Pontiac’s demise remains a sour spot of conversation for many General Motors enthusiasts. The brand’s storied history is filled with incredible cars and breakthroughs, but it all came crashing down at the end of the 2000s.
Donut Media traced the brand’s history back to its founding all the way until its end in 2010. And after eight years, we can still make the case that GM is at a loss without a performance division as Chevrolet tries to juggle a handful of identities.
For those interested in the history, GM introduced Pontiac in 1926 to bridge the gap between the Chevrolet and Oakland brand. Viking, Marquette and LaSalle used the same strategy to fill gaps between Oakland and Oldsmobile, Oldsmobile and Buick, and Buick and Cadillac. But, in the end, Pontiac was most successful. GM axed Viking, Marquette, LaSalle and Oakland was merged with Pontiac.
By the 1940s and 1950s, Pontiac had developed a stigma as an elderly person’s car. Quickly, Pontiac brass wanted that to change, and in 1955, Semon (AKA Bucky) Knudson, led Pontiac into NASCAR, and the NHRA. But, in 1963, Pontiac found its identity as the excitement division.
Designers and engineers created a modified Tempest Coupe called the Grand Tempest Option. Yes, it birthed the iconic GTO, a mid-size car with a big engine from a full-size car. Plenty of other Pontiac muscle cars came and went throughout the years, and Pontiac’s reputation largely remained intact… until the 1990s and 2000s.
Pontiac’s rebirth began with the controversial Aztek, which in all honesty, wasn’t a bad car and probably way ahead of its time. The new Pontiac GTO followed, essentially a restyled Holden Monaro. However, as Ford ushered in the retro Mustang at the time, GTO sales flopped. So, the Pontiac Solstice arrived, but it never quite caught on. Finally, Pontiac’s last-ditch effort couldn’t have come at a worse time.
The Pontiac G8, nee Holden VE Commodore, ushered in a rear-wheel-drive sedan with a big V8 engine. But, as it launched, the economy tanked. Consumers dropped new car purchases like a ton of bricks. When GM’s controversial bailout and bankruptcy got underway, the automaker sent Pontiac to the chopping block. In 2010, GM made the final Pontiac, a white G6 sedan to fill for a fleet order.
It’s a seriously sad end to a division that did so much for GM over the majority of the 20th century, and we know GM still had plenty of plans for Pontiac at the time of its demise. Pontiac, unfortunately, delivered the wrong cars at an even worse time.