General Motors Company (formerly “Corporation”) today is a shadow of its former self. It sells fewer models through fewer brands since its bankruptcy in 2009. It is reconstructing itself and building itself into a competitive and profitable car company. That transformation appears to be going very well.
Over the years, however, General Motors has often tried to be a trailblazer (no pun intended) in new vehicle design and development. Many of these vehicles failed, but we believe GM deserves a tremendous amount of credit for trying where other companies did not have the creative thought or resources to make a “segment breaking” product. Here are some examples…
Are we nearing the end of Chrysler? Or the beginning of a new blended family? Or just another day at the rumor mill?
Late on Friday, the first stories began appearing about GM and Chrysler in possible merger talks. And at least in Detroit, dominated the weekend news cycle. GM’s stock went up this morning, but given that the Dow was up 5.6% and GM went up only about 3%, the stock bump might have happened without merger talk. GM closed on Friday at $4.89, a number some say is actually less than the company would be worth in capital assets alone.
All of this merger talk, whether these deals are realistic or not, does nothing good for public perception. The economy is weak, last week’s events on the stock market don’t reassure anyone, and talking about GM and Chrysler perhaps needing to merge to survive only further erodes confidence in American business. While GM and Chrysler LLC, as well as any other maker in trouble right now, needs to consider even unthinkable options and test our common assumptions as they get out of this trouble, this merger does not inspire hope.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pontiac‘s Vibe Slam event was webcast at www.pontiacunderground.com, introducing the 2009 Pontiac Vibe to the media and a Pontiac fan base all at the same time. Pontiac chose Detroit-area artists, vocalists, and poets to help, showcasing talent that they felt personified Pontiac energy and style. Before we heard from the marketing, design, engineering, and development guys, three vocalists dramatized the distinct personalities of three Vibe models (base, AWD, and GT). Each described their lifestyle in automotive terms tailored toward each Vibe model (Vibe, Vibe AWD, and Vibe GT).
Despite talented performers with smart and clever lines, the event’s vibe didn’t drive the excitement Pontiac was looking for in the sparse live audience, most of whom might have been a little past the target age bracket. The point of these presentations is showing off the image, improvements, and benefits of a new car, but this one tried too hard.
Poets aside, Pontiac brings an evolutionary Vibe to its showrooms next spring. The Vibe is versatile, the right size for many, and has the attributes to fill the image Pontiac wants. The AWD model is set to evoke an SUV look while the GT addresses those looking for a speed-racer mindset with manual transmission, bodykit, and rear spoiler. The base car looks competent but not cheap. But buyers are always the ones who determine the cool factor, and we were fed adjectives over information. (Click to see the presentation
yourself, or for a short YouTube interview
with the three vocalists.)
Which cars and trucks are planted to the dealer’s floor? In other words, which vehicles take the longest to sell? Who cars? Why does it matter, anyway?
Well, while it may not seem that important to you, it’s critically important to the industry s a whole… from the manufacturese, component suppliers, dealers and quite a few financial institutions. First, if you know the time it takes to sell a vehicle, you know how much it is dragging on the dealer’s floorplanning costs. Floorplanning is the term for the amount it costs the dealer to finance the a vehicle in inventory waiting to be sold. If a vehicle has been hanging around for weeks, he’ll be more likely to deal aggressively to get rid of it. Also, vehicles that have high days supply may be less popular. From that perspective, they may be the ones you want to stay away from.
2006 New York Show Concept Draws from Previous SEMA Concepts
Back in 2004, Pontiac launched the GXP performance badge, planned for use across the range. For 2004 and 2005 model years, Pontiac offered the Bonneville GXP with a 275HP 4.6L Northstar V8. Then they shoehorned a 5.3L V8 into the Grand Prix GXP, for a 303HP stealth sedan. The Solstice GXP is next at dealers, offering a breathed-on 260HP four-cylinder.
Pontiac has been testing the waters of acceptance for a GXP variant of its volume G6 line with concepts at the annual SEMA show, culminating in the 2006 New York auto show G6 GXP coupe concept. (SEMA = Specialty Equipment Market Association.) The company has not yet confirmed production, but is testing the waters of public acceptance again with a concept at the 2006 New York auto show. Seeing the GXP in Pontiac showrooms for 2007 model year would not surprise AutoPacific or VehicleVoice contributors.