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Pontiac to Pull the Plug on the GTO

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Pontiac GTO
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Pontiac to Pull the Plug on the GTO

Bill Crittenden
March 3, 2006

Maybe Pontiac didn't capture the look and feel of the original, but they certainly captured the spirit

I'm reading now from Dan Jedlicka in the Chicago Sun-Times* that Pontiac will be ending production of the GTO after this model year.

New only recently in 2004, the resurrection of the legendary GTO nameplate wasn't well received by the public.  After not meeting expectations in the 2004 model year, the car was given a bigger 6.0L engine and hood scoops, but still has not caught on.

Many reasons can be given for the failure of the GTO, but from my observations it all boils down to the name and the price.

Having a great performance car costs a lot these days.  GTO also has a base MSRP of $31,990, which places it well above the hot new restyled Ford Mustang.

When you name a car "GTO", people have a certain expectation.  I don't know what that could be, but the new Holden Monaro-based GTO wasn't it.  People constantly complained that it didn't "look like a GTO."  Perhaps a different name would have had people focus their attention on what the car is (fast), instead of what it is not (retro).

As a side note, this also seems to be similar to the reaction of the new Chevrolet Camaro concept when compared to the reaction to the new Dodge Challenger concept.

Once a person got past the GTO name on the plain rounded modern styling that resembles an overgrown 1990's Cavalier more than a classic musclecar and got to know the car's strengths, it was hard not to like the car.  The car was fast.  It handled well.  It was far superior to the original GTO in every performance category.  When slow first year sales prompted revisions to the car, Pontiac didn't go to the styling department for stacked headlights.  They went to the engine shop and got a six liter and hood scoops.

It is a great car, if not what people expected by the name.  People seemed to be expecting a retro car, not a modern rendition of what made the GTO great back in the 1960's.  Maybe Pontiac didn't capture the look and feel of the original, but they certainly captured the spirit.

Slow sales aren't going to be the end of the car by themselves, though.  GM is ending production of the Holden on which it is based.  Slow sales are merely a reason not to invest in continuing production of the GTO by itself.

Where others see the premature death of a car, I see an opportunity.  The new Chevrolet Camaro could use a companion to spread around development costs of the new car.  Having to redesign a GTO around a new chassis would give Pontiac a chance to learn from feedback on the current GTO model and apply those lessons to a new GTO.

After all, General Motors is not in the business of merely making cars, it has to sell them, too.  If people want retro styling, then that's what they should get, and the Camaro chassis still holds that big 6.0L V8.

* Source: "Variety of reasons lead to the demise of Pontiac's GTO", Chicago Sun-Times, Feburary 27, 2006

©2006 Bill Crittenden

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