For the past two days, you saw my personal top nine reasons why Pontiac failed, and it all leads up to the number one reason, revealed today. I have also included a response from my original article with a totally different list. So, what do you think my top reason for Pontiac’s death is?
1–The Pontiac Aztek
The Aztek is arguably the number one reason for the failure of the Pontiac brand. Like the original Trans Sport concept, the Aztek concept was actually pretty radical and would have fit into the Pontiac stable quite nicely. Unfortunately, after the production engineers and the cost accountants had their say in cutting the budget, the end product was one of the most horrendous products ever to be put on sale.
When conceived as a concept, the planning engineers and stylists were visionary. They saw a market for a car-based SUV, available with all-wheel-drive, flexible seating, and plenty of cargo room, but with a car-like ride and fuel economy. The basic concept was quite sound with vehicles like the Highlander, Murano, and Edge taking pages from this playbook, but the execution was anything but a success. The vehicle was based on the GM minivan platform, the Montana to be precise, with an uncompetitive 3.4-liter V6 and a four-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive system was to be an electronic one–mounted within its own aluminum subframe–and never really worked as advertised. The body was covered in every Pontiac styling cliché, from an overabundance of cladding to the split grill with an over-styled spoiler at the rear. The interior, equally over-styled, actually incorporated a couple of good ideas including a drink cooler as a part of the console and an available tent that could be used for camping.
However, the product development process and the marketing of the Pontiac Aztek will be used in business schools for decades to come. It’s a lesson in how to dilute a once-proud brand into one that has outlived its usefulness. Instead of remembering Pontiac as the car company that produced the sleek Trans Am, the muscular GTO, the popular Grand Prix, or even the innovative little Fiero, it will be forever associated with the horrible Aztek which to many people has become the definition of hideous.
Since I ran this piece a little over 10 months ago, there have been some interesting commentary from fellow enthusiasts, and I would like to share one here. The response was from a guy who calls himself Speedzzter, and he would like to think he had the real top 10 reasons why Pontiac died. Without going into detail, they were:
10. GM Politics
9. Performance Malaise
8. Design Malaise
7. Leaving NASCAR
6. The GM Racing Ban (after 1963)
5. Three decades without a GTO
4. The slow death of the Firebird
3. Front wheel drive
2. The Iron Duke 4 Cylinder
1. Death of the real Pontiac V8
If you want details, look at my original article, but now it’s time for all of you to comment. What really was the reason for Pontiac’s demise? I have my opinions, now lets see yours.