No. 919
October 18, 2017
 

About The Autoextremist

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with Autoextremist.com, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press  witchhuntbook.com). It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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Monday
Mar022009

THE AUTOEXTREMIST

March 4, 2009

 

Resurrecting the Firebird Trans Am: Redemption for Pontiac, Part II.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit. Judging by the overwhelmingly positive response to my column last week, there are lots of enthusiasts out there who still have a soft spot for Pontiac, whether it be for nostalgia reasons or because the attitude and spirit exemplified by Pontiac in its heyday is something that still resonates and is something so obviously - and desperately - needed today at GM.

But warm feelings of nostalgia won’t be enough to save Pontiac - or GM, for that matter. With GM teetering on the brink and on the national dole, the company is now under intense scrutiny and will have to justify every single move it is contemplating to Washington. That means that not only does every vehicle GM brings to market from here on out have to be a home run in the real world, each will also have to measure up to the unqualified notions and misguided whims of a committee of people who have no business commenting on the auto business or influencing product decisions.

A cadre of instant “experts” who have no accumulated experience or fundamental knowledge about the automotive industry is a recipe for disaster unto itself, but it’s compounded by people like White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (aka President Obama’s Attack Dog in Chief), who continues to spout-off on the weekend news shows about what will cure America’s auto industry, even though he doesn’t have the first clue as to what he’s talking about (see more on Emanuel in “On The Table” this week – Ed.).

Into this swirling maelstrom of Not Good comes Pontiac, once one of America’s most storied nameplates but now relegated to niche duty in the newly shrunken car company formerly known as General Motors. With “two or three” upcoming models that dealers will be able to sell in Buick-GMC showrooms, questions abound about the very existence of Pontiac, and for every enthusiast out there wanting a reinvigorated Pontiac and real Pontiacs to buy, there are hordes of naysayers who dismiss any attempt at reviving the brand as an exercise in nostalgia that has no place in our newly sober Doomsday Society and the grim daily cadence that has become part and parcel of the American experience.

And for “those” people - the grim-reaping, hand-wringing, self-flagellating purveyors of doom in California and Washington - GM has a plethora of tremendous Green Machines on the way, everything from the extended-range electric Chevrolet Volt to myriad hybrids and other appropriately benign transportation creations to mollify even the most strident among them. (Even though when presented with facts staring them boldly in the face - that an American car can be every bit as green, if not greener than a corresponding import - these green-tinged consumers will buy an import nine out of ten times. Why? Because even when confronted with the facts these consumers simply choose not to believe in American cars and they have written off an entire industry because of it. It’s not fair or even remotely logical behavior - given the array of vehicles from GM and Ford that merit serious consideration - but it’s the reality nonetheless.)

But much to the doomsayers’ chagrin, having an array of “acceptable” and “appropriate” green-tinged transportation devices doesn't guarantee success. Just ask Toyota. While the green hordes were genuflecting at the front bumper of the Prius - canonizing Toyota as the greatest living example of all that was right in the enlightened world - Toyota was selling a breathtaking array of trucks and SUVs of all shapes and sizes in order to make real money, counteracting the dirty little reality that the company was losing money on each and every Prius sold. And now that their trucks and SUVs aren't selling, guess what? Toyota is losing money for the first time since its inception and asking the Japanese government for loans of its own.

The Ugly Truth for the hand-wringers in California and the clueless overseers operating in Washington? Green machines alone won’t be enough to sustain any car company - domestic or foreign - operating in the U.S. California can cajole and whine and Washington can mandate to their hearts' content, but there are legions of real people out there who want a wide range of vehicle choices big and small and for any number of reasons too. And remarkably enough, there are even people out there who actually want cars and trucks for the sheer unvarnished thrill of it, as terrifying and irresponsible as that idea may seem to the people hell-bent on turning this nation’s transportation fleet into a giant movie set for the sequel to I, Robot.

And for the thrill seekers, those who still have the quaint notion roiling around in their heads that we live in this country for a reason - which has a lot to do with the fundamental idea of freedom of choice - I dare say that a resurrected Pontiac would be exactly what the doctor ordered.

If GM is going to offer three Pontiacs, I see a portfolio consisting of a full-sized, high-performance rear-wheel-drive sedan (instead of “G8” think Bonneville), along with a new rendition of the GTO (a smaller, sportier, bare-bones rear-wheel or all-wheel-drive coupe) and of course the car you see here – the 2011 Firebird Trans Am.

(Image courtesy of ASC Creative Services, copyright Autoextremist.com)

This concept - obviously based on the new Camaro and designed by David Byron of ASC Creative Services - was actually “on the table” for GM honchos to consider last summer when ASC was still intimately involved in a lot of advanced projects for the company. But the involvement (and money) dried up, and the idea of resurrecting the Firebird Trans Am was dead in the water. Until now.

If Pontiac is going to exist, then it needs this car. And the beauty of it is that at least initially the assembly of a Firebird Trans Am just like this would be a no-brainer, cost wise. We’re talking a new front fascia (including head lamps, grille inserts and fog lights); a hood with rear-facing shaker cold air intake (of course); a new rear fascia with specific tail lamps; a rear spoiler and dual exhausts; specific rocker panels with additional fender/skirt trim; specific color availability, custom alloy wheels and all the appropriate Pontiac, Firebird and Trans Am identification; and on the inside specific seats, steering wheel, I/P cluster, door insert trim and shifter. In other words, a no-brainer to put together.

(Image courtesy of ASC Creative Services, copyright Autoextremist.com)

ASC Creative Services is ready, willing and able to execute this program for GM (or for a group of savvy Pontiac dealers who know an opportunity when they see one). The question is if there’s anyone left at the company who still gets what this machine could represent for Pontiac. As for the instant “experts” in Washington, if GM’s new mission is to build back its viability through increased sales and revenue, then why not build the Firebird Trans Am? It’s exactly the low-risk, high-reward type of product program that could do wonders for GM’s bottom line.

And for those of you out there who would dismiss this car as just another “Nostalgia Rod” that the newly sober country doesn’t need, I would say this: This resurrected Firebird Trans Am would only be the beginning of an exciting new era for Pontiac. And here’s why:

If I were running the division, the next version of the Firebird Trans Am would be even more of a departure from the Camaro design-wise, and I would also offer a “green” option featuring GM’s brilliant new 4.5-liter, dual-overhead cam, four-valve, Turbo-Diesel V-8, hailed as one of the most innovative new engines in the world (also rumored to be on the chopping block because of Washington’s involvement - Not Good). I would also offer GM’s Two-Mode Hybrid drivetrain in both versions of the Firebird, because there’s no reason in the world that a Pontiac couldn’t be hot, desirable, fast, distinctive and fuel-efficient all at the same time.

As I’ve said repeatedly, I firmly believe that if GM does get off of the mat it will happen by way of building outstanding products and making sure consumers know they exist. And not merely competitive products either, but cars and trucks equal to or better than the competition, so that it’s just impossible for consumers to ignore them.

No, this Firebird Trans Am isn’t for everyone, thank goodness. As a matter of fact, the idea that this car would piss some people off - the card-carrying members of the No Fun At All League in particular - makes it even more attractive. I do know one thing, however, and that is that a high-visibility Pontiac Firebird Trans Am would be one of those machines that would be damn near impossible for consumers to ignore. And when all is said and done, that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?

Thanks for listening.

(Image courtesy of ASC Creative Services, copyright Autoextremist.com)

Publisher's Note: The reaction to my last two columns about Pontiac has been interesting. I would say that the response has been 80-20 against the existence of Pontiac, with the negative messages ranging from GM should die to I'm an asshole and I've lost it, etc. Getting readers' shorts in a bunch, however, was our intention all along. We did it in order to take one of our frequent pulse readings of what's "out there" in WebVille. And the vitriol aimed at Detroit and GM in particular is simply staggering. All that being said, I offer no apologies for seeing a world where Pontiac could theoretically exist if rejuvenated properly. If people don't get Pontiac or appreciate its contributions to the glory years of the domestic automobile industry, too bad. Much of the negative reaction was directed at me personally (which never fazes me), but the attitude out there that suggests Detroit - and the entire domestic automobile industry - deserves to be wiped off the face of the earth suggests a truly disturbing undercurrent out there that I (and we) find to be reprehensible. But, onward to next week. - PMD (3/5, 4:30PM)


 

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