Killing Chief Pontiac Won’t Make GM Tribe Happy


DETROIT – Not that I really like Pontiacs these days. They’ve not been interesting for a long time. But now, there are serious discussions that GM will announce that Pontiac will be shut down as a brand.

Frankly, it doesn’t make sense. If Pontiac sales stink, then so do Buick. And for that matter all of GM. The whole thing is ruined, and so if the government is going to spend the billions to save it, it needs to sell millions of cars to subsidize it. The killing off of Oldsmobile was a giant blow to General Motors, one that they never recovered from. While there are ways to preserve some of the brand goodwill of Saturn, Hummer and Saab, killing those brands off does not hurt GM. But killing off Pontiac will be an even more severe blow to GM than Pontiac.

It signals to consumers, who are confused, that their brand might be next. It signals that all of GM is going bye-bye.

These are the sales figures for so far in 2009, from that oh-so-brilliant website TheTruthAboutCars. I fail to see how killing off GMC and Pontiac will do anything but make GM into a company like Chrysler, with three brands, but with a ton more debt and legacy costs. Look at the figures. Does it make sense to kill off Pontiac? Or is it better to turn Pontiac into a sister brand of Buick and GMC?

                 2009 to date           2008

  1. Chevrolet     94,704          164,564
  2. Cadillac            8,209           17,453
  3. GMC             19,086          38,422 
  4. Pontiac      17,583           25,417
  5. Buick               7,369           12,317
  6. Saturn          7,333          18,146
  7. Saab              1,265            2,962
  8. Hummer         831            3,451


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.


  1. i think dropping pontiac was GMs biggest mistake. my first car was a 85 Trans Am and i still have it. a few years aga chevy came back with the camaro i was like ok weres the Firebird Were is the Trans Am… thats Bs GM and you no it!!! hope you lose a lot of money..

  2. i think GM fucked up droping pontiac… see im 36 and every car i own wasa pontiac car.. my first car was a 84 firebird and i still have it to this day. a couple years ago i heard that chevy is bringing back the camaro and i was like you no what that means FIREBIRD TRANS AM yes i thought then i found out that GM is shuting down pontiac i was like wow GMs biggest mistake!!!!! R.I.P pontiac

  3. I believe that most people don’t know enough about GM or any other cars for that matter to make an intelligent conclusion as to why GM or other American cars are good or bad. One example is the repeated comment about the Aztek and somehow that one car is responcible for all of Pontiacs demise. How is it that there are Pontiacs all over Florida and they need to drop the brand because of what…. Not enough sales??? I read comment after comment on
    dozens of sites and it’s obvious “obama made that call” not that nobody wanted pontiacs. People should use their common sense and not believe all the media/government crap that they do. I own 5 Pontiacs including a brand new G8 GXP that is the best car yet. So what if it’s made in Australia? They ought to just do what they did with the g8 and sell more rebadged “Holdens” and put the jap rides to the back of the line.

  4. All the GM brands go back to Alfred Sloan’s hierarchy of “a brand for every pocketbook”……and many moons ago there was enough tangible difference between the brands so the “badge-engineering” wasn’t so obvious….which was the case up until arguably the mid-late 70s.

    What killed the different brands was when the differences started to fade. Remember the original GM “J” body- the 1982 Chev Cavalier, Pontiac A2000, Oldsmobile Starfire, Buick Skyhawk, Cadillac Cimarron- those cars all looked the same and behaved the same- and who’s stupid enough to pay twice the price for the Cadillac?

    That pretty much characterized the impending deaths of these brands. What also happened was that the “car guys” quit running these companies- they were taken over by the bean counters, who did things on the cheap and pretty much eliminated the difference between a Chevy, a Pontiac, and an Olds…..

    I could go on for hours…..but the bed is calling me….

  5. Andrew,
    I am seeing your point, and I think that’s the point. For decades, GM has been selling virtually the same cars with different badges. I am thinking of GM in its top form of early 1980s, when Cutlass was the top selling car. It was a joke that the Cutlass was the same as Century as same as LeMans and Malibu. Growing up, everyone had versions of that mid-sized wagon where the back windows did not open.

    But nobody cared. I’m 44, and was always used to the badge engineering. It does sound insipid that we as consumers would buy something only because a few things were different about it in name, but we consumers do that.

    That all being said, if GM was making great cars, none of this would matter that much. But when you are screwing it all up, killing off the brand makes it even more difficult for confused consumers.

  6. I’m having trouble seeing the killing off of Oldsmobile as a huge blow. GM has troubles, but I don’t see them as a result of any one brand or lack thereof. The GM of my lifetime (I’m 42) has always had a lot of models that really differed only in the name on the trunk. Given that, it is hard to see value in one name versus another.

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