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Long-Reviled Pontiac Aztek Finds a New Generation of Buyers.

Quirky crossover proves Bad can be good for millennials.

by on Sep.10, 2015

The Pontiac Aztek was hailed for its utility, reviled for its strange design.

Bad is good, at least when it comes to the old, and long-reviled Pontiac Aztek.

Routinely named as one of the ugliest vehicles ever to roll off a Detroit assembly line, the quirky crossover-utility vehicle is suddenly finding a new generation of fans, apparently as a result of its role in the recently ended AMC channel’s “Breaking Bad” TV series.

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The Aztek is just one of several now-discontinued models to connect with Millennial buyers after being largely rejected during their initial production runs. Other models include the Dodge Magnum wagon and Chrysler Pacifica crossover, according to a study by data service Edmunds.com.


Marty’s Marketing Minutia – Detroit Auto Show Edition

For the auto world, prime time starts Sunday.

by on Jan.06, 2012

The hordes descend. There'll be thousands of media at the coming week's Detroit Auto Show. And they'll be collecting countless media kits.

But first our first annual MMM Media Kit Award

This is my homage to the annual deluge of Car-of-the-Year awards that will be raining down on us, notably including the widely-watched North American Car and Truck of the Year ceremony that will usher in the Detroit Auto Show on Monday morning.

In recent weeks, you’ve undoubtedly noticed a deluge of ads quoting one or the other of these awards and you can be certain the winners of the two NACTOY trophies will be backing up their victories with some hefty media dollars.

A Little Automotive Weirdness!

A favorite business question these days is, “what’s the take-away?” Auto journalists, scribes, bloggers, pundits, analysts, consultants and of course, the ubiquitous ranks of eBay purveyors at the annual Detroit auto industry bash and assorted launch events know the key take-away: It’s the media kit.


Farewell Pontiac

The last Pontiac dealer signs off.

by on Nov.01, 2010

The 1964 Pontiac LeMans GTO Convertible built excitement...and sales.

The muscle car king is dead.  Long live the muscle car king.


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The long, lingering final act of Pontiac final came to an end, over the weekend, when dealers sold off the last new cars bearing the once formidable Pontiac logo and General Motors let its franchise agreement with the brand’s final remaining dealers expire.

The brand once known by its catchy slogan, “We build excitement,” expired with a whimper rather than the squeal of tires.


We Built Excitement: Pontiac Pulls the Plug

After 83 years, the last G6 reaches the end of the line.

by on Nov.30, 2009

"We Build Excitement"? Not anymore. The last Pontiac has rolled down the assembly line.

"We Build Excitement"? Not anymore. The last Pontiac has rolled down the assembly line.

It’s a cliché we seldom think twice about, but when workers at the General Motors’ Orion Township assembly line finished up a white G6 sedan, just before the long holiday break, last Wednesday, it really was the “end of the line.”

More than a century after the first time the name of the powerful Michigan Indian chief was used on a car – and 83 years after GM formally adopted the brandname – the last Pontiac automobile was getting ready to be shipped to a dealer.

There were no banners commemorating the event, nor the black crepe bunting that might have more appropriately served to mark the sad occasion.  It was little more than business as usual.  Or, if you prefer, business as it’s become for post-bankruptcy General Motors.

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For more than a decade, the automaker’s top management, notably former CEO Rick Wagoner, forcefully resisted calls to kill Pontiac and several other troubled GM brands in a bid to curb expenses and focus on the core marques most likely to survive.  They had given in just once, and the long and costly process of killing off the once-successful Oldsmobile had proved so hard, Wagoner confided in a close friend, “I never want to go through that again.” (more…)

Revisionist History: Was the Pontiac Aztek Merely Ahead of its Times?

Progenitor of the Cube, Soul, xB and other funky hip designs - or just plain ugly?

by on Jul.07, 2009

Was it the ugliest vehicle ever made or a trendsetter ahead of its time?  The 2001 Pontiac Aztek is shown here with a pop-up tent, part of an astounding line of accessories that made it the equivalent of a Swiss Army knife on wheels.

Maybe if you put a bag over its...tail? Was the Pontiac Aztek the ugliest vehicle ever made or a trendsetter ahead of its time?

I’m used to having people stare at me when I drive by.  Well, not me, exactly, but the various cars I rotate through, on a regular basis.  Call it the head-turn factor, if you will, for it’s one indication of how well a product stands out in today’s competitive and overcrowded automotive market.

Some vehicles grab your attention because they’re just plain beautiful, the Mercedes-Benz CLS, for example; others because they’re rare and exotic – a Bentley or a Lamborghini.  Then there are the odd ducks that simply stand out, and these days there are a whole bunch of them coming to market.

There’s the Kia Soul, made famous by those hip little hamsters in a commercial that’s gone mega-hot on You Tube.  Nissan’s weighed in with its own offering, the decidedly funky Cube.  And, of course, we can’t ignore the xB, now in its second generation.  The boxy crossover was the product that put Scion, Toyota’s youth-oriented brand-within-a-brand, on the map.

What do they all have in common?  They’re basically all boxes on wheels, and more than a bit retro, with a hint of the classic, full-sized van in their DNA.  That said, their designs are all a bit out of the norm, they’re definitely not minivans, nor are they SUVs.  Each has a decidedly distinctive take on an otherwise fundamentally simple shape.  The asymmetric Cube tries hard to be cute, Scion is L.A. street smart and Soul boasts hip-hop sensibilities, with its flashing interior lights.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comBut above all, they’re designed to deliver maximum functionality – which is, after all, the thing that boxes, or vans, if you prefer, do best.  So, it should be no surprise that the combination of form and function is connecting so well with today’s buyers, especially young ones also attracted to the reasonably low price tag of these three models.

Then again, maybe it should be a surprise.

It wasn’t all that long ago that American buyers turned a big thumbs down on another quirkily-styled box-mobile that attempted to combine incredible functionality and flexibility — arguably a good bit more than the newer Soul, Cube and xB – and a bold styling statement.

I’m referring, of course, to the late and largely unlamented Pontiac Aztek.


Gone, Gone Little GTO…

Pontiac, we hardly knew ye.

by on Apr.27, 2009

The original Pontiac GTO gave the GM claim to its long-running ad tag line, "We Build Excitement."  But there hasn't been much excitement in recent years.

The original Pontiac GTO gave the GM claim to its long-running ad tag line, "We Build Excitement." But there hasn't been much excitement in recent years.

It seemed like the proverbial no-brainer when General Motors announced plans, early in the decade, to revive its legendary muscle car, the Pontiac GTO.  After all, few automobiles had become so entrenched in American lore, inspiring songs, like Ronnie and the Daytona’s “Little GTO,” and countless appearances in film, TV and other corners of popular culture.

First launched in 1964, the “Goat,” as its fans liked to call it, was arguably the first true American muscle car, derived fromthe expediant and wildly profitable formula of stuffing a full-size V8 engine in a mid-size car and charging  a premium for it. 

The creation of General Motors’ mad genius, John DeLorean, the GTO dominated road and track until it was summarily abandoned in the wake of the first Mideast oil crisis.  But with muscle making a comeback, GM’s new “car czar,” Bob Lutz, was convinced the muscle car could reverse the fading fortunes of the flailing Pontiac.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comBut the return of the Goat proved to be just the latest in a long series of setbacks for the once-popular brand.  Potential Pontiac buyers did little more than yawn over the blandly-styled 2004 GTO and despite a series of frantic efforts to prop up the retro nameplate, disastrous sales forced the automaker to once again pull the plug less than three years later.

Now, it seems, GM is ready to toss Pontiac itself onto the automotive rust heap.  On Monday, the ailing automaker unveiled its latest turnaround plan, this one triggered by President Barack Obama’s refusal to authorize a second round of federal aid for GM until it came up with a more acceptable business strategy.  The plan the president rejected would have jettisoned Hummer, Saturn and Saab, but maintained Pontiac as a low-volume niche brand, paired with Buick and GMC.