Make GM whole again with some Pontiac dust
|Richard Truett covers engineering for Automotive News.|
DETROIT -- What a surprise I got when I reached into my mailbox this week and pulled out a nice thick envelope from the Pontiac division of General Motors touting GM's new 2014 cars.
In late 2009, I was one of Pontiac's last customers. I bought a new Vibe from a local dealer here in metro Detroit. The buying experience was off-the-charts great -- I was in and out of the store in 90 minutes with my new car, no fuss, no stress. And the car was terrific. I haven't bought a new car since then.
It is highly unlikely, however, that GM will get another dime of my money with its current lineup. Despite a growing array of world-class vehicles, GM has nothing that appeals to me that I can afford and that has the right image.
To me, Pontiac conveyed affordable performance, and most of its vehicles were sporty looking. It was the one GM brand that not only had the right image for me but also had a few cars that were not badge-engineered copies of Buicks and Chevrolets. The Solstice Coupe and G8, for instance.
GM has never replaced what Pontiac stood for with its surviving brands. And no, the 2014 new-car catalog sent to me by "Your Pontiac Team" isn't announcing the return of the division.
The catalog showcases Malibus and Sonics, Sparks and Camaros ($75,000 for a Z28? Really, Chevrolet? Really?), Buick Regals and Veranos and Encores and all the rest.
GM is offering me 50 bucks to test drive a new vehicle, and up to $2,000 off if I buy one. I am sure all the new GM cars and trucks are just fine, but it is just not going to happen.
I like all the new Cadillacs, and I think Bob Boniface, Cadillac's design chief, has the brand looking the best it has in the last 50 years. But a new Cadillac is out of my price range.
Buick? Not a chance. I equate Buick to an AARP membership card. Nothing short of a reborn, rear-wheel-drive Gran Sport Stage 1 or GNX would get me to think of Buick in a different light.
Chevrolet? Strong lineup for sure. But appearance-wise, Chevy is a little too milquetoast for me.
GMC? Maybe someday. If the division developed sporty cars and inherited Pontiac's performance DNA, I would consider a GMC. But not today.
If you ask GM officials about Pontiac, there is almost always major regret that the brand was extinguished along with Hummer, Saturn and Saab during the bankruptcy. Pontiac was the one brand that was worth someone going to the mat for.
GM is doing great things and minting money these days. But GM is not whole and never will be until it has a brand dedicated to aggressively styled and affordable performance vehicles.
"As the owner of a Pontiac, we understand your expectations run well above those of the average driver," GM says in a letter enclosed with the 2014 catalog. "Meeting and surpassing those expectations has led to the development of a new generation of vehicles built to be every bit as impressive -- if not more -- in quality, style and value."
All that might be true. But try as I might, I just can't get excited about a Malibu or a Regal.
You can reach Richard Truett at firstname.lastname@example.org.