Tuesday, 28 April 2009

How the mighty fall

I read the news from General Motors yesterday, that they are discontinuing their Pontiac line from next year, with some sadness.

I grew up in the days when what was good for GM, was good for America. The best selling business book was, of course, "On a clear day, you can see General Motors". Any aspiring MBA graduate could reel off the famous five of GM - Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac. Every Hollywood movie of those days had one these beauties as a star character. GM was, after all, the largest company in the world.

Those days, mass communication was still at its infancy. The internet had not arrived. Doordarshan had just made its tentative steps in India (with such wonderfully stimulating programs such as Krishidarshan). Yet all of us had known a lot about GM, even without stepping outside India and only seeing Ambassadors on Indian roads.

Pontiac is 83 years old. It was introduced when Alfred P Sloan was the legendary chairman of GM. Its heydays were the 60s and 70s. Pontiac models such as GTO, Firebird, Grand Am, Grand Prix and Trans Am were household names a generation ago. GTO was even immortalised in a song in 1964 which hit the charts. The American love affair with the car was at its peak (not that it has gone away now). And Pontiac and GM were heroes.

The story after that is all too well known. A long decline started and GM slipped. And slipped and slipped and slipped. Pontiac slipped along with it. If today's generation were asked to reel off the top five car brands that come to their mind, Pontiac is highly unlikely to feature. Pontiac who ? what ?

Pontiac is a grand old lady, whose best days are long gone. It is time for it to approach its Maker. But for some people at least, it will mean the passing of an era. Of a world that's gone and will never come back. Its OK to wipe a tear.

Pontiac RIP.


Kiwibloke said...

Did'nt realize that you are a bit of a petrolhead, talking with such passion about the GTO and the Grandam! That side of you never came thru and I thought you were one of those spartans for whom a car was just something that took you from Point A to B. GM's Aussie/Kiwi icon Holden (the Holden Monaro 5.8L is prettymuch a Pontiac with a different name) is under threat. A cult car, I guess will be hard to say RIP to the Holden

Adesh Sidhu said...

Pontiac was one car which started that mucle-car era in US. It is sad to see a cult brand (well almost) going into oblivion.
Some other GM brands like Saturn, Hummer are also up for grabs or ready for closure. Tough times for Big 3 from Detroit

le embrouille blogueur said...

Being a member of the Michigan community, I am surrounded by a sadness which cannot be explained, can only be felt. Every year there is a muscle car rally over on Woodward Avenue. From next year Pontiac vehicles will be prized displays. Few years back Oldsmobile closed down as they rolled out the last of the Aurora models.Motown is not going to be the home for the #1 Auto Industry in the world anymore. Great post Ramesh.

rads said...

That's bad news...I love Chevrolet...hope they are not planning on closing that too...did'nt know so much about Pontiac...thanks for sharing the info...nice post.

Ramesh said...

@kiwi - No I still define a car as going from A to B, but this is a legendary brand; hence the nostalgia

@Adesh - Yes it will be sad day when some more of the legends go away

@Blogeur - You see and feel it the closest. Detroit is really going through a gut wrenching time

@rads - Thanks for visiting. No Chevrolet won't close. It sells a lot globally and so won't Buick - for some reason the Chinese love it and GM sells tons of it. Actually GM China is a great success story

Sushil said...

I have been reading about the planned death of Pontiac and being a car nut and having worked on software projects for GM I take it pretty personally as well. What to do -it is a business decision and this was the brand of their current list that had the least going for it.

Ramesh said...

Yes Sushil - it had to happene, but still when a titan falls, it evokes some pain.

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