General Motors Corp., which received another $2 billion in taxpayer loans today as it races to restructure its business against a June 1 deadline from the Obama Admin., reportedly will announce the full discontinuation of its Pontiac brand as early as Monday.
GM previously intended to shrink Pontiac to a niche brand as part of a restructuring strategy outlined in its Feb. 17 viability plan to the U.S. Treasury Dept.
But the Treasury rejected the plan late last month and forced out longtime Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner. Wagoner’s replacement, Fritz Henderson, says the government wanted “deeper, faster” restructuring.
The 83-year-old Pontiac division now appears to be the first victim of the auto maker’s new urgency.
Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson calls news of Pontiac’s death “speculation” but admits the new marching orders from Obama places all elements of GM’s business back under crutiny.
“At this point, no announcements have been made,” he tells Ward’s of Pontiac’s future. “But everything is back on the table. Everything is being reviewed.”
Fadi Bidawid, business manager at Superior Pontiac-Buick-GMC in Dearborn, MI, says as late as this afternoon GM had not notified the dealership of any plans.
“We haven’t heard anything,” he tells Ward’s. “Everything so far has been that Pontiac will be a niche brand. But where there’s smoke, there’s usually some fire.”
Most major news outlets are reporting Pontiac’s full demise, citing unnamed sources, and Bidawid says NBC Nightly News was in the dealership earlier in the day for a story on the brand’s death.
The Pontiac speculation first arose in Australia, where GM sources the Pontiac G8 sports sedan from its GM Holden Ltd. unit.
The Motor Report, which bills itself as Australia’s fastest-growing automotive news website, says the action will occur Monday and affect Holden greatly. GM earlier this year killed plans to source two other G8-based Pontiacs from Holden.
While GM sources the G8 from Australia, it receives the G3 subcompact car from its operations in Asia/Pacific. The auto maker builds the Solstice roadster at its facility in Wilmington, DE, and assembles the G6 lineup of midsize cars at its Orion Twp., MI, plant. The auto maker’s Lordstown, OH, facility builds the G5 compact car.
GM North America President Troy Clarke in a press conference yesterday would not confirm nor deny rumors Orion might be closed, a move that almost surely would signal the brand’s demise. He did say the plant makes the Chevrolet Malibu, one of GM’s best sellers.
The Orion facility was not included among the 13 plants that GM plans to temporarily idle over the next three months.
GM has said its new go-to-market plan focuses on four core brands – Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC. There currently are between 30-35 standalone Pontiac dealerships in the U.S. and 2,600 Pontiac-Buick-GMC franchise stores.
The $2 billion loan the auto maker received today brings the company’s draw on taxpayer funding to $15.4 billion.
“We appreciate President Obama’s and his administration’s ongoing support of GM and the domestic U.S. auto industry as we undertake the difficult but necessary actions to reinvent our company,” the auto maker says in a statement.
– with Alan Harman