small rearwheel turbo 4 and 6), Firebird, and a bigger GTO (G8 2 door). Move the next G8 (4door) and G6 to Buick, making Pontiac all performance models. I also think they should advertise all of their cars together instead one at time to save money. They also might want to always add in the commercials "Can be found at your local Pontiac/Biuck/GMC dealer", that way it is still advertising all 3 brands.
 

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Pontiac is destined to be a niche brand for GM. That's obvious. That article seems to simply state the obvious: Pontiac will become a niche brand. However, that can't happen overnight because GM has neither the capital nor the platforms. Thus, we'll see the G8 and then, hopefully, a new RWD G6. But each needs to be a performance car. Brash is fine, but it has to be tasteful. The historic problem with Pontiac through the 90s especially was that "brash" became "overdone". You can have a tasteful set of cars for Pontiac as a niche/boutique player within GM targeting those that "march to a different drummer". But you need the money, cars and platforms first, and GM is short of all three at the moment.
 

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I agree with most of what everybody says. Pontiac should be about affordable performance and they should be specific to Pontiac.

1) Solstice keeps turbo GXP (Sky loses it) and loses non-turbo (Sky keeps it), with both convertible and coupe available
2) G6 renamed Tempest, goes RWD w/AWD option, turbo 2.0 LNF for base, 3.6L DI for GT
3) GTO, Pontiac version of Holden's Coupe 60, 3.6L DI for base, 6.0L for GT, 6.2L for GXP
4) G8 renamed Bonneville, same powertrains as GTO

Add in new technologies (HCCI, DI on more motors, BAS+, 2-mode) as they are available. I think this would make for a pretty compelling Pontiac lineup. Adding in a Mini Cooper fighter into the mix wouldn't be a bad idea either.
 

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when will people in the press grasp the BPG concept? Pontiac is never going to be what it was in the 60s and GM has never said it would be. GM is trying to focus Pontiac on cars and make better cars that dont look like Chevys or Saturns. The G8 is a step in that direction. We all know the Torrent will be axed and new G8 versions are on the way. The main thing Pontiac needs to do is find a way to upgrade the G6 until an all new model shows up. All these 50 something year old writers who love to glorify Pontiac's ancient past need to catch up to reality and see where GM has Pontiac positioned today. We already know its not a volume brand but that doesnt mean that it should be axed. Pontiac needs to continue to offer products like the Soltice coupe, Vibe, G6 convertible/coupe and G8 that do not have direct competition from within GM's ranks. This is what folks want to see and that is what they are doing.
 

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I agree with probably about 90% of the rant.

I dropped off my G6 at the dealership this morning for a replacement part and went into the show room before the sales force came in and took a look at the G8. Really a sharp car in person, much more so than in pics or videos. But I have to say that if a performance family sedan is the most exciting and invigorating car in a Pontiac showroom, then we are all in a big old heap of trouble.

I couldn't help but think of when I was younger and went into the Pontiac showroom and there in the middle was the latest Trans Am decked out in Black with the Ram Air hood. It would just give you shivers and get your blood pumping. GM really does need to get back to basics here.

The line ups proposed are close, but not entirely right. Either the Solstice or the Sky have to go. We cannot have both vehicles, and since the Sky seems to usually be the better seller we need to lose it at Pontiac. G5, Vibe and Torrent.... GONE. G6 coupe... GONE.

Only line up would be:
Grand Am Sedan
Grand Am Convert
Firebird/Trans Am
Grand Prix Sedan
Grand Prix Coupe GTO
Bonneville

IF and only if Pontiac can make this line up work, then you introduce a CUV back into the mix. But not just ANY CUV. It would have to be sporty along the lines of how the BMW X6 is sporty.

The Alpha/Numeric names have to go, because they won't make sense in a couple years. The G6 was the SIXTH Gen Grand Am. The G8 is the 8TH Gen Grand Prix. What happens when the G6 is ready to be called the G8???? Oh no!

Foresight..... that is a key term that is missing from GM, especially Pontiac's division leaders. Chevy has it, Saturn has it, Hummer has it, Caddy has it, Buick is working on it..... And Yes, Lutz has been wrong from the beginning. BMW fighter we are not.
 

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Problem is no one at GM wants to restore Pontiac to greatness. Everyone over there is still in the thralls of the the the "Globalization Saves!" cult. They need someone to get down to basics and build cool cars.

Pontiac should be THE performance division. That means no Red Lines, SSs, Ultras, BadVibes etc. It should also be the supercharged/ turbo division, with every model offered with a supercharged or turbo engine. That is until turbos end up in all cars. It should be clear to everyone that if you're looking for a performance car from GM you'd go to Pontiac, not to Saturn, Chevy or any of the rest. GM still wants all brands to be all things to all people. And with the demise of the Northstar, even Cadillac is going to be another rebadged Chevy.

If GM is going to kill all V8s, then Pontiac should be the only brand to keep some V8s models till the day they ban all cars, CAFE and Washington be damned!

My lineup: G5 turbo , Solstice turbo, supercharged G6, G8 GT, Malloo (not the lame plain pick-up), Trans Am. With some return of the classic names of course and the end of the Geeee-mania.
 
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