Before you head to the comments section to state how the government put Pontiac on the chopping block in order to bailout the automaker, we’ll save you the keyboard strokes. Yes, that is true, and General Motors was not entirely responsible for the death of the brand.
But, of the brands axed or sold off from the GM portfolio, Pontiac has been a sour spot with die-hard fans for some time, followed closely behind by Hummer.
This topic has been explored before, but we think Pontiac would have made Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac concise on what their target market is, without an overlapping of ideals. Why? It mostly involves Chevrolet, and their inability to cover certain performance niches. Chevrolet will always be the bread and butter at the table, but Pontiac could have added the special seasoning to the portfolio with a performance oriented onslaught of product.
Currently, Chevrolet offers the Camaro, Corvette and SS sedan to uphold its performance credentials. But where are the sport compacts? Or, a hot hatch? An affordable performance two-seater convertible? These niches are open gaps in the Chevrolet lineup.
Mark Reuss, GM product chief, has gone on the record stating it’s difficult to turn a profit on these niche products because, once everyone has purchased one, the market dries up. But, GM is also quite good at hitting refresh often on their performance products. Looking at the Scion FR-S in particular, sales have dropped immensely. But, where is the incentive to draw in more buyers if the car has seen nothing but an appearance package since it graced the market?
That’s where a newly-born Pontiac could have shined. Affordable, value-packed performance vehicles. The driver’s choice. Someone who cares about more than getting from A to B. Someone who understands the Google car doesn’t bridge connections at petrol pumps, or ignite the soul. Constant special editions, and added features, even the slightest update to create a “gotta have it” sensation.
Leaving Chevrolet as the breadwinner would have allowed for a renewed focus on great passenger cars, with the Camaro and Corvette sticking around respectfully because, well, there will always be Chevy guys and gals.
And it would keep Buick focused, too. Instead of erasing its “affordable luxury” mantra with a (rumored) new, hardcore Buick Grand National or GNX, the Pontiac Firebird and Trans Am would have that covered.
And this formula has already been proven with Dodge. As FCA consolidated SRT back into the Dodge brand, the company has focused on performance. That’s it, despite the Dart mixing up the strategy (even though an SRT4 variant is supposedly on the way), the recipe has been quite successful as Chargers and Challengers continue to leave dealer lots. And it leaves a hole for past Pontiac customers to flock to Dodge, with no market knowledge of the Chevrolet SS sedan.
We will admit the argument we’re laying out becomes less intense with the introduction of a turbocharged four-cylinder option in the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro, however. Since Al Oppenheiser, chief Camaro engineering, is certain the turbo-four option will draw in the old Cobalt SS crowd. But, the culture always clamors for the next sport compact or hot hatch. Just look at the Focus ST’s success.
You may disagree, and that’s fine. This is coming from the opinion desk after all. But, Pontiac would have clearly defined the boundaries of each GM division, while covering market niches that much more precisely.
And there’s a lot of brand equity in the red arrowhead that sits forever stillborn.