On Monday, US time, GM confirmed what the rumour mill had been cranking out all of last week: that it would kill the storied Pontiac brand. Along with it, the Holden Commodore with the koala nose, the Pontiac G8, will also probably perish.
In a press conference first thing Monday morning in the US, GM confirmed that the "Pontiac brand will be phased out by the end of 2010" as part of its continuing restructuring efforts; earlier plans had called for Pontiac to survive as a "niche" brand. The company is also continuing efforts to sell or euthanise the Saab, Hummer and Saturn brands by the end of 2009. Should everything go according to plan, GM will be reduced to four US brands — Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC — by the end of 2010, with part or all of its core European operations, which go under the Vauxhall and Opel brands, up for sale.
This is bad news for Holden as it currently exports its home-grown rear-wheel drive sedan, the Commodore, to the US as the Pontiac G8. Initially Holden hoped to sell about 30,000 G8s a year, but at the end of 2008 only over half of the 24,000 shipped units had been sold. Many commentators blamed the poor sales on a combination of poor marketing and the worst financial crisis in at least a generation. Unless GM decides to rebadge the G8 as either a Chevrolet, as is the case with Holdens sold in the Middle East, or as a Buick, a situation that exists in China, the days of Americans being able to snap up a bit of Australian auto action seem doomed.
Named after its home city in Michigan, the Pontiac brand was first used in 1906. Both the town and the cars bore the name of the American Indian chief, Chief Pontiac. Until the mid '50s, Pontiac's badge featured an Indian headdress, with the replacement arrowhead logo remaining in place to this date. Pontiac rose to prominence during the muscle car wars of the '60s, with cars like the GTO, and was even once amongst the top three selling car nameplates in the US. In recent years the brand suffered, with its line-up primarily consisting of lightly reworked models from the rest of the GM empire.