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Pontiac Bonneville's future uncertain as audience wanes

Full-size sedan is a tough sell these days
November 25, 2004

BY JIM MATEJA
CHICAGO TRIBUNE

What was to have been the last piece of the puzzle has become the puzzle.

Pontiac mapped plans to revamp its product portfolio by 2006. But where the full-size Bonneville sedan fits is a problem.

"We'll build Bonneville through the '05 model year but beyond that we aren't sure what we'll do," Pontiac-GMC General Manager Jim Bunnell said in an interview.

The swing to sport-utility vehicles and crossovers has reduced the ranks of domestic full-size sedan offerings to the Bonneville, Buick LeSabre, Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis.

But more telling is the fact that Bonneville sales have steadily slipped from a high of 96,000 units in the 1995 model year to 27,000 in the first 10 months of 2004.

"We keep asking what direction to take beyond '05 and if we should have a full-size sedan or a crossover like the Nissan Murano instead," Bunnell said.

"There might not be room for a full-size car. There's a lot of other things we could do with the money. Crossovers may be what we need to watch and where we need to react, perhaps a Pontiac or a GMC crossover or both," he said.

One possibility is to produce the next-generation Grand Prix sedan and a successor to Bonneville off the same platform and make the Bonneville successor a crossover.

That's what Cadillac does in producing its compact CTS and midsize STS sedans and SRX sport-utility off the same rear-wheel-drive platform.

If Pontiac goes that route, it's also possible the next-generation Prix and Bonneville successor would switch from front-wheel drive to rear- or all-wheel-drive.

Bunnell said the latter is under strong consideration for the Grand Prix, and all-wheel drive would set the stage for a crossover successor for Bonneville.

Here's one vote for the option that gives the Snow Belt another all-wheel-drive car and crossover.

General Motors plans more rear-drive vehicles. It wants, for example, to build the next-generation Pontiac GTO in North America.

By doing so, Pontiac would cut out the time it takes between producing the GTO at GM's Holden subsidiary in Australia and shipping it to the United States. GTO is a derivative of the Holden Monaro.

Holden stopped building '04 GTOs and converted to '05s at the end of September, but the '05s won't arrive in the United States until late December or early January.

Shipping is the reason '06 GTO production would begin in May so the '06s will arrive in the traditional fall timeframe.

The GTO is a low-volume, 12,000-unit model, so having other rear-drive cars built alongside it here would ensure steady production at the plant.

Stay tuned.

Another plan is to use more alphanumeric designations rather than names. For example, the replacement for the Grand Am is the G6.

"We're looking closely at G5 or G8 designations. Lexus (ES330) and Infiniti (Q45) have done well with it," Bunnell said, hinting that the next-generation Prix could be the G8.

Here's one vote for keeping names rather than cold and impersonal alphanumerics.

ENVOY XUV DAYS NUMBERED?: The future is in doubt for the GMC Envoy XUV, the SUV in which the rear roof opens to convert it into a pickup to haul tall items.

"We're selling a couple thousand a month -- not the extent we thought. Perhaps we oversubscribed on this product," Bunnell said. GMC had expected sales of more than 2,000 a month.

"When people look at a five-passenger XUV and a seven-passenger Envoy XL, they vote for carrying more people and say, if they have to haul more cargo, they'll borrow a truck. There's enough sales to keep it for now, but we'll keep an eye on it for the long term."
 

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Instead of looking at the size of the car they should look at the quality of the car.

I have an Aurora with the Northstar. It morphed into the V8 Bonneville. Runs in the paint, dealers that dont read TSBs, squeaks from the a pilar molding, broken lights in the steering wheel that the dealer cant duplicate.

If Acura could sell a 50K midsize sedan, Lexus/Toyota a 35k midsize sedan, why cant Pontiac? Not because of the type of car, because of the quality (or lacke thereof) of the car.

Also, if Ford could sell a car named a "Probe", GM would be able to sell a car named tampon if the quality was there. G6, G8, G9 who cares. Build it right and they will buy.
 

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That's a shame to read! Personally, I talked my mother into getting the 2004 Bonneville GXP, and it's a great car. Performance, styling, the paint (it's the $750 option of the White Gold Tricoat), it really is a nice car. The Bonneville isn't much bigger than the Gran Prix...yet, I think the styling of the Bonneville is much nicer. I really would hate to see that line go.
 
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