2009 Pontiac G8Enlarge Photo
So, Pontiac is dead. GM pulled the plug this morning and vehicles will stop hitting showrooms by 2010.
It's no mystery why it failed. Pontiac's struggled for an image since it transformed itself from a Grandma car in the 1950s to an enthusiast's dream in the Sixties with the introduction of the GTO. From then on, it lost its way as GM tried to graft on mass-market cars around the likes of the GTO, the Firebird, the Fiero and the Solstice. Adding trucks and minivans didn't work; neither did a last-ditch attempt to turn Pontiac into a Scion clone.
GM tried in vain to make Pontiac relevant, and in truth, it might have been on the cusp of greatness with the 2009 G8 sedan. But for every great performance vehicle--G8 or GTO or Solstice--there were unforgivable concessions to dealers like these five vehicles that eventually killed Pontiac:
2002 Pontiac AztekEnlarge Photo
Pontiac Aztek: Take a minivan, wrap it in ungainly sheetmetal meant to turn it into a sporty crossover and give it a funky-spelling name. The Aztek was a disaster from the get-go, though some GM generals were adamant that the Aztek was at least as good as the Honda Element. In its best year, the Aztek moved about 20,000 copies and dented the brand even more than the Cavalier-based Sunfire, which in retrospect was one of Pontiac's recent successes.
2004 Pontiac Montana 4dr Reg WB exterior front upper leftEnlarge Photo
Pontiac Montana SV6/TranSport: Here's the platform that spawned the Aztek. The notion of a more sporty minivan was pretty questionable: Chrysler never did one for Dodge, but GM plowed ahead with the TranSport, the original space-shuttle-style minivan clad with plastic body parts. Over the years, GM's Doraville plant cranked out succeeding versions that either got Western-themed names like Montana, or alphanumerics like SV6, or both, finally caving into real sheetmetal when the minivan world had moved on to Toyota's Sienna and Honda's Odyssey. From soup to nuts, the idea was less than half-baked, and families turned elsewhere in droves.
2009 Pontiac G3Enlarge Photo
Pontiac G3: Near the end, GM decided that a rebadged Chevrolet Aveo five-door would be the ideal sop to dealers, who saw Pontiac sales shear in half in the 2000s. Canada got it first--but GM didn't get that the G3 wasn't going to spark a Scion-style party in Pontiac's U.S. showrooms. The arrival of the G3 sounded like the thud a heart-attack victim makes when they hit the floor.
2009 Pontiac TorrentEnlarge Photo
Pontiac Torrent: Maybe the most acceptable of the misguided Pontiac efforts at fielding a family vehicle, the Torrent was based on the roomy Chevrolet Equinox and offered a potent V-6 option for the 2009 model year. The problem? The Equinox itself was in need of replacement. It gets replaced for 2010, but the Torrent will be trapped in time as the brand's last-ditch effort to generate sales volume.
2010 Pontiac G8 STEnlarge Photo
Pontiac G8 ST: The Pontiac G8 sedan--especially in GXP form--is one of the best rear-drive sedans you can buy. Making it into a "ute" pickup might work for Australia, but for America? A Pontiac pickup? Really? Our dubious pen was working overtime when GM confirmed it last year at the Chicago auto show, and was unsurprised when it was axed earlier this year. You might be able to drive one down under, but the ST checks in with history, never having sold a single copy.