Pontiac Leaves GM Void

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- The Pontiac brand may be going away, but General Motors is hoping its customer base won't.

By the end of 2010, GM will have shut down Pontiac, while hoping to retain the 83-year-old brand's domestic market share, which was 2% in the first half of 2009.

Other than GM, "Nobody's going to miss Pontiac," says industry analyst James Harbour, founder of the Harbour Report and recently author of the autobiography Factory Man.

"There was nothing unique about it, "Harbor says. "It competed with Saturn, Chevrolet, and the low end of the Buick line, and all the cars it had were derivative off a Chevrolet base."

Adds Jesse Toprak, market analyst for Edmunds.com: "Pontiac was GM's performance-, sports-oriented brand, but it was never compelling enough, never good enough. For the most part, it was just a redundant brand. It had some exciting products that would come up and create buzz, but then they would go away.
A Look Back at Pontiac

"GM can do the math," Toprak said. "They decided they would be better off without it."

GM's plan, well-known by now, is to support four core brands -- Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC -- and 34 nameplates, down from 48 today. Slimming down narrows the cost and focus for development, manufacturing and marketing.

Most experts see that as the sort of strategy GM should have adopted years ago, on the theory that a company with 20% of the market ought not to seek to operate as it did in 1962, when it had 51% of the market. GM had become so ossified that the government had to intervene to enforce this line of thought.

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