Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Blasting LeBeau/Defending the GTO


Wow! Who says people don't get fired up over their cars?

Friday morning, my blog was about a Detroit News report that GM is pulling back the Pontiac brand and assessing whether to eliminate some its models in hopes of better defining the brand. Since then, the Pontiac fans have made their presence known and are blasting me as being, among other names, "a moron."

Two points of contention. First, in my blog I wrote that GM has eight brands. Technically, the company has 11 brands (I don't count Oldsmobile), but only 8 that are sold in the U.S. Should I have clarified that I was referencing the 8 brands GM sells in the U.S.? You bet.

For that lack of clarification, Kyle wrote, "The next time you write an article please do some research."

Roberto wrote, "Does he know the definition of 'research?'"

Fair enough, gentlemen. I'll take your hits for my lack of clarity.

The second point involves my comments about Pontiac cheapening the brand by putting the GTO badge on a Holden model out of Australia. And boy did this hit a nerve.

Doug wrote, "If you knew anything about cars, you would know that the 04-06 GTO is revered in high performance cars circles."

Matt was even harsher, "I have never read such a poorly-composed, mal-opinionated review in all my life. It is obvious that you are a complete moron and have NO idea what the hell you are talking about in regards to the latest edition of the Pontiac GTO."

The basic complaint is that I was knocking the GTO by using the term "cheapening" the GM brand. Is the GTO a bad car? No. Did I say it was a bad car? No.

The GTO is a heck of a muscle car and it has great performance for its size. But again, I didn't knock the car, I knocked how the car was marketed and how, I believe, it hasn't helped Pontiac.

My point -- which many obviously disagree with -- is that putting the GTO name on a car out of Australia is a marketing move that, in my opinion, doesn't work. GTO is an iconic car name in America. If an auto company is going to bring it back, as GM is doing with the new Camaro, the model ought to share some of the design cues or heritage of the iconic name. After selling 13,569 GTOs in 2004, Pontiac's sales of the muscle car slipped 17% to 11,268 last year. This year, GTO sales are down 27% compared to the same time as last year.

While many of you obviously disagree with my point of view, remember, blogs are place for opinions. And with this one, you'll read what I think works, doesn't work, or is interesting in the auto industry. I don't expect you to agree with me all the time. Heck, if you did, then I wouldn't be able to read emails like this one from Scott, "I could go on and on, rant, and rave about how misinformed you are about the most recent GTO. However, I think the following sums up my feelings succinctly: You, sir, are a moron."

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Questions?  Comments?