DETROIT — The contrast on TV is jarring.
News of GM's troubles, including the planned demise of Saturn and downsizing of Pontiac, dominates the news shows. But on college basketball broadcasts and other programs, GM is advertising the two brands.
Pontiac's commercials are loud and emphatic. They ask viewers to vote for a contest's "Game changing performance."
General Motors marketing chief Mark LaNeve says it makes sense to keep advertising brands like Pontiac and Saturn despite their uncertain futures.
"Saturn, Hummer, Saab and Pontiac are working with a reduced budget. But as we sit here today, we have dealers; we have inventory," said LaNeve, GM vice president for vehicle sales, service and marketing. "So from a tactical standpoint, we're going to get our message out."
But with tight advertising budgets, giving Pontiac national TV spots is unpopular with some dealers for other GM brands. Todd Caputo, owner of Sun Chevrolet in Chittenango, N.Y., says, "It doesn't make any sense at all."
GM did reassign some Pontiac advertising slots on the Final Four weekend of the college basketball tournament. The air time went to promote the Buick-Pontiac-GMC sales channel and GM's Total Confidence promotion, Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson said. The Total Confidence plan resembles Hyundai's program, which makes car payments for laid-off car buyers.
The NCAA tournament has been a Pontiac showcase. But, Hopson said, as Pontiac is integrated into the Buick-Pontiac-GMC channel, "You're seeing us, in ad space that might have been Pontiac, use ads that feature all three brands."
GM plans to shrink Pontiac to a secondary brand within the Buick-Pontiac-GMC channel. GM likely will sell or close Saturn, Hummer and Saab. La-Neve said advertising for GM brands in transition reflects their status.
"We're not launching vehicles in those brands right now, and we're not doing long-term brand building," LaNeve said. "We're tactically dealing with the marketplace and moving existing inventory, helping the dealers continue to operate until we get to final decisions."