Pontiac G8:

2009 Hyundai Genesis: Does Upmarket Work Here?

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As you may have gathered when we covered this car’s concept (click here) and then production (click here) introductions, Hyundai has just begun offering their U.S. rear-wheel-drive sedan with their first in-house-developed V8 under the hood. Just as the first cars were arriving at dealerships, the company invited media out for a spin, including some track time at Buttonwillow Raceway Park and the chance to drag race Genesis against a V8 BMW 7-Series.

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Supporting the Genesis launch, which has the mission of improving Hyundai’s overall image as much as it does of selling strongly, is an $80 million dollar budget that includes everything from the SuperBowl ads in January (click here), to national customer experience events in Discover Genesis, to training 6250 dealer personnel, to a website, to traditional and non-traditional advertising campaigns. Hyundai is serious about this car and its ability to prove that the accolades and increased placement in more recent third-party awards from the likes of AutoPacific and JD Powers is deserved and repeatable.
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New York Auto Show 2008 – 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe

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It’s All About the Look
Pontiac introduced a hardtop version of the extroverted Solstice at this year’s New York auto show, along with the G8 GXP and G8 ST. As cool as it looks, don’t rush to the dealer. Your Solstice coupe won’t be there until early 2009.

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The Solstice coupe looks great. With the same engines and suspension setup as the roadster, you can bet it’ll be just as fun on the road. But Pontiac built in compromises with a lift-off roof panel, liftglass (versus tailgate), and useless but nicely styled rear quarter windows. Yes, small coupes always offer less interior and cargo space and poor visibility compared with sedans and SUVs. Small, sporty coupes (or convertibles) are always compromised. But the compromises don’t need to be this obvious.
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New York Auto Show 2008: 2010 Pontiac G8 Sport Truck

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Two Doors and a Bed: Are We Ready for an El Camino Revival?
Pontiac is GM’s star at the 2008 New York Auto Show, introducing two new takes on just-launched G8 sedan. As well as a hotter GXP sedan for 2009MY, late in 2009 there will be a G8 Sport Truck.

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Despite knowing quite a few people who profess their admiration for the old El Camino, the coupe-meets-truck thing never did much for me. A very unscientific show-floor poll found several people who thought the G8 ST looked cool, but didn’t think they really wanted one for themselves. This does not bode well for the G8 ST’s general acceptance. But Pontiac sees a market and has an inexpensive way to meet it, so meet it they will. The 2010 G8 Sport Truck gives Pontiac something no one else has and a truck that sort of fits with a sport-oriented lineup. They may not sell many, but as an image car it just might work in some circles.
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Described by the marketers as “segment-bending,” the G8 ST is a version of Holden’s coupe-with-a-bed Ute. The G8 ST will offer strong performance, interesting looks, and give most buyers enough truckability with carlike fuel economy. Not to mention not seeing one on every corner can make it that much more interesting when you do. This isn’t a product GM would be wise to share among their many U.S. brands, and it is different enough from the GMC Denali XT shown at 2008 Chicago show that those two could co-exist, assuming the GMC reaches production.
Pontiac is asking consumers to name the car, which can help build excitement as well gauge real interest. Cast your vote at www.pontiac.com/namethiscar; the winning entry is being announced April 15.
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This truck will take 6.0L V8 of the sedan, the GT’s upgraded braking system, and all of its convenience and safety features. As you might guess, it carries distinct sheetmetal, including doors, roof, and everything behind the B-pillar. It shares the sedan’s rear-drive architecture, beefed up in key areas to allow for its expanded cargo and towing capacity. The truck is also longer than the sedan, almost all of the extra length between the axles.
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Pontiac promises a zero-to-sixty time of 5.4 seconds, with 1074 payload and 3500-pound towing capacities, enough to tow a couple of jet skis, motorcycles, or a small boat. (The G8 sedan is only capable of towing 2000 pounds.) Though not my flavor, I can its appeal among the single, young, and nomadic.
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New York Auto Show 2008: 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP

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402HP and Six-Speed Manual. Sign Me Up.
Pontiac has a new flagship sedan in the Australian-built G8 sedan, which we drove recently (read review). The line is already in expansion mode, with upcoming versions introduced at the 2008 New York Auto Show. The more traditional of the two additive models is the 2009 GXP.

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Putting fuel-cost concerns aside, I find the GXP more interesting. Given the tight chassis and sound handling of the G8s we’ve already driving, the GXP promises to be a real treat. The GXP, which is set for launch later in 2008 as a 2009MY product, takes GM’s 6.2L LS3 V8 to give the range a 402HP entry and an optional all-new Tremec six-speed manual transmission, though the GXP comes standard with the six-speed autobox.
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Along with the extra power, the GXP’s nose takes a lower splitter and the rear gets a rear fascia diffuser. Inside, it gets more standard equipment, including two-tone leather seats, XM radio, an uplevel Blaupunkt audio system, power front seats, leather-trimmed steering wheel, and alloy sport pedals. The GXP also makes XM satellite radio standard, and expect that feature to join the options list for the rest of the 2009 G8 range.
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2008 Pontiac G8: Style and Substance

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As you’ve no doubt heard, the Pontiac G8 is but one example of GM’s growing global strategy, built in Australia by GM’s Holden division. Only fully approved in November 2006, production began in November 2007 and the first cars landed on U.S. shores and were being shipped to dealers this week. After seeing the car’s introduction at the 2007 Chicago auto show, we were thrilled to get a chance behind the wheel.

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One of Pontiac’s successes with this project we heard before we even got behind the wheel: The base price is only $27,595; moving to the G8 GT and its V8 engine means you have to shell out $29,995. Fully optioned, the car is less than $33,000. These prices make the G8 an exceptional deal, coming in with a lower MSRP its closest competitor, the Dodge Charger SXT and R/T.
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Don’t let this lineup fool you, Pontiac does offer the G8 in colors other than black or red.

We started the driving day with base G8 and its 256HP 3.6L V6 and five-speed automatic transmission. The V6 gives you usable power, whether merging onto the highway or passing an aged pickup truck on some California two-lane. It is responsive and strong, though a heavy right foot was sometimes necessary to keep the pressure on. The five-speed holds gears to high rpm under heavy throttle, enabling access to all 256HP when you want it, even in Drive. But both versions offer a sport shift. Manumatics aren’t my cup of tea, but GM calibrated these to allow driver-controlled upshifts all the way to redline. Whether five gears of the G8 or six of the G8 GT, the transmissions allow you to pull all you can out of both very willing engines. Along with enough power for entertaining driving, the V6 delivers satisfying exhaust and engine notes.
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GMC Denali XT: Redefining a GMC Truck?

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At this year’s 2008 Chicago Auto Show, GMC is showing off a dramatic new four-door pickup concept. What’s interesting about this truck is not its four doors, or even its hybrid powertrain, which is GM’s two-mode system made E85 capable for the first time and uses a new direct-injection small-block 4.9L V8. What’s interesting is that it sits on a platform related to the upcoming Pontiac G8 and Chevrolet Camaro. As a design study for future GMC products, this truck is a home run.

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That’s right, this is a rear-drive unitbody car platform, developed primarily by Holden in Australia (in fact Holden lead the design and construction of the Denali XT). Down Under, Holden has been selling, with terrific success, four-door Crewman and two-door Ute trucks for years. In today’s climate and increased pressure to build vehicles delivering better fuel economy, lower emissions, and power, GM is exploring unitbody trucks for the States. (Act II is expected to be a two-door Pontiac G8 ST at the 2008 New York auto show; the Pontiac may already be approved for production.)
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GMC may find themselves with the right product concept at the right time here. Consumers who don’t really need the full towing and off-road capability of a traditional truck SUV are very happy with car-based versions. Despite the mixed response to the Honda Ridgeline, which is both expensive and less attractive than this Denali XT, the idea may apply to pickup trucks as well. Work-truck needs ensure unitbody pickups aren’t likely to take over the pickup market as thoroughly as they did the SUV market, but there may be room for a product such as this.
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2007 Chicago Auto Show: 2008 Pontiac G8

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Pontiac Joins the Rear-Wheel-Drive Revolution
In early 2008, Pontiac gets a new top-range entry with an aggressively styled, performance-oriented rear-drive large sedan. The G8 GT concept was introduced this week at the Chicago auto show to an eager crowd, and VehicleVoice contributors were on hand. Yeah, they called it a concept, but there is very little that will change between now and next year’s sales launch. As we walked the show after the introduction, the car was clearly a star. We heard people gushing, enthusiastic, and hungry for more information on the car. The car was continually surrounded.

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So why is G8 causing so much a stir? Because under the go-fast, I’ll-take-on-the-world looks is a platform and powertrain that really can help you get there. Unlike the short-lived GTO revival that had the goods but not the looks, the G8 has both. The rear-drive setup includes an independent rear suspension, promising solid handling, and the powertrain lineup includes a base V6 with about 261HP and an 362HP small-block 6.0L V8.
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The G8 will be Pontiac’s flagship, using the global RWD Architecture of the upcoming new-century Camaro. Initial production will be in Australia, where the car is sold as the Commodore SS. Eventually, GM would like to build it in the States, along with the Camaro. The G8 is a Holden Commodore with a Pontiac nose, effectively. Though the standard transmission is an automatic (five speeds for the V6 and six for the V8), a six-speed manual for the V8 will be added. (The concept held the manual, though that transmission will be a late launch.) And by using GM’s version of cylinder deactivation, Active Fuel Management, when the V8 takes the automatic, you’ll be able to get this V8 with as little fuel-cost hit as possible.
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Detroit News Article on Vehicle Naming

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VehicleVoice managing partner and AutoPacific president George Peterson contributed to this Detroit News article on vehicle naming. Much of the discussion at this week’s Chicago Auto Show is about name changes around the industry.
A moniker can make a car, but there’s no secret formula
February 9, 2007: Sharon Terlep / The Detroit News
Changing names:
• Ford changed the names of Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego to Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. It also renamed the Freestyle the Taurus X.
• incoln moved to an alphabetical system, Zephyr became MKZ.
• Dodge is replacing the Stratus sedan with the Avenger.
• GM’s Pontiac division is replacing the Grand Prix with the Pontiac G8.
CHICAGO — Cars of the future are supposed to take center stage at auto shows, but it was names from days past that generated some of the biggest buzz in the Windy City this week.
Ford Motor Co.’s decision to revive the Taurus name and give it to its slow-selling Five Hundred sedan, announced this week at the Chicago Auto Show, had journalists, analysts and executives alike critiquing the strategy and wondering whether it would become the latest trend.
It’s not an idle question. Naming vehicles is a major undertaking, with automakers spending millions to cultivate and market each new moniker. The brand equity of mainstays like Civic, Camry and Taurus is valued far beyond that of any high-priced advertising blitz.
And with the U.S. auto market crowded with vastly more models than even a decade ago, finding the right name is more difficult — and more vital — than ever.
“Naming is a big, big deal,” said George Peterson, president of consulting firm AutoPacific Inc., a Tustin, Calif market research and product consulting firm. “You can always argue with the names they use. But you can’t beat a good name.”
Detroit’s Big Three automakers have been criticized for their habit of trying to launch new names to revive tarnished brands rather than sticking with the names and improving the vehicles.
“Even if the car has kind of run its course and started to wane, you’re better off investing in marketing the current product than coming up with a brand new name,” said Karl Brauer, editor in chief of Edmunds.com, an online auto shopping site.
Bringing back an old name is a compromise of sorts, offering several benefits over creating new monikers, notably eliminating the need to spend a fortune trying to create brand awareness.
Ford is hardly alone in this back-to-the-future strategy.
DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group hauled out its old Avenger name this year for the vehicle replacing its Dodge Stratus sedan.
General Motors Corp.’s Chevrolet resurrected the Malibu name in the late 1990s and Impala in 2000.
The Chevy Camaro and Dodge Charger were gone, but the Charger is back and Camaro is coming.
The allure of old names is growing as some automakers discover that alpha-numeric titles favored by luxury brands don’t work for everybody.
Those almost code-like names are meant to build recognition for the brand rather than the vehicles. And it can work. The mega-success of the 300 sedan put Chrysler back in the spotlight. And Cadillac’s STS, CTS and SRX, helped remake the brand’s image from old and worn to edgy and cool.
Other attempts have been disastrous, however. Honda Motor Co.’s Acura lost an estimated $1.5 billion in sales by renaming its Legend sedan the RL, Peterson said. “The joke was that RL stood for Ruined Legend.”
Reviving old names can backfire, too. If a name is good enough to resurrect, the argument goes, it probably shouldn’t have been buried in the first place.
“You can bring back names from the past,” Brauer said, “but unless the product is good, it’s going to be a short-lived run.”
While many companies tinker with names, Ford’s high-profile financial problems coupled with the Taurus’ iconic status made its move a major attention-grabber. Many at the auto show probed other automakers for hints of similar moves:
• Will Pontiac’s G8 rear-wheel-drive sedan get the Grand Prix name? (No)
• Does Toyota regret going with the xA, xB, xD naming system for its Scion brand? (Not at all)
• What do the folks at Chrysler think about bringing back old names? (Won’t say)
GM product czar Bob Lutz was peppered with name-related questions after the unveiling of the G8 Thursday. Critics have said Pontiac’s letter-number theme drains some of the feeling from a brand meant to trigger an emotional response in drivers.
GM is sticking with the strategy. When asked about Ford’s decision, Lutz said he would not comment on “bringing back a name that was killed for good reason.”
Other Ford rivals declined to speak on the record, while making it clear they thought the idea was misguided.
Ford, however, could very well be vindicated. Most analysts say the Taurus revival makes sense and dealers love the idea. So do drivers who became fans of the Taurus when it redefined the family sedan in the 1980s.
More than 80 percent of consumers recognize Taurus as a Ford product, compared to about 9 percent for the Five Hundred, according to research by Art Spinella of CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore. “Ford did the right thing reviving the Taurus and Sable nameplates,” he wrote in a note about his study.
Just ask consumer Michael Wheatley of Bardstown, Ky.: “Smart move,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Very smart move.”


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Pontiac Gets Australian Holden Commodore as G8

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Three years ago, Jim Hall and I were in Adelaide, South Australia. We were actually on AutoPacific business and unfortunately it was in the middle of the American summer, which meant it was the middle of the Australian winter. Chilly. Anyway, that’s beside the point.
Good Iron Down Under – From Both General Motors/Holden and Ford
This brief trip down under confirmed what I knew academically from reading about Australian vehicles. They are really cool! Both Ford and General Motors have very competent rear wheel drive platforms in Australia that would do very well in the USA. A brief visit to the local Holden dealership had us both lusting after a Holden Commodore. And that was the previous generation Commodore. In July 2006, Holden launched the all new VE Commodore. More lust.

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GM tried to import the Holden Monaro as the Pontiac GTO. The car failed because it wasn’t flashy enough and didn’t have the necessary DNA to be a believable GTO. Great car to drive, not ugly, just not head-turning.
GM to Add Holden Commodore to Pontiac Lineup as G8
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Now, we may have chance to get the object of our desires. GM appears to be ready to announce that it will begin importing the Holden Commodore 4-door sedan as the Pontiac G8. This car would replace the front wheel drive Grand Prix and maybe reach upwards to fill the spot vacated by the front wheel drive Pontiac Bonneville. Rear wheel drive and powered by a V8 engine, the Commodore would cap a newly sporting Pontiac lineup. We can’t wait.
Ford to Use Australian Falcon as Basis for RWD V8 Sedans?
Across Detroit in Dearborn a similar strategy is hatching. Apparently, Ford is considering using the rear wheel drive V8-powered Australian Falcon as the basis for the “Mustang-based” Lincoln MKR. If Ford can find the resources, we may also see the Ford Interceptor concept car based on the Falcon platform.
Ah, those Australians!


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