Not Even Oprah Could Save Pontiac With G6 Giveaway15
Ten years ago this week, Oprah pulled off her car giveaway with Pontiac G6 sedans. This event full of theatrics made for great television, yet it in the end, the stunt wasn’t enough to save Pontiac.
The 276 Pontiac G6 sedans were given away during the opener to the 19th season of the Oprah Show. Oprah used all of her showmanship skills in building up the event that ultimately stunned the audience and made national news.
For Pontiac, the one-time exposure was enormous and likely outweighed the reported $7.7M cost of giving away the cars.
The event wasn’t without controversy though since each car had a pretty steep tax bill of $6,000. For many of the audience members, the one-time bill was too much and they sold their cars right away. Others sold since the vehicle wasn’t ideal for their area. Yet, there is still an Oprah G6 here and there. Oprah and several audience members still talk glowingly of the giveaway.
For Pontiac, the giveaway didn’t equal a boom in sales. In 2004, Pontiac sold 474,179 vehicles which was essentially flat compared to 2003. By the time 2009 came around, right before GM’s bankruptcy, Pontiac managed only 178,300 vehicle sales. And the rest is history.
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“B…b…but RWD and V8 GP’s would have saved Pontiac! They should have brought the Firebird back and gave away those instead of lame FWD G6/MAlibus! Also, a new, 200″ Bonnie with the Northstar 4.6 would be the icing on the cake!
But GM bean counters are soooooooo stooooopid!!!!!”
In all truth, the Oprah giveaway was a rear-life example of deck chair manipulation.
Yeah, it did more to promote Oprah than Pontiac.. And in all seriousness I do believe as well that in the end it was all about product. And very poor choices at that, The driving “excitement” was gone in all but a few offerings.
Pontiac was walking dead by this point and not much stopping the end.
Pontiac was damaged goods by this point with only two real performance cars and one of them was about to go away anyways.
GM was broke and could not spend the money to fix them as they had no money. That was why Lutz went to Holden for the GTO and G8 as they did not have the money to start over.
Pontiac started to lose their way around the time Delorean left for Chevy. After that the engineers brought us some bright spots but for the most much of the real Pontiac was gone. When the Corporate models came around the little things that set Pontiac apart became less and less. In the end they resorted to Chevy and Buick engines in cars that just had styling trying to set them apart.
At one time it was something special to own a Pontiac back when they were the only one to have a transistorized ignition or other advancements the rest of GM did not have. The soul of Pontiac was their V8 and it was lost. Even their invasion on things like the Endua bumpers, OHC and other tricks were something special not only at GM but for the market.
The real last Pontiac was the 1988 FIero as it was only sold by Pontiac, had a Pontiac engine in the Iron Duke and was even built in Pontiac.
Even in the end they were prevent from having a Ecotec Turbo that could have helped the G6 really matter if they wanted it but GM management prevented much here. It was not the bean counters but I believe those inside GM that knew the Pontiac was going to in the near future. Lutz fought for it but he was just too late to GM to really make a difference as much as he tried.
I am taking my Pontiac to a Pontiac show tomorrow and will enjoy the older Pontiacs that really made a difference. Too bad no one at GM really understood what Pontiac was and could have been but what is done is done and we can still enjoy what we had.
As for Harpo I really have no care for the woman but the marketing idea other than the tax issue was a great idea and did get the word out but the real follow through would have been to have a car that people would have been excited about too and the G6 that just was not the case.
I have lived, eat and breathed Pontiac for most of my life and the fact is I saw this coming as many diehard Pontiac people who were not blinded by the hype on the later models. When the Pontiac G3 and Torrent came along I knew things were not getting better. A G5 with no Turbo option like the Cobalt SS? Pontiac was in decline till the Aztek and then it was over after that. There was little to recover after that and what Lutz did just prolonged things just a little more till the Chapter11 finished them off.
Sure GM could have kept them but we are still here waiting for Cadillac and Buick to finish their first round of new post Chapter 11 products and if Pontiac was here it would have slowed them down and left Pontiac with only a couple rehashed Chevy models and a Holden.
I know some don’t like to hear this but it is the truth no matter how you dance around it. The world changed and GM just never changed till it was a major failure and by them the axe had to come out.
Most of the time I agree with you, but this time I won’t. Lutz declared Pontiac damaged, but not everyone was with him. Pontiac was not the only GM brand that was damaged, all of GM was damaged and all America cars for that matter. GM didn’t want to lose Pontiac, but Obama’s people wanted to get rid of it and Buick and GMC. GM fought and kept Buick and GMC because they were still profitable. In fact, GM would not had gotten the quick and gentle bankruptcy, if they did not agree to shutdown Pontiac.
Personally, I still dream of a PBG dealership as I feel Buick and GMC have holes in their lineup. It would had been cool if Lutz would had gotten his way and gotten 3 niche vehicles to fill out the lineup. He was talking about an Alpha vehicle, G8, and Sonic based hatchback. Maybe a Buick GMC sub-brand will show up someday? Maybe Adam, Astra coupe, and something else.
Lutz was the leader of the save Pontiac drive of all people at GM. He is the only reason we got the GTO, G8 and Solstice in attempts to prove their viability. He did these with so little budget it is amazing he was able to get them done.
As for Obama I have nothing for this man and his staff. But with that said I wish the story that his people demanded Pontiac going away would be put to bed. It was a decision by GM and only GM as they has only so much money and so much they could save. That is part of the reason they were in the mess is too many models and brands that already were not bringing return on the investments.
If China has loved Pontiac and not Buick we would have Pontiac today plain and simple.
GMC was saved as they are pure profit and today they are one of the greatest profit centers in GM.
The fact is here we are going into 2015 and Cadillac still has a limited line up with out a flagship. Buick is working with a fleet of SUV/CUV models but only a couple old cars due to be replaced soon.
So with that said how anyone could see how GM could have fixed Pontiac that easy and fast to the point they had any relevant product is beyond me and even most industry observers who use all the facts not just emotions.
Same goes for Saturn.
I suspect we may see a Hummer like jeep like vehicle at GMC some time as even today the used Hummers are off the chart value wise and demand is still there. As a model for GM it would be so easy to manage.
Where you’re wrong is that The Obama Administration did force GM to get rid of Pontiac. Also, they were never in China like Buick; you’re comparing apples to oranges.
If Pontiac were still here, they would have already been on track to success. Pontiac had major potential and I don’t know where you aren’t seeing that.
Grand Prix, Bonneville, GTO, Firebird T/A, and Fiero were all nameplates that they shouldn’t have gotten rid of. They were solid vehicles that could have been made even better with new platforms, engines, and interiors.
I own a 2001 pontiac grand prix gt and it may now be rwd and it may not have a great big v8 but there’s something about it that makes me attached to it.
Plus would you rather say that you own a “Camry” or a “Grand Prix”. I’ll take the Grand Prix.
I too owned a GTP Comp G but the fact is we are in the minority.
While it was one of the better FWD performance cars it fell short in many areas. Also the real Pontiac base had already been lost.
My Car was fun to drive but the interior was a wreck with a back seat that was as hard as a park bench with way too much plastic. Now I had paid sticker I would have gone Audi but got but $10k off sticker. While good for me not good for GM.
I would rather have a GTP vs. a Camry too but with the prices paid and the volumes sold the market disagrees. They sold nearly as many Camry’s as GM sold Pontiac’s near the end.
Sadly what we want and what the market will bear are two different things.
Like I have stated I loved Pontiac and even was brought home from the Hospital in my Dads 1960 Pontiac. But with that said I can not sugar coat what is not there. Pontiac was damaged worse than any other GM division other than Saturn and was going to take billion and so many man hours to repair with no guarantee that it would work.
Had a typo in my last comment. I ment to say “it may NOT be rwd”
Any hype is not good hype. Marketing can help sell a good product but when you are building products that are worst in class, the end is inevitable.
The big O never spends any of her money for give aways.
I was and always will be a big Pontiac fan, but I never linked Ophra’s G6 give away as some type of positive boom for Pontiac. I mean seriously, they GAVE AWAY 276 cars! Who does that. At the time I remember thinking “who wants a G6 – even for free?”
As stated by others Pontiac was – in essence – dead since the mid 70s. It enjoyed a mild resurgence during the 80s and early 90s. But it was mostly based on a “reputation of Excitement” than anything else.
Hype is good as it gets you out there front and center. But once you have everyone’s attention and the spot light is on you, you had better have something to back it up and clearly Pontiac had an empty hand with the G6.
Now the G6 would have been fine as a Chevy but when you advertise Pontiac as the Excitement Performance division and you really have little in the way of performance to offer out side the G8 and the Solstice you have some real issues.
I was at a large Pontiac only show today and I talked to many of the die hard collectors there I knew or met and I asked now we are a few years down the road what they thought and felt about Pontiac being gone.
Many said they were dead a long time before it happened and there was another group that said they did not believe they were really a performance division at the end anymore. Note most owners here were all models but heavy GTO past and Holden based.
For the most part is it was a damn shame they are gone but I have mine and GM is not bringing them back. The group had a very realistic concept and not much different I have found at the Pontiac nationals over the last few years.
Note I took a top 5 at the show with my car out of about 120 cars and many very nice GTO’s.
I will hit another Pontiac show next week that also host Buick and Olds. I will ask about Pontiac and Olds both there just to gauge reaction.
If car companies needed to only be run on heart it would be so easy but there are so many business and marketing factors involved and it really makes it difficult to many things.
I get the need for fresh content… but really, this is not news.
Also quoting 2009 MY sales is unfair as Solstice, G5, G3, etc were discontinued mid-year when GM declared bankruptcy. You really can only quote 2008 MY for full sales numbers. Which, I might add, outsold Buick decisively in both the US and Canada… not factoring in Pontiac Mexico sales.