So what happened? How did one of the most famous and most famous car brands in the United States fall? Why did the Pontiac brand stop? Several mitigating factors brought Pontiac’s downfall, a few poorly-designed cars damaged the brand’s name, and a few automakers survived the Great Recession of 2008 unscathed. This is the story of the rise and fall of the bankrupt classic American Pontiac.
9 They started as the Oakland Motor Company in 1907
Pontiac began as an Oakland Automobile Company and was operated out of Pontiac, Michigan. The company was started by Edward Murphy, who until then had been making horse-drawn carriages. In 1909 Oakland became part of General Motors, along with Cadillac and Oldsmobile.
The same year they joined General Motors was the same year the first Pontiac car, the Oakland Four, was produced. In 1916 it was replaced by the Oakland Six, then in 1926 came the Pontiac 6 but it was originally a minor brand of Oakland.
8 In the 1920s, Oakland became a Pontiac
Although it was meant to be a small brand, the Pontiac series outdone the Oakland and customers preferred its six-cylinder engine over anything that drove Oakland. General Motors began phasing out Oakland and by the end of the 1920s Pontiac had replaced Oakland. Auckland was officially discontinued as a nameplate in 1931.
7 In 1932 they presented the world with a 302 V8
Pontiac was gaining popularity because the cars had more horsepower than most older cars. A Pontiac six can crank out 40 horsepower, which was plenty for a car in the 1920s. In 1932, Pontiac gave the world its 302 V8, the first consumer car engine that could reach 85 horsepower at 3200 rpm.
Pontiacs subsequently became one of the most popular consumer cars because they quickly became the cheapest cars that also had inline eight-cylinder engines. In short, Pontiacs became very popular because they were among the fastest and most affordable cars on the market.
6 They gave us iconic cars in the forties, fifties and sixties
Since the 1930s, Pontiac enjoyed a large portion of the market and produced a seemingly endless list of cars over the next three decades. Pontiac gave the world the Grand Prix, Firebird, Torpedo, GTO and Trans Am to list just a few of its most famous nameplates.
The company made everything, sedans, sports coupes, station wagons, and, in Canada, they even made and sold a delivery truck, the Pathfinder.
5 They were major players in the muscle car craze of the ’70s
As one can tell from the previously listed cars, the Pontiac was one of the most notably bought cars during the muscle car craze of the 1970s. GTO, Trans Am, and Firebird were some of the most famous.
The Grand Prix was also one of Pontiac’s most successful cars and the company would continue to produce it well into the early 2000s.
4 By the 1980s, the problem had begun to brew
The 1980s marked the beginning of trouble for Pontiac. By 1980 the United States was in the middle of a major gas and smog crisis that led to increased environmental regulations and standardization of the catalytic converter in all automobile engines. Pontiac, which had designed its cars with horsepower up to this point, now had to incorporate fuel efficiency into its designs.
For some reason, the company struggled in this department and during the ’80s led them to make some of their worst cars. Cars such as the Pontiac Fiero, Pontiac Phoenix, and Pontiac Grand Am have all been panned by critics and customers. A brand that was once synonymous with reliability and speed has suddenly lost its credibility.
3 Pontiac’s attempt to revitalize the brand
All American auto manufacturers suffered from a drop in sales in the 1990s because Japanese manufacturers captured a large portion of the market buying this time. Many American automakers have tried to combat this drop in sales with new sports cars or cars with exotic styling.
Pontiac tried things like reintroduced its classics, like Bonneville, but was discontinued in 2005, or they tried to give the world more consumer cars like the G3 hatchback or Pontiac Solstice.
2 They reintroduced the GTO in 2004, but to a minimum of excitement
Another one of the classic nameplates reintroduced in the mid-2000s is the GTO, which was one of the most popular nameplates and muscle cars.
Although newer versions of the GTO can make upwards of 300-350 horsepower, it has never generated the same level of excitement as previous versions.
1 By 2008 everything was downhill
2008 was one of the toughest years for the US auto market. The country went into a historically painful recession, and many car manufacturers paid the price. General Motors was one of them and to avoid bankruptcy, they stopped selling their poorer cars. Among them were Hummer, Saturn and Pontiac.
The last Pontiac car will leave the factory floor at the end of 2010.
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