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Reaction to GM ditching the Pontiac brand

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

This week GM may unveil their plans to kill off the Pontiac brand.  Enthusiasts of Pontiac’s products are finding this news hard to swallow.  The headlines are screaming these foul words:

  • PONTIAC MAY DRIVE INTO THE SUNSET
  • PONTIAC RUNNING ON EMPTY
  • PONTIAC HEADED FOR JUNK YARD
  • END OF THE LINE FOR PONTIAC

At the very least, GM is expected to close some plants, giving salaried workers mandatory time off, idling other plants for a while, and finding different ways to curb employee compensations.

GTO emblem 6.5 Litre

The GTO enthusiasts are weighing in with their opinions.  These are folks that have a Pontiac or two or three in their garages.  Most enjoy the hobby of auto restoration or drag racing which tends to be a family sport:

1964 GTO drag racer

Vintage photo of Mike Blodgett Sr. with his 1964 GTO that raced in the Stock Eliminator class

Jamie says, “Folks, take your goats [GTOs] out today to commemorate this great GM division.  It’s beautiful here on the east coast!   Been out all morning with my ’70, and it’s bringing out the best out in people:  Strangers at red lights telling me about their  GTO’s from the past through open windows; and pedestrians with thumbs up.  Connecting with people from all walks of life.  There is something about a goat that brings people together.  Rumble! Rumble!!”

Jim points to the recent political climate that led to GM receiving government bailout funds, “Just look how the country voted and we will all pay for it starting now. The mighty that had the balls to produce GTOs seems to have all been castrated.”

a gathering of GTO fans

A gathering of GTOs at an Indianapolis, Indiana car club meeting/picnic

Scott, a manager of a Pontiac store in Minneapolis says, “E-mail General Motors. We need to fight for what we  want. This economic mess was not caused by the domestic automobile business.  It was caused by our Politicians both Democrat and Republican.  They made policies that are killing freedoms of  all Americans. Politicians made the lending policies that put people in  homes and vehicles they could not afford and then ignored the fact those people could never pay for those luxuries. It scares me that now politicians are  telling us what we are going to drive. What’s next, our clothing and homes? Will we all wear the same clothing and live in the same homes?  This is the beginning of communism!!”

Primo, a member of the UltimateGTO.com email list, also sees Pontiac’s demise as a political issue rather than an issue of consumer’s lack of demand to buy a car product, “If we could all just see the whole picture, not just blame everyone that does not share your view, this mess can still be righted. I see it as a mess we created by sending back all those politicians that keep digging us deeper and deeper.  First we lose Olds, Plymouth, now our Pontiac.  We need to let them hear our view and then when time comes around if they don’t respond, that would be the time to rid of them. So let’s all stop the blame game and get to doing something about it.”

UltimateGTO.com logo image

Logo of UltimateGTO.com website shows the “arrowhead” marker light of a 1968 GTO

Sean Mattingly, who runs the largest enthusiast-based website for the Pontiac GTO fans says, “I heard a report on CBS Radio News tonight about the passing of Pontiac.  I noticed every news story mentions the GTO as one of PMD’s great accomplishments.  All this attention to the classic GTO is allright.”

Sean continues with some thoughts on the Australian import GTO which was re-introduced for a run in 2004 through 2006.  The car was favored by performance car fans, but largely panned by the public for the car’s simple looks.  “I just returned from a radio promotion where we’re setting up a weekend sale for all the auto dealers in town.  They’re bringing in their best cars for the weekend.  Anyway, I sigh when I see the beautiful RETRO-styled Dodge Challengers.  People are drawn to them, tuff lookin cars.  Also, when the RETRO-styled Shelby KR Mustang rolls in, spectators are chasing it to get a better look.  Why oh why didn’t Pontiac listen to us enthusiasts about 6 years ago when we told them (over and over again) that we wanted a RETRO-styled GTO.  We know the car could have been a big hit ahead of the RETRO-Camaro.  It might have saved the friggin division from getting its head cut off.  GM’s Bob Lutz poo-pooed our ideas, calling us “hardliners”.  He’s gone now.  GM boss Rick Wagoner didn’t believe.  He’s gone now.”

GTO marketing

Pontiac TV ads portrayed the re-born GTO as being mysterious and powerful

Darwin would have liked for GM to have given the Pontiac brand more marketing.  He says, “I met Bob Lutz during the celebration of the 100th anniversary of GM.  I was part of a caravan of Corvettes representing every year of manufacture. (53-08) One car from each year.  We were invited to the 100th celebration at GM headquarters in Detroit.  I had the 63 split window.  At the celebration I met Bob and told him that even though I was driving the 63 vette I am a Pontiac GTO person first.  I told him that I was very disappointed that the new GTO had failed and that it was never given a chance to succeed. I asked if the GTO would ever come back and he said that the Camaro would fill the void.  I told him that the Camaro is a nice retro vehicle but it will never be a GTO. I reminded him that GTO enthusiasts have been hung out to dry.  It would have been nice if all the marks had been invited to the celebration.  We visited most of the large museums on our travels to Detroit and every one had a GTO on display.  Even the Ford Museum had a 65 GTO as you enter the museum.”

2004 GTO Yellow Jacket

2004 Pontiac GTO owned by Warren in Kansas

The re-introduction of a 2004-2006 GTO has pretty much been smoothed over in the enthusiast community since then.  Classic car clubs have since opened their ranks to include the newer GTOs.  However, classic GTO restorer Craig George opens up the scab to underscore GM’s lack of commitment to the enthusiast community’s wants, “Sean, I remember editing the thousands of comments about the 2004 GTO styling that poured into your website. The GTO faithful were both articulate and passionate about their distaste for the bland looks and outrage that the most famous American musclecar would now be arriving from Australia, covered with sea salt!  As an investment, I considered taking delivery of a 2004 red over black 6 speed coupe. The paint had so much orange peel, however, that I insisted that the dealership make a attempt to smooth it out. No amount of claying and polishing would bring out the shine one would expect on a new, bright red car.  I am just as glad now as I was then that I ultimately refused delivery. The 2004-2006 GTO’s will become marginally collectible in the future. Sadly, their value will be as an example of the folly and hubris of GM’s business management and their resounding failure in the opening years of this century. Their legacy certainly will not be one for crafting a modernized tribute to the original American musclecar!”

Greg, a fan of several different models of Pontiacs says, “I guess like a bad marriage that went sour years ago and dragged on for too long, we can just say goodbye to our beloved brand of choice. It appears my dream of ever buying a brand new Firebird will never come true. In the early 80′s I had a ’68 Lemans Convertible for my daily driver and used to be appalled by the lack of respect it got from my friends. They would refer to it as my ‘LuhMannz’ with the same disdain you would inflect when you mentioned an Escort or a Chevette, because at that time that’s what the LeMans had become – a little 4 cylinder sh*tbox.  This is when I knew things were going really wrong with Pontiac.  In today’s world you aren’t judged on what you’ve done in the past, it’s ‘what have you done for me lately?’. Sad but true.  When you consider the stylish Aztec, or the desecration of the GTO; the answer to that question is, ‘Not a whole hell of a lot.’  RIP PMD”

Al George points out GM slowness in bringing products to market at the right time, “Regarding your comment about GM hubris, I remember talking with a dealer in the ’60′s about the need for American manufacturers to develop small economical and fuel efficient cars such as were coming out of Japan and
Germany. I remember his response: “Aw, ‘mericans ain’t gonna buy them little bitty cars!” Within two years our highways were infested with Beetles. And within the last couple of years Detroit exec’s have been whining that they couldn’t get even a hybrid – let alone a fully electric – vehicle to market before 2012 or 2015, depending on which testimony you heard before the Senate or House. I’m old enough to vividly
remember Pearl Harbour, Dec 7, 1941. By February, 1942, Detroit had completely retooled, using technology we would now consider primative, and were producing tanks, half tracks, jeeps, convoy trucks, aircraft engines and all sorts of military essentials. And because the Japanese had cut our supply lines to rubber plantations in Southeast Asia, Goodyear, Firestone, and Goodrich in three or four months completed
development of a process to recycle old tires and to make synthetic rubber, on which our armies rolled to victory in the next three and a half years.  All theses overpaid Detroit whimps are telling me is that they’re not the men their fathers and grandfathers were.”

This week’s “Picture Of The Week” on the main page of http://UltimateGTO.com features a computer keyboard with a finger poised over a “Pontiac Delete” key.

Picture of the Week for 4/26/09

(The author of this article, Sean Mattingly, grants permission to re-publish this article in print form, on blogs, in newspapers, stored electronically, whatever)