On this day, April 27, 2009, General Motors announced that it would wind down the Pontiac brand as a part of the company’s restructuring following the housing and banking collapse of 2007–08. Many of the Pontiac faithful, including some members of the Hagerty editorial staff, are ardent fans of the brand and were sorry to see it go.
Today, Pontiac keeps company with Plymouth, Oldsmobile, and Mercury in the pantheon of dead brands that had fantastic muscle cars (and also a long relationship with boring badge jobs and complacent mediocrity). As gearheads, we mourn the loss of those brands as well, but Pontiac’s death still stings. Why? Pontiac was showing signs of a resurgence right when GM pulled the plug. Solstice and G8, especially the GXP variants, were finally living up to the “driving excitement” promised by Pontiac years before as GM was building better cars overall, putting the image of early 2000s Pontiacs and plastic cladding behind it.
Today, performance cars from Cadillac and Chevrolet are nothing short of amazing, so it’s hard not to imagine what Pontiac would have been like if it had been allowed to weather GM’s restructuring. The argument could be made that there’s nothing that Pontiac could build that couldn’t also be sold with a bowtie on the grille, and Chevrolet did just that by picking up where the Pontiac G8 left off—it imported the SS sedan from Holden in Australia (briefly). The enthusiast in all of us has got to wonder what more could have been.
It’s not difficult to fantasize a lineup filled with rear-wheel-drive cars from compact to full-size: a Fiero using the Sonic or Cruze’s front-wheel-drive, turbo-four drivetrain mounted amidship, an Alpha-based GTO with more exciting style than the last one we got as a Holden hand-me-down, and a full-size Bonneville sedan to take on the Charger, with a Safari wagon to add some utility.
Of course, the current trend in the North American market is showing a move away from sedans towards more crossovers. Pontiac’s notorious Aztek had its loyal fans, but if Pontiac were still on the market it would no doubt have some sort of crossover to fill that popular segment. It seemed like such an oddity to have a brand known for its fun and exciting cars churn out a crossover, but it seems to be working for Porsche, BMW, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, and even Lamborghini.
Before we pour some out for Pontiac, we’ll turn things over to you now: If Pontiac showrooms still existed, what model would you most like to see? What powertrains would it use, and how would it stack up to the competition?