Local News

Dealer bemoans demise of Pontiac's iconic muscle cars

Posted May 5, 2009 5:55 p.m. EDT
Updated May 18, 2009 10:23 a.m. EDT

— Pontiacs were firmly planted in American pop culture for decades, starring in movies, television shows and songs. Next year, the famed muscle cars will go the way of Oldsmobile and other phased-out brands.

General Motors Corp. recently announced plans to shut down its Pontiac assembly lines next year as part of massive restructuring to avoid bankruptcy. The reorganization includes cutting 21,000 jobs and slashing its dealership network.

"We really didn't expect it to go away because the Pontiac heritage has a lot of value with the consumer," said Garry Winebarger, manager of the Bryan Honda-Cadillac-Pontiac dealership in Fayetteville.

Pop culture helped build that value in the 1960s, when the Pontiac GTO was celebrated in song by Ronnie & the Daytonas. A decade later, Burt Reynolds' bootlegger character zipped along back roads in his Pontiac Trans Am, tormenting law officers – they were driving Pontiac Le Mans – in the movie "Smokey & the Bandit."

In 1982, another Trans Am was cast as Kitt, the futuristic car in the TV show "Knight Rider." The brand's most recent silver-screen appearance was in the 2007 movie "Transformers," where a souped-up Solstice morphed into a robot.

Still, Winebarger said Pontiacs aren't as popular as other car brands globally. In China, for example, Buicks are big, he said.

"I think, if it had been solely a U.S. decision – based on U.S. sales – Pontiac would have won, and Buick would have been phased out," said Winebarger, whose dealership was among the top 100 Pontiac Firebird dealers in America a decade ago.