The cars we loved.

1926-2010 Pontiac Motor Division (part 2)

continued from part 1

1985 Grand-Am

1985 Grand-Am

Even as things were going well for the company, changes loomed over the horizon as new emissions and safety standards were coming. Pontiac, like the rest of the US auto industry was not well prepared for the changes and for a few years, power and performance would suffer. Pontiac responded to this environment with demasculated Firebirds and GTO’s. But as emissions regulations and a fuel crisis held power to a minimum, horsepower would soon go back up with large displacement Firebirds reaching 6.6 literes by the late 70s.

The move away from domestics to smaller fuel-efficient foreign cars had picked up steam by the beginning of the 80s and Pontiac responded with a few small cars of its own. The T100 was a rear drive Chevette clone while most imports used front wheel drive. Quality was

2009 G8

2009 G8

spotty and performance was down although there were some successes. Most notably,  the innovative Fiero sold extremely well at first, but quality problems and the botched excution of mission axed its development just as it was beginning to reach its stride as a true sports car. 

Firebirds continued to sell well as did the occasional Gran Prix. Flying the performance flag for the 80s and 90s were crop of new sports sedans and coupes like the Grand-Am, 6000 STE and Bonneville SSE. These cars sold well and were getting favorable press while comparing well to imports. There were low moments as well during this time as quality was

1991 Lemans

1991 Lemans

not up to standard on all products  in the lineup.  One consistant bright spot in sales was the mid 80s Grand-Am, a compact aimed directly at BMW and other sporty imports. It went on to become one of the divisions biggest sellers right up to its cancelation in 2005. Other models met with mixed results.  Bonnevilles seemed always popular, while the Grand-Prix sales were inconsistant.

As GM forged partnerships with foreign small car makers the end result were often econoboxes with legendary names from the past. The Lemans name was applied to a hatchback made in Korea to the dismay of purists. Pontiac’s other small

1988 Fireo GT

1988 Fireo GT

cars the Sunbird, Sunfire and later G5 were never big sellers compared to their Chevrolet equivalents, but had their occasional moments of turbo or supercharged performance. Pontiac even ventured into the exploding mini van market with the futuristic Trans Van in the 80s. As vans gave way to SUVs, Pontiac responded with the Aztecs in the 90s. A sales and PR disaster, it is often referred to as the ugliest Pontiac ever. Other SUVs followed, but to show how much Pontiac had lost its way, there was no longer a Firebird, but you could buy a minivan or SUV with the Pontiac logo on it. Sales of non-cars were never good, while its car sales were on a downward trajectory. As the 90s gave way the new 21st century, its big cars the Bonneville and Grand Prix were replaced by rebadged Holdens. The end result the GTO and G8 were some of the best Pontiac’s in recent history. unfortunately, they were too little too late.

1988 6000-ste

1988 6000 STE

Even as the rest of its line was improved with a new convertible Solstice (the first 2 seater since the Fiero) and improved mid-sized offerings, sales were down and GM was loosing money left and right. It made since to shed yet another division as it had Oldsmobile just a few years earlier. To avoid complete bankrupcy, the decision was made to dissolve Pontiac after 2010. Most of the cars for sale in that final year were left over 2009s that were awaiting sale at various dealer lots.

1989 Pontiac TTA

1989 Turbo Trans-Am

It’s truly sad to see yet another iconic American car company fade in to history. Truth is there was a time when no less than 20 American car companies competed for the consumers attention – that was just the domestic makers. Pontiac conciveably could have exsisted as a small nich builder, which would have been a sound plan considering the strong brand equity in names like Trans-Am and GTO. No big investors stepped up to purchase the naming rights. I wonder if John Delorean were still alive if he would have made a bid for the company. GM simply did not have the money to maintain all the marketing required and as a nich company there was no guarentee that Pontiac would have been profitable with only the ocasssional supercar. Perhaps the spirit of ledgendary Firebirds and GTOs will live on in today’s Camaro or some future Chevelle.
2001 Aztek

2001 Aztek


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This entry was posted on February 25, 2010 by in Pontiac, Uncategorized.
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