General Motors ( GM)apparently decided to abandon the Pontiac brand and the media is filled with nostalgic obituaries about the once-iconic maker of the Trans Am and GTO. There's a place for nostalgia, but not in business. One of the reasons GM is in this mess is because it lived in hope that its many brands would some day reclaim their lost glory. This is just another form of deluded denial at a company that has been clinging to the past for too long. When brands have been neglected for as long as Pontiac, a terminal sickness sets in. That knocking sound in the engine of your old Pontiac is a death rattle. New GM CEO Fritz Henderson is doing what should have been done a long time ago - putting Pontiac out of its misery. There will no doubt be some Pontiac enthusiasts who will get angry and form a global Save Pontiac campaign as if an endangered species had suddenly been discovered. Those folks should join forces with the Save the Dinosaurs campaign. They'll have a lot in common. Sorry, but it's too late. GM needs to move on. And Pontiac shouldn't be the last brand to go. Is there a future for Saturn? Sadly, I don't think so. This was the brand that was going to reinvent the auto industry with its customer-focused sales mantra and the no-haggle pricing. In the end, it became another showcase for crappy cars. And Hummer? Is there seriously any question about whether the world needs more gas-guzzling, oversized, ego-powered Hummers?
I don't get Buick either. It's got the musty odor of an Oldsmobile -- which GM had the good sense to shutter a while back -- but lately Buick's been taking on a kind of Pontiac quality with an artificially induced pizzazz. Too little, too late, if you ask me. Don't even get me started on GMC. Less is more for GM. How about just two clearly defined brands: Chevrolet for the mass market and Cadillac for the luxury market. That's the simple formula that worked so well for Toyota ( TM) and Honda ( HMC). Even Ford ( F) has a much simpler lineup. A drastic streamlining of brands just might work for GM, which is why it won't happen. The unions will fight it, the dealers will fight it. Everyone will fight change until there's nothing left to change. That seems to be the course GM is on. The company talks about urgency as it seeks to stave off bankruptcy, but the reality is that GM is stuck in the wrong gear. It's time to shift.