Monday, April 27, 2009

I'll Take Stupid Corporate Decisions for $1000, Alex

Pontiac? General Motors is killing its Pontiac division? Who signed off on this? This is the stupidest corporate decision since Southwestern Bell, in the early 21st century, decided to rename itself after one of its acquisitions, American Telephone & Telegraph. (Anybody sent a message by telegraph recently? I thought not.)

Pulling the plug on Pontiac is even more surprising given GM’s choice of what to save: Buick. I don’t know about the rest of you, but Buick is an old man’s brand to me. My uncle and grandfather drove Buicks. I can’t imagine what the brand signifies for the generations behind mine.

But I do know what Pontiac signifies for those generations, and for baby boomers: The GTO and the Beach Boys. The Trans Am and Smokey and the Bandit. Even Knight Rider. Why keep the division whose high-end model has the same name as Safeway supermarkets' store brand?

Admittedly, GM had few choices. It already killed its link to the oldest ongoing automobile brand in America, the Oldsmobile (another decision I question). They couldn’t possibly get rid of Chevrolet, its best-known brand; Louis Chevrolet was a race car driver, so that’s cool. It’s unlikely they’d get rid of Cadillac, its luxury brand, even though Antoine Laumet, dit de La Mothe sieur de Cadillac was the founder of the city of Detroit; who wants ties to that these days? At least Pontiac, who was an Ottawa tribal chieftain, you’ve got some Native American mojo to fall back on.

It makes no sense to kill the cool brand and maintain the one that was named after a man who manufactured plumbing supplies, as David Dunbar Buick did before he went into the car business. With decisions like this, I fear GM may still go down the drain.