Skip to main content

Pontiac: finishing first can be a bad thing.

The other morning, my wife woke me out of bed with three simple words, “Pontiac’s shutting down.”  At first, I didn’t really care. Having been born in the midst of the brand’s indistinguishable GM clones and poor attempts at mini-vans, I guess we all saw it coming in one way or another.

An ad for the 1981 Pontiac Trans Am, ironically titled "Soul Survivor".

An ad for the 1981 Pontiac Trans Am, ironically titled “Soul Survivor”.

But then I began to remember vestiges of the brand that were seemingly forgotten. I’m old enough to remember when large, powerful cars dominated the roadway, when sexy meant more than sustainable. In the 60’s and 70’s, Pontiac delivered, unleashing a number of sleek, yet massive and fuel-thirsty models: Bonneville, Tempest, LeMans, Grand Prix and the like. Cars were imposing, almost threatening in design, with wider frames, thunderous engines and stacked headlights . The muscle car took shape, and automakers took notice, as John DeLorean shoved a 389-cubic-inch V-8 into a 1964 Tempest, creating the GTO. I remembered “Smokey and the Bandit” and how awesomely bad-ass it was to watch that 1977 T-top Trans Am blast down the highway. And who hasn’t seen a large man exit a Fiero?

These are the images that I associate with the Pontiac brand, images of a time long gone.  The impact on our environment is more evident and domestic automakers are being forced to innovate by both the consumer and the government. Our love of power is still there, but we’ve since been married to sensibility as fuel-efficient Hondas and Toyotas now rule the road. Cars get lighter, smaller, more economical as we leave our passion for muscle cars in the dust.

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.


  • SEan says:

    My pal Bill had a ’64 Grand Prix that had a like, 400+ bazillion cubic inch engine. He installed a manual transmission in it and four of us drove from LA to Vegas by way of Death Valley and Arizona, just to have the excuse to drive it really, really fast. Our 6’4″ pal John actually crawled onto the floor and covered himself with a sleeping bag, wimpering that we were all going to die — Bill pegged the speedometer and loudly proclaimed that he hoped the needle would break.

    when my wife and I first got married we had a Pontiac T1000. It died on the Grapevine of I-5 and we sold it for $50 after limping to Sacramento.

    These are the poles of my relationship with Pontiac — I’m sorry to see it go, but the T1000 was arguably the worst car ever built by GM. My wife, on the other hand, always wanted that ’87 Firebird…

  • Hi, good post. I have been pondering this topic,so thanks for posting. I will definitely be coming back to your site.

Leave a Reply

© 2004-2023, Imagine. All rights reserved, whatever that means...