When you have a company with eight different brands, as is the case with General Motors, one or more of them are bound to be struggling. That's the case right now with Pontiac. What was once the third bestselling brand in the U.S., is now struggling with sales dropping 20% in the first quarter. So GM is pulling back the reins on Pontiac and assessing how to re-focus the division. Frankly, I think this is smart move.
According to the Detroit News, Jim Bunnell, who is the new head of Buick-Pontiac-GMC, believes Pontiac's sales could drop by as much as 40% this year. It's all part of Pontiac shrinking its model line-up and cutting back on rental-car sales. The report also points out four Pontiac models may be eliminated as part of a move to better define the brand and hopefully connect with buyers.
I like the idea. Pontiac still has some cachet with Americans. But it's lost its focus over the last ten years. In fact, its last annual sales gain was in 1999. How did this happen? Partially because of disastrous models like the Pontiac Aztec. A bulky, and in my opinion, ugly SUV that even GM executives criticized. Pontiac also brought back the iconic GTO name, but put it on a coupe built by GM's Holden subsidiary in Australia. Again, another move that cheapened the Pontiac name.
But Bunnell can undo the damage from those poor choices by paring the Pontiac portfolio to a core group of eye-catching models. The G6 and Solstice are the type of aggressive looking and sharp models that should define Pontiac. There are still plenty of people out there looking for sportier cars and Pontiac can capture those buyers. But only if it stays focused on giving us edgier designs.
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