Pontiac was an automobile brand established in 1926 as a companion make for General Motors' Oakland. Quickly overtaking its parent in popularity, it supplanted the Oakland brand entirely by 1933 and, for most of its life, became a companion make for Chevrolet. Pontiac was sold in the United States, Canada, and Mexico by General Motors (GM). Pontiac was marketed as the performance division of General Motors for many years, specializing in mainstream performance vehicles. Pontiac was relatively more popular in
Canada, where for much of its history it was marketed as a low-priced vehicle.
On April 27, 2009, amid ongoing financial problems and restructuring efforts, GM announced it would discontinue the Pontiac brand by the end of 2010 and focus on four core brands in North America: Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC. The last Pontiacs were built in late 2009/early 2010, with the final dealer franchises expiring October 31, 2010.
2005–2010 COMPANY WIND DOWN
Pontiac went through a complete product revamping through this period. The Grand Am was replaced with the mid-size G6 in 2004. The Bonneville ended production in 2005 after nearly 50 years of production. Although it was not directly replaced, the RWD G8 served as an initial replacement. The Solstice concept shown in 2002 was approved for production as a roadster (2006-2009) and, for a few months, a hard-top coupe (2009), which is considered to be quite rare, as a total of only 1,266 coupes made it off the assembly line in Wilmington, DE before it was shut down due to the demise of Pontiac. This is in stark contrast to the over 64,000 Solstice Convertibles that were manufactured on that same line. The controversial and slow-selling Aztek was finally phased out and replaced by the Torrent, which was identical to the Chevrolet Equinox. The Sunfire was discontinued in 2005, along with the Chevrolet Cavalier, and its replacement, the G5, didn't appear until the 2007 model year.
The Grand Prix ended production in 2008 and the launch of the Australian-built RWD G8 commenced. The G8 gained positive reception for its high performance and low costs. Many noted the G8 as the poor man's BMW M5, due to similar performance but at a much cheaper price. The Holden Ute was scheduled to be launched as the G8 ST before it was cancelled in January 2009 due to GM's financial situation. It was later announced that the G8 may not see a second generation.
Towards the end of the decade many rumors began spreading that Pontiac would become completely reliant on
RWD. Reports ranged from a compact sedan based on the Alpha platform to a new RWD G6 for the 2013 model year. Many reports suggested that the Trans Am/Firebird would return after GM confirmed the rebirth of the
Camaro, however, no reports confirmed this.
On December 2, 2008, General Motors announced that it was considering eliminating numerous brands, including Pontiac, in order to appease Congress in hope of receiving a 25 billion dollar loan. On February 17, 2009, GM originally proposed the elimination of its Saturn division, the sale of Saab, and either the sale or elimination of Hummer, depending on whether a buyer could be found quickly. In the original plan GM also clarified that Pontiac would have begun to focus on "niche" models aimed at the "youthful and sporty" segment, but did not provide specifics. Pontiac was to trim its number of models to four, although there was talk of retaining only one model. By April 2009 several automotive websites and business publications were reporting that GM was doing a study suggesting it might eliminate the brand altogether, along with sister truck brand GMC. On April 23 a report was
published stating the company would be dropping the Pontiac brand while preserving the GMC truck line, as well as the Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Buick brands. The decision to eliminate Pontiac was made primarily due to the increasing threat of a bankruptcy filing if the June 1 deadline could not be met. On April 27, 2009, GM officially announced that Pontiac would be dropped and that all of its remaining models would be phased out by the end of 2010.
General Motors would eliminate an additional 7,000 to 8,000 factory jobs in the United States and shed 2,600 dealers by 2010 under a revised business plan developed with the
Obama administration. GM Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson said the Pontiac brand would be closed by 2010, calling it an “extremely personal decision.” In addition to speeding up decisions on Saturn, Saab and Hummer, GM will be left with four brands – Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac.
In early May 2009, Jim Waldron, a Davison, Michigan, Pontiac dealer, announced that he was interested in purchasing the Pontiac brand and logos, and had found financing to purchase them as well as some soon-to-be shuttered GM plants in order to build cars. However, GM had already decided to retire the brand as it has begun to sell off its remaining inventory and said that, unlike Saturn, the brand was not for sale.
The Pontiac brand was pulled after the 2009 model year in Mexico and the brand was renamed
Matiz, selling only one vehicle, the Matiz G2 (Matiz's logo is similar to Pontiac's).
The last Pontiac, a 2010 G6, was built in early 2010 when GM restarted the Orion Assembly Line to manufacture one final 2010 Pontiac G6, after the earlier G6 line at Orion and the Wave/G3 line in San Luis Potos were shut down in November and December, 2009 respectively. This was most likely done purposely so GM could show that the final Pontiac ever manufactured (and the only one ever manufactured in 2010) was at an American plant.
Pontiac became the second brand General Motors has eliminated in six years. Oldsmobile met the same fate in 2004 after being more slowly phased out over four years. Pontiac also became the ninth North American automobile brand since 1987 to be phased out, after
Merkur, Passport, Asüna, Geo, Plymouth, American Motors (AMC) (renamed Eagle in 1988, only to be phased out a decade later), and Oldsmobile.
In January 2010, Saab was purchased by the Dutch auto manufacturer Spyker Cars and was renamed "Saab Spyker Cars." 2010 would also see the end of the Saturn and Hummer brands.
TRADEMARKS and LOGO
A Native American headdress was used as a logo until 1956. This was updated to the currently used Native American red arrowhead design for 1957. The arrowhead logo is also known as the Dart.
Besides the logo, another identifying feature of Pontiacs were their "Silver Streaks"—one or more narrow strips of stainless steel which extended from the grille down the center of the hood. Eventually they extended from the rear window to the rear bumper as well, and finally; along the tops of the fins. Although initially a single band, this stylistic trademark doubled to two for 1955 - 1956. The Streaks were discontinued the same year the Indian Head emblems were; 1957.
Other long-familiar styling elements were the split grille design (from 1959 onward), pointed 'arrowhead' nose (in the 1960s and 70s), and "grilled-over" (in the 1960s), or multiple-striped taillights. This later feature originated with the 1963 Grand Prix, and although the '62 Grand Prix also had rear
grillework, the taillight lenses were not behind it. Less longstanding but equally memorable is the 'cladding' common on the doors and fenders of Pontiacs produced in the 1980s and 90s. Rather than minimizing the side bumper, Pontiac designers put two troughs going along the length. Reviews were generally negative but bumpers with this appearance were found on nearly all Pontiacs until the arrival of the G6. From 2004 onwards, new Pontiacs had cleaner, more premium styling, but retained the traditional split grille.
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