GM's Buick and Pontiac are both "damaged brands'' due to lack of investment over the years, and GM is working to correct that with an array of new vehicles coming to market, Lutz told a Morgan Stanley automotive conference in New York.GM should kill Pontiac and keep Buick.
But if some of its brands fail to meet sales projections, "then we would have to take a look at a phase-out. I hope we don't have to do that. What we've got to do is keep the brands we've got.''
Pontiac has no real identity--it is the "driving excitement" brand, but the cars are just not that exciting. Until recently, they were just warmed over, plastic clad versions of GM's platforms. Barely disguised Chevys and Buicks. Consider the new G6, it is a nice car, with sharp design and a nice interior. But it has no real cohones. If you want something close to a performance G6, you have to wait for the G6 GTP, which promises a 240HP 3.9L-2V pushrod V6 and a manual transmission. But even a decidedly un-exciting Honda Accord V6 comes with a base 3.0L-4V SOHC V6, with variable valve timing. The 0-60 time on the Accord is 6.6s (Motortrend), the G6 GTP is estimated at 7.0s.
There are no Pontiac cars which are unique to Pontiac, which are iconic for Pontiac, and there apparently are no plans for any. The Solstice platform will be also used for the Saturn Sky. The GTO, which was a serious attempt at creating a halo car for Pontiac, is an unexciting (but fast) jelly bean, and a sales flop. Pontiac has no soul, and not much of a pulse.
What should GM do with the new G6 and the Solstice? I would re-badge them as Buicks, and instantly give Buick a younger side. The Vibe could become a Saturn. The SUV and Minivan I would kill. Buick would then fill the role that Mercury does at Ford--nicer than the main brand, but not yet luxury. Chevrolet would remain the mainstay.
Consumers are losing interest in pretenders. A sporty looking car that isn't all that sporty is doomed to poor sales, when faced with competition from the real thing. GM should either fix Pontiac, or kill it and save money.
UPDATED: Bob Lutz clarifies.
Many of you probably read something to the effect that "GM is considering
shedding a brand." Let me say it now, for the world to hear: No, we have no
plans to shed a brand. Period.
Mark LaNeve, our sales and marketing vice president for North America, had
it exactly right in an e-mail he sent to our dealers last week regarding this
matter. "We are not discussing or planning the elimination of any of our brands.
On the contrary, we're investing more heavily than ever on new products and
marketing programs – GM is investing in all of its brands."
In the same memo, LaNeve also cited our intentions to "reignite Pontiac's muscular design and street credibility" and build Buick as a brand with vehicles that are the
"quietest and highest-quality in their segment."