Another brand down:
The storied Pontiac brand is dead and more car factories and jobs are about to disappear — the latest casualties of a massive restructuring plan that GM is counting on to help it stave off bankruptcy protection.
The struggling automaker will announce details of its plan at 9 a.m. ET Monday as it makes an offer to its bondholders to swap debt for company stock. GM (GM) owes $28 billion to large and small bondholders, and under Securities and Exchange Commission rules, it must disclose its operational plans when it makes an exchange offer.
The last time we talked about cars, someone mentioned that there hadn’t been a “fun” Pontiac in years. I’m not really much into cars- again, I was content driving an 83 Chevy Celebrity forever and would still be driving it had it not died. For me, cars get you from point A to point B, so I never really think of them as “fun.” However, I did think about it, and if I had to say any particular car was “fun,” it would be the Jeep. My roommate Nate and one of my best friends on the lacrosse team, Drew, both had Jeeps, and when I look back, some of my fondest memories were riding in those Jeeps with my friends and our girlfriends, heading to the lake, heading to a game, coming home from practice, going caving, going hiking, etc.
I hope they find a way to save Jeep.
You were a lacrosse player? The Republican years are starting to make more and more sense.
What is wrong with lacrosse?
Jeep, which is part of the Chrysler disaster, is actually one of the very few valuable assets that they have. It’s the Chrysler part that’s weighing Chrysler down.
Aside from the fact that most lacrosse players are collar-popping smug entitled preppy-douchebag thugs? Nothing. Nothing at all.
Maybe it’s a different sport down in West Virginia. But all across the northeast, there is no clearer sign that someone is a Grade A asshole like a lacrosse background.
Actually, the Duke lacrosse team — false accusations of rape notwithstanding — seemed to fit the description, too, so maybe it’s not just a northeastern thing.
Mais où sont les GTOs d’antan?
Chrysler and the UAW just agreed to more concessions in order to try to get Fiat to buy Chrysler.
Hopefully this works out. They have until Thursday to get a deal struck.
joe from Lowell
A car is an appliance. It’s a washing machine with wheels.
People who claim any more than that are trying to take your money.
Jeep will prolly be purchased by someone, just like it was from what, american motors back in the day.
It’s a valuable Brand in and of its self, so it should be around for awhile.
I keep expecting Mercury to go 100% fleet vehicles and essentially be a dead brand walking any day now, if it hasn’t already.
The death of Chrysler would be the best thing that could happen to Jeep, because the only thing keeping Jeep from grabbing a bigger export market is crappy, poor fuel economy Chrysler engines and too much weight. Fiat may be able to rectify that, and they’d be idiots to not exploit the Jeep brand. It’s one of the few viable American brands in the export market (the only one I see in any numbers when I go to Korea), and could do wonders if they’d improve the drive train and shed some weight. There’s no reason a Wrangler or Liberty should be getting 15-17 mpg other than Chrysler’s inability to field new engines. Perfect candidates for a small diesel, enough torque to pull a smaller boat or trailer while still delivering decent fuel economy.
This is pretty much my view. When I was a kid we had a Pontiac for a while. It had sort of reddish-brown metallic paint and was big enough to hold seven people. It once broke down and stranded us in a small town in Colorado. I’m not weeping over the demise of Pontiac.
As a Jeep owner, I couldn’t agree more about the pleasures of owning one. They are a lot of fun, rugged, and easy to maintain/repair. Sure, they ride rough, are loud as a bastard on the interstate, and are cramped when compared to most other cars on the road. But these are features, not flaws.
Unfortunately, Jeep did some tinkering a few years back, computerizing most of the functions in an effort to civilize the beast (not to mention dropping the AMC straight six in exchange for a Chrysler-designed engine). I don’t know that I would buy one of the newer ones. But then again, I guess Jeep owners are notorious for instinctively bitching about every change to the line.
Jeeps were tremendous amounts of fun, until Chrysler took over the brand from AMC.
They replaced a load of parts with under-engineered junk from other lines (LeBaron brakes on a SUV) and the result was an overpriced vehicle. The Jeep XJ (Cherokee) was/is the best utilitarian northeast SUV. But alas, apparently it was too small, so they killed the line and replaced it with the hideous and under-engineered Liberty and merely hideous Commander. Take one functional SUV and replace it with two new lines. I can’t understand why Chrysler is having issues.
The Grand Panjandrum
@John Cole: Lacrosse is a big sport here in New England. I’d say it rivals Dressage and Water Polo. I’m joking of course.
Actually, if you aren’t from an area where lacrosse is played at the high school level it is often mistakenly considered an elitist game. A little homework might be in order for those folks because it is played by a lot of kids here in northern New England.
Don’t worry about Jeep. It’s the strongest brand in the car business. Already survived, what, 3 or 4 previous owners going bankrupt already.
Yeah, civilian Jeeps started off with Willys in 1941…
Then Kaiser in 1953…
Then AMC in 1970…
Then AMC/Renault in 1979…
Then Chrysler in 1984…
If you own Jeep, you’ve basically got a monopoly on a high profit margin product with a constant, devoted following. Don’t worry, someone’ll buy it.
those little Solstice roadsters look fun.
like my wife said last night: i don’t want a car with zippers
Seems to me GM would do well to just jettison all the subdivision names, get rid of redundant or unpopular *models* and configurations, and sell all its cars under the brand name ‘GM’.
I imagine this would be hampered by contracts signed with the various subdivisions, such as with dealers, making it hard to jettison the subdivision names.
J. Michael Neal
It’s the most boring sport this side of basketball. While waiting for the North Dakota/New Hampshire hockey game to start on ESPNU, we missed the first period because the Virginia/North Carolina lacrosse game went into overtime. And another overtime. And another overtime. By the time it was done, it was the longest game in men’s NCAA lacrosse history. If lacrosse can’t manage to be entertaining through extended sudden death overtimes, it won’t ever manage to be entertaining.
Watching it, I came to several conclusions. One is that it’s too difficult to force turnovers. In hockey, you have to get past forecheckers and through the neutral zone. In that lacrosse game, once you take possession in your own zone, you just jog the ball to the other end without opposition. Then you get a bunch of passes around the perimeter, with no one really pressuring the guy holding the ball or trying to get in the passing lanes. More possessions ended because the offensive team botched a pass and it went out of bounds than resulted in any sort of scoring chance.
Lacrosse also has the surest sign of a sport with a serious problem: a shot clock. If you have to install a shot clock, it’s an indication that the play itself is fundamentally boring.
I’d rather watch it than basketball, but not by much.
My husband and I bought a Pontiac Vibe about four years ago and we LOVE it still. It’s a fun little hatchback with plenty of storage and pretty good efficiency. Pontiac also has the Solstice for awhile, a sweet roadster. So there have been some cool cars to emerge from that brand in the last five years. Frankly, I’m sorry to see the Vibe go. We would have considered buying a new one.
That’s a fair enough point. Most of my impressions of lacrosse come from college lacrosse players. I’ve had various experiences with them at three separate institutions in the northeast, though, and I’d have to say they all possessed the same toxic degree of douchebagginess.
But in fairness, the high school strain might be much less virulent.
My daughter (5 yrs), while we were driving behind a Jeep (don’t know the model, not new, looks like what we used to take mud-boggin’ around my neighbor’s farm in the late ’80’s)…
“Dad, why does that car just look so cool?”
They just have something about ’em, I guess.
For most people, cars serve the same function. This thought might not stand up to closer scrutiny, but the biggest part of the problem that faces the American car companies is not that they stuck with some brands that may be sold off or closed down. It’s that they expected them to all serve the same function, so that instead of surviving as a niche brand, they are dying off because they could never be as popular with most households as the middle models of Toyota, Honda, or Nissan, or anything comparable. Might it have made sense to keep Pontiac as something closer to a racing brand or something like that? Perhaps not, but it certainly didn’t make sense to deny reality and try to keep it afloat as a broad brand that most people would buy.
@cleek, what’s wrong with zippers?
I’m proud to say that for the 18th year in a row, I put the trickle charger on the Miata overnight, pushed it out of the garage to more easily check that mice hadn’t moved into the air filter during the winter, and she started right up. That car is built like a swiss watch.
No point A to point B in a Miata, I’m afraid. It turns like a house cat. I will happily burn an entire tank of gas on curvy side roads for nothing but an ice cream cone in Ithaca.
@Stella G: The Vibe will not go away. It’s a Toyota Matrix with new nameplates.
From ’64-’71, when gasoline was 49 cents a gallon for ethyl, Pontiac made some exciting cars. Recall that Car & Driver magazine pitted a Pontiac GTO against a Ferrari GTO on the track and then a Pontiac 2+2 (A big, full size sedan with God’s own 421 cu. inch tri-power V-8) against a Ferrari 2+2 on the same track. The Ferraris won, naturally, but the Pontiacs gave them at damned good race at about 1/20th the price.
That said, I won’t miss Pontiac either. The division lost its identity as GM homogenized away the differences between its marques and Pontiac became just another Chevy with a different nameplate. There are only forty exclusively-Pontiac dealers left in America so it was a logical decision to drop the brand.
Jeep: a friend of mine who is a Jeep junky (Has a genuine WWII model among others) told me that for, most Jeep buyers, the two best days in their lives are the day they pick up their new Jeep at the dealer and the day that they sell it to someone else.
Pontiac has had two exciting cars recently. Kind of.
First of all the GTO. Amazing car. 350 or 400 horse, decent mileage, comfortable and handles quite well for what it is. Doesn’t feel like an American car. Which would be because it’s a Holden. Yes, we have to go to the Australians for cars with a bit of design elegance and engineering acumen.
Which brings us to the Solstice. Not made by Australians. And it shows. Gorgeous car with fair performance ruined by an overly complicated top and a gearbox sourced from a truck. I just don’t see how GM ever thought a parts-bin car was going to successfully challenge the overly engineered and largely bespoke Miatas and S2000s of the world.
Speaking of fun, you don’t get much cheaper pure car thrills than a Miata will give you. Buy a 15 year old one for $3k or so and have a ball. They’ll give you 200k miles and they’re dirt cheap to maintain (in large part because Mazda didn’t fall for the huge wheels fad until the most recent version).
Good riddance to Pontiac. Their glory days are long past. Wife had a grand am – crap. Mo in law has a grand prix – crap. bro in law has a ’79 Trans Am – SWEET!
As for Jeep, I had a 2005 Liberty as a company vehicle. If you don’t mind a vehicle that gets unbelieveably crappy mileage, has no cargo or passenger room, is loud going down the road, rides like a tank, and doesn’t accellerate, brake, or turn well, and is flat out dangerous on slippery roads, you’ll love the Jeep.
But it’s great once you’re in the ditch.
Yeah, since about 1972, Pontiac has stood for WTF! and very little else. Think about those mid-90s Pontiacs, which were mostly Chevrolets with angrier noses and 900 pounds of plastic cladding all over the sides. And exhaust notes that sounded like riding lawn mowers.
The recent GTO (Frank Lutz’s brainchild) was just sad. Yes, it was (is) a hell of a car. But it was also:
A) boring to look at
B) from Australia
C) Expensive as hell
Maybe, in 1964, a couple of those things were also true about the original GTO. But the fact that GM couldn’t make a rear-wheel-drive fun machine in the USA speaks volumes about why the company is in the shitter.
Too much concern expressed here over the demise of the Pontiac brand, too little concern expressed over the job losses. But from a company standpoint, GM made the right decision. I thought they’d do something stupid like eliminate Buick. Buick’s a moneymaker, particularly overseas.
Yes. One Pontiac breaks down, therefore they’re all bad cars. The timing belt broke on my ’96 Monte Carlo at 50,000 miles; didn’t stop me from buying a Chevy HHR in ’07. I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard some nitwit say, “I had a (fill-in-the-blank) once. Broke down on me. I’ll never buy another one!” My old man felt that way about every brand except Nissan. He started buying Datsun pickups in 1971, owned two of them, and then had two Nissan trucks. I inherited his last pickup when he died in February — a ’95 Hardbody with 81,000 original miles. Great little truck.
I bought a Mini Cooper a few years back, and when a friend gave me a copy of the Official Mini Book, I was shocked to discover that its 1.6L powerplant (tweaked versions of which will produce 200+ hp) had actually been a Chrysler design – which, typically. they had developed, but couldn’t figure out what kind of small car to put it in, so dropped it until Mini came along. Typical Chrysler planning, I guess: my only question is why are we trying to saddle Fiat with the corporation’s decaying carcass? Did Berlusconi bend over and fart at Obama at the G20 meeting, or something?
The one reliable thing about a jeep is that it will eventually make you walk down a lonesome highway looking for a wrecker.
Our 15 year old Miata is just like the one mentioned above. It runs perfectly and has cost us very little. Compare the latest Miata to the Solstice and feel the weight of the American automotive failure. Luckily Ford never thought enough of the Miata to screw it up.
I remember fondly riding in the back of our family car – it was a big blue pontiac. I can’t remember the model year or the make (early 70’s) but I do remember that the whole family loved that car.
When we finally sold the Pontiac we bought an 82 Buick Century. That was the car that made my dad switch to Honda.
I love it that the Miata comes in for a favorable mention after a post with a Jeep reference. I’ve always thought that the Wrangler was the Miata of the truck world. Neither one is a best on paper proposition, but get behind the wheel on a good road/muddy field and it’s all smiles.
As to the cars as appliances claim…Toyota and GM specialize in boring, underdeveloped cars for people with those tastes. You should realize however, that other companies make comparable products that simply do not suck to drive, and they don’t cost extra.
I’ll always have fond memories of the 1984 Pontiac 6000 LE which served as my first car, especially the time the engine blew out when I was on the interstate, and the other time that the suspension went out and it cut a hole in the tire. Limited edition, my ass.
Yeah, civilian Jeeps started off with Willys in 1941…
A while back some of the local public television stations ran a documentary called “Jeep: Steel Soldier.” One little tidbit (confirmed by a Jeep History site):
Funny how a purpose-built vehicle specified by the federal government continued to be useful and popular after World War II. Jeep, unlike Pontiacs, very likely will go on.
@Ted: My Chevy celebrity didn’t suck to drive. I really liked it.
Right now I have a Subaru Outback Legacy that seems to ride well enough.
I guess I am just easy to please. Or maybe after deuce and halfs and m1’s, everything is a smooth ride.
For work I’ve rented several cars this year. A couple of times I got a Pontiac G6 and was pleasantly surprised by its comfort, handling and horsepower. I drove a Dodge Caliber in between a couple of G6 rentals and it was like driving a go-cart, which is an insult to the go-cart. Since it wasn’t my car or my gas, the G6 was a fun car to drive.
Ivan Ivanovich Renko
If lacrosse worked for Jim Brown, then li’l Johnny Cole could play, too.
Also, too– I have a 99 Jeep Cherokee. Small on the inside, loud, rides like a frickin’ Consetoga wagon, and absolutely dead-nutz reliable. Easy as hell to work on, too. Fuel economy? If I can arrrange to go downhill with the wind at my back I’ll get 19 MPGs. And yet– I love the damn thing. I plan to drive it ’til it dies; and from what I hear from other Cherokee owners/former owners, that’ll be a long time coming.
I went back and forth between a Subaru Impreza and a Pontiac Vibe when I got a new car a few years back, and I ended up going with the Vibe GT, simply because of the engine (180hp turbo 4-banger that gets 38hwy) and the fact that it is a mirror of the Toyota Matrix. Sad to see the company die, but Toyota was making my 90% of my model for the most part and putting a Pontiac emblem on it, so I’m not too concerned as far as parts or upkeep.
The husband has a 5-speed Vibe and loves it. Good gas mileage and no design issues. I hate driving the thing because the clutch seems soft and I find the stickshift awkward. Personally I haven’t owned a American car since my old International Scout in college — I loved that car.
I’ve got a 5-speed diesal VW Golf, which has 250,000 miles on it and seems indestructible — which is good because VW service is crap and you can’t find anyone to work on them. It does get about 42 mpg if you drive smart, and since all I seem to do anymore is haul kids around from dawn till dusk, that’s what I’m looking for.
I agree that Jeep probably isn’t going anywhere. Somebody’ll want the brand and hopefully engineer backwards to undo the damage to the design.
@Ted, the thing for me that makes the miata really work, is that it’s designed for someone between the height of 5’5″ and 5’9″ (the 1990-1994 model run anyway). American cars as designed to fit a handful of high level executives who get final say on the interior, and as far as I can tell they are all 6′ and over. To someone 5′ 7″ an American car makes you feel like you are rattling around behind the wheel and the car has a mind of its own and you hope to give it suggestions, at best.
I don’t so much feel like I get into a miata, as put it on like a suit, gundam style. Not to go all weird, but the line between human intent and car reaction get really blurred for me when I’m behind the wheel. That doesn’t happen in any other car.
@Stella G: Pontiac Vibe is actually a rebadged Toyota Matrix, so it does (and will) live on.
Edited – Darkness beat me to it above.
When it comes to cars there are two kinds of people in this world. People like me and Joe from Lowell, and the type who fall in love with cars.
To me a car is simply an A to B device. Our son won’t even remove the plastic on the carpeting that comes in a new car. One day after watching him spend an entire day off washing and cleaning his car, I went to get into my mud covered car [we live on a gravel road in clay country} and he said he would wash it for me if I wished. I said why, it’ll rain soon enough. The horrified expression on his face clearly exhibited the vast difference in our views on the subject. Thinks his car will get him girlfreinds. I told him he’d probably have better luck if he went where the girls were on his dayoff rather than worry about that spot under his seat.
@REN: There is a third kind of person. I don’t give a crap what the exterior, or even the interior of the car look like (unless I have to cart around someone important). But the mechanicals have to be perfect. It should hum. Turning the key should breathe life into it. It should be an extension of your will.
That ad where the woman says, “the question is, does it return the favor?” nearly sends me into orgasm.
But the car could resemble a beater, as far as I’m concerned.
If you are satisfied with a car resembling a beater, you are in the first group. All car owners want from their vehicle what you want.
The Other Steve
A car won’t get you girls.
But a car that is fun to drive brings pleasure every day of the week.
The key to a great car is a 5-speed stick shift, something Americans don’t seem to understand.
@REN, John denies he does in the opening to the thread. I read his point A to point B comment to mean he did not experience any machine induced transcendence on the way from A to B. Nor would he ever go from A to A just for a quick religious experience.
I’m also incredibly lazy. So that’s part of it too.
The key to a great car is a 5-speed stick shift, something Americans don’t seem to understand.
The rear wheel drive miata has that, plus a throw of about 3/4 of an inch. Once you get used to that, you can’t stand the cable driven kind required by front wheel drive. Better yet, 6 speeds. Why stop at 5?
The Other Steve
BTW, I’ve always wanted a Mazda Miata. Ever since they were first introduced.
If I had a 4 car garage, I’d have a Miata in addition to my BMW, and the 4th car bay would hold my Yammy Majesty and a BMW R1200RT I have yet to buy.
But I’d need the house first. :-)
My Vibe GT has 6-speeds, though even after 2 years, I still kill the thing in first gear a lot because of the gear ratio. That said, the little thing is a beast, and I could beat Mustangs and Chargers off the line.
@freelancer: gear ratio can take some getting used to. I once rented a Twingo in France (it’s like the name is satirical, honestly). Great car in paris, because you needed piles of low end torque to avoid getting smashed into, but the car would chug and threaten to stall if you put it into 5th below 110km/hour. So it was 1-4 all below 50km/hour, which gave you perfect city acceleration and then you ran 4th up till the engine was screaming before slipping it into 5th, then you had to hope there were no hills ahead of you.
The Other Steve, as pointed out above, you can get a perfectly serviceable one for 3-4 grand, and they made a lot of them, so there will be one waiting for you when the time comes, I’m sure.
@The Other Steve:
I’d still rather have the girls.
With the death of GMs bankability and GM on the whole it will be up to Ford and Chrysler to try to recoup those job losses and profits, but the credibility of the boatshit brands is now nonexistent. Detroit is a dead failure ensured dead by Obama and his Task Force to Kill America and their oil terrorist leaders. Now all there is left is civil war, eviction and execution. Yes we can. Yes we will.
Drive a BMW. Fun to drive is what they build.
Upthread was asked a very good question:
The matchup actually makes a lot of sense. Chrysler makes good trucks, has the Hemi engine, still sells a metric ass-ton of vans, and owns Jeep (the new Grand Cherokee is the old Mercedes M-Class, one of the products of the Daimler merger). Chrysler also has essentially zero presence in Yurp. Fiat, on the other hand, makes great small cars and has zero presence here. Combine them, and Fiat gets Chrysler’s dealership network while Chrysler gets small cars that suck less than the Caliber. The Fiat 500 is kicking ass in Europe now, and could be a serious competitor for the Honda Fit/Toyota Yaris/Ford Fiesta, especially if gas goes back above $3/gallon.
But the devil is in the details.
Not into cars?!
According to RedState:
You couldn’t invent something this stupid if you had your brain replaced with a turnip.
Wile E. Quixote
Whaddya mean? The M-1 has a great ride if you’re in the driver’s seat. OK, it sucks in any other position, but that driver’s seat is the shit! Oh, and as rough as the M-1’s ride can be it’s silky smooth compared to an M-60. Darn kids with your turbine powered Jedi tanks!
I’ve always thought that the Wrangler was the Miata of the truck world.
Enzo Ferrari once remarked that the Jeep was America’s only true sportscar. Yea, he was being an ass (and setting himself up for some GT40 comeuppance) but there’s definitely a point there.
@Comrade Darkness: I’m 6′ 2″ and fit in my 94 M-Edition quite well. Even with the hardtop on it. Tight but snug. Oddly however, I do not fit in an RX-8 (especially if it has a sunroof). I never had a problem with my RX-7s. I could wear a helmet in my FCs with the seat at the regular angle. The FD required a bit of gangster lean with a helmet, but was still better than the 8.
And man, if you like the “wear a car” feel of the Miata you HAVE to try a Lotus Elise sometime.
Sorry, Miata not Jeep.
The Jeep CJ series, which is now the Wrangler, is a unique and wonderful toy. Drove a CJ-5 for years, loved (and sometimes hated) the thing.
Top off, windshield down, and moving along slowly in the outback …. just like riding a magic carpet. One of the greatest vehicles ever invented.
Lousy street car, dangerous sports car. A dream if you are off road. It is frame-and rail, so that it can take a pounding, but unlike most frame and rail vehicles, has an absolutely rigid boxed body, strong like bull, twist and rattle free.
I really think this is just a personality thing, because trust me, I have driven really nice cars. One of my favorite cars recently was my buddies Audi S4, which was just an amazing car. I love the handling and the acceleration and the cornering, and I had a great time doing 120 on the road to Pittsburgh and feeling like there was way more room to go faster.
And sure, I liketo take the side roads when running errands on a nice day and listen to Little Feat and enjoy it.
But overall, I’m just not that into driving. Every minute I am in a car means a minute I’m not reading or doing something I want to do.
We were in New York, waiting for a cab outside Madison Square Garden, and some guy driving a pedal-cab kept trying to tempt people out of the cab-stand line into his vehicle by asking why we were waiting so long for a “gas-guzzling metal box.”
Since I’m with you – not much into cars, a car is to get you someplace – ever since that day, I refer to cars only as “gas-guzzling metal boxes.”
@Sarcastro: And man, if you like the “wear a car” feel of the Miata you HAVE to try a Lotus Elise sometime.
Hm…. That may need to go on my wish list of “rent and drive on the autobahn when I feel like splurging”.
Wile E. Quixote
Then of course there’s this classic bit of advice by P.J. O’Rourke on what’s the best car to buy.
From the classic How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink
Hm, shouldn’t the title of this post be “Giga-waabamin naagaj, Pontiac”?
My Jeep is a complete piece of crap.
I freaking love it.
I’ve had a Pontiac Vibe GT for 5 years that I bought new and just bought last month a Pontiac G8 GXP. I like both the cars a lot. Neither one is boring….
Rented a Pontiac G6 last year. Great car.