The decision to cut production schedules for the Pontiac GTO is a setback for Pontiac and General Motors.
It's a bummer for Pontiac because the division wanted to use the GTO as a halo car to recapture some of the brand's excitement from yesteryear, erasing some of the brand's bad karma that was created by the Aztek. That isn't happening.
The cutback also means that this highly visible attempt to share a global platform has stumbled.
It must have been painful, especially for GM product guru Bob Lutz, who was an early supporter of the plan to relaunch the GTO marque by using a re-fitted version of the Holden Monaro that's sold in Australia.
It was a clever plan, but consumers didn't go for it. The new GTO has none of the magic of the original version. The new one doesn't look like the icon and even though it makes 350 horsepower, it doesn't have the oomph that everyone thinks they remember. A gutsier 400-hp engine is on the way, but it may be too late.
The best potential customers seem have been guys -- now somewhat older than the ideal demographic -- who remember the old GTOs and know all the words to the song, "Little GTO". They immediately turned their noses up and their thumbs down because they wanted a retro car that would remind them of their youth.
The new GTO is OK, but it just doesn't live up to expectations.
Lutz is fond of saying that there's a knack to conceiving and developing great products. It's something that you feel in the gut, he says, something that you just know. And he's right. The really great product comes from execs who have a feeling for it, and it's not something you can teach.
Lutz says relying on consumer clinics and focus groups to develop products is like looking in the rearview mirror. That's because consumers can only conceive of what's familiar. In other words, consumers don't have the vision to create.
But when it comes to re-inventing an historic marque or updating a retro concept, it couldn't hurt to at least take a peek in the rearview mirror.