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What Will Be Left of GM in 2012? Part I.

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
March 5, 2009

With the recent series of announcements by regarding the fact that the company has decided to significantly reduce the number of brands in its stable over the period of the next three years, it has become clear that there are a number of familiar automotive faces that will no longer be gracing North American roads past 2012. While most of the vehicles slated for obsolescence were never big sellers and may not be on the radar of the majority of buyers, some of these cars and trucks had built up an appreciable following of devoted buyers and enthusiasts. In fact , one of the brands that has been clearly marked for the dustbin of history, has seen a grassroots dealer movement emerge which may attempt to finance the purchase of the marque from GM in order to continue producing and servicing these cars.

In any case, last minute rescue or not, the number of automobiles to be thinned from the ranks of GM's current product lineup is substantial. To begin with, the most historically significant brand targeted by this cost-cutting initiative, , will be bled almost dry as it sees its entire group of domestic badge-engineered sedans, compact cars and SUVs whittled down to nothing. Deciding to throw their weight behind , General Motors will swing the axe on clones such as the and , as well as the . Bland styling and a lack of real performance options to help set them apart from their Chevy cousins have meant that sales of these vehicles never reach a significant percentage of their platform-mates. Gone too will be the imported and subcompact hatches, which borrowed their architecture from Korean and Japanese vehicles respectively. Once touted as the performance division of GM, Pontiac's promise of 'driving excitement' was quickly diluted in the 90's and the early 2000's thanks to a parade of minivans, ill-conceived SUV's like the and a misguided foray into the low end of the market in the form of barely-disguised Asian imports. What is interesting about the severe cull at Pontiac is that those vehicles scheduled to remain in the lineup in 2012 will focus exclusively on the high speed thrills that the brand used to represent. The , a well-received roadster also available in a very quick turbocharged GXP edition, will soldier on alongside the rear-wheel drive . This full-size sedan marks the second attempt by Pontiac to borrow some of the V8-powered magic that has been so popular in their Australian division, as the G8 shares a platform its Aussie cousin the . Two products makes for a very thin spread, and it will most likely spell the end of independent Pontiac dealerships. However, it does allow GM to position the brand in a boutique, high performance niche that could be integrated into the existing Chevrolet distribution network. This could turn Pontiac around and allow the once-proud badge to once again achieve relevance in the automotive market.

The outlook isn't nearly so rosy for the remaining vehicles affected by GM's cuts. Of the three brands that are to be eliminated completely by the General - , and - only the latter appears to be attractive enough to be saved by outside investors. Long the boogeyman of environmental groups across the world, as a component of a major North American automaker HUMMER's gas-guzzling, compact-crushing and anti-green image is an embarrassing reminder of the industry's recent gung-ho past. On the other hand, spun off as an independent manufacturer or a small cog in the portfolio of a much more diverse industrial conglomerate, HUMMER has the potential to attract far less negative attention to itself. and , for example, also produce vehicles with abysmal fuel economy but their small production numbers fail to draw the ire of the general public. There is a slim chance that by returning to the upscale off-road aura that the company held in the early 1990's, HUMMER might be able to ride things out under new ownership. Regardless of whether HUMMER is sold or quietly put out to pasture, it is unlikely that any vehicle other than the would survive past 2012, dooming the somewhat smaller and its pickup variant.

Continue to Part II of What Will Be Left of GM in 2012?


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