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GM prepares to announce Pontiac closure next week

GM prepares to announce Pontiac closure next week

Jamie LaReau

Automotive News | April 24, 2009 – 1:45 pm EST


General Motors is preparing to announce early next week that the Pontiac brand will be eliminated, said a source familiar with the company’s plans.

The announcement will be made as part of an updated viability report to the U.S. auto task force, the source said. A second source indicated earlier this week that GM, surviving with $15.4 billion in U.S. bailout funds, was considering phasing out Pontiac instead of sticking with a plan to have it continue as a niche brand.

In its proposal to the U.S. Treasury on Feb. 17, GM said Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC would be its four core U.S. brands. On March 31, the task force told GM that its restructuring plan wasn’t aggressive enough and denied a request for $16.6 billion in additional aid.

Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson declined to comment on Pontiac’s future.

“I can’t speculate what next week is going to hold,” he said. “When we were asked to go back and look at the viability plan, everything went back on the table. We’re reviewing everything. Nothing is sacred. We’re still under the original viability plan until told otherwise.”

The U.S. today granted $2 billion to keep GM operating while it prepares for a new, June 1 restructuring deadline. GM has been staying afloat with $13.4 billion in U.S. loans granted in December by President George W. Bush.

Bloomberg News said GM is expected to tell the government that it will stick with plans to keep GMC, Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac.

Saab, Hummer and Saturn are for sale.

Muscle-car icon

Pontiac, which launched the 1960s U.S. muscle-car era with the GTO, sold 267,348 vehicles in the United States last year, less than a third of its 1978 peak of 896,980. This year’s volume dropped 43.5 percent through March as industrywide demand fell 38.4 percent.

“Pontiac is one of my favorites — I especially like the G8,” said John Pitre, general manager of Motor City Auto Center in Bakersfield, Calif., which sells Buick-Pontiac-GMC and Saturn. “I would be sad to see it phased out. However, if some of those products became part of the Buick brand, I could understand GM’s logic.”

Chris Haydocy, who owns a Buick-Pontiac-GMC store in Columbus, Ohio, said Pontiac isn’t essential as long as the revamped sales channel provides most of what customers are looking for.

Said Haydocy: “I think you need 10 or 12 models to do that.”

Killing Pontiac would make sense, said George Peterson, president of marketing and product consulting firm AutoPacific Inc.

“It’s sort of a shadow of itself,” he said. “All of the Pontiacs, except for the G8, are copies of Chevrolets or GMCs, so there really isn’t any reason to keep Pontiac around.’’

GM introduced Pontiac in 1926. GM decided to kill Oldsmobile in 2000, three years after its 100th anniversary.

Chrissie Thompson contributed to this report.

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