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Ford: Pontiac G8 failure spooked us

Consigned to history: The Holden-built G8 was axed along with the Pontiac brand during the GFC.

Senior exec reveals Holden’s initial VE export failure has been a lesson for Ford

Ford logo4 Oct 2010

FORD admits that the failure of Holden’s VE Commodore-based Pontiac G8 in North America has been a psychological setback in the export of large rear-wheel drive sedans from Australia, as well as a lesson to be heeded in the future.

Speaking anonymously to GoAuto at the Paris show on September 30, a senior company executive revealed he was mystified that a car as impressive and critically acclaimed as the Pontiac G8 did not translate into sales.

“I was curiously surprised at how (the Pontiac) didn’t quite click in the US,” the Ford insider said.

 center imageLeft: Ford Falcon. Below: Pontiac GTO.

“I was surprised because… it was such a great-looking car… and I thought it was just such a good idea.”

Asked if the Pontiac G8 experience is a setback for any future Falcon export opportunities to North America or any other overseas destination, the Ford man said it would certainly act as a warning not to be ignored.

“(Ford) does look at the whole picture – even though that was a very niche opportunity (for GM),” he said.

“You know (now-retired GM product manager and instigator of the G8 program) Bob Lutz normally had a great instinct for the right products for the right markets, and I am a Bob Lutz believer, so it’s just surprising that it didn’t click.

“But we will keep doing the right thing for (the development of the Falcon) in Australia because we have so many good people (at Broadmeadows).”

Built on the VE Commodore production line at Elizabeth in South Australia, Pontiac released the G8 in North America from December 2007, just as the global financial crisis was taking hold.

Only a little more than half of the 20,000 G8s expected to be sold in the first 12 months found homes, and by the beginning of 2009, with around 10,000 vehicles still sitting in holding yards across the US and GM’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy looming, the G8 – along with Pontiac itself – was axed.

Along with the 3.6-litre High Feature V6 and 6.0-litre V8 sedan models, GM had planned to offer the G8 in ST utility guise, displaying a prototype at the 2008 New York International Auto Show, and there was even talk of Pontiac taking the Sportwagon variant.

Interestingly, the G8’s Holden Monaro-based GTO Coupe predecessor – another export from Elizabeth – also failed to meet initial volume expectations, although it did gain a stronger following to register more than 40,000 sales from 2004 to 2006.

Holden’s Zeta export program has since been revived with the recommencement of VE Commodore-based Chevrolet Omega sales to Brazil, while the WM Caprice-derived Police Pursuit Vehicle could be worth up to 60,000 exports annually for Holden starting from next year.

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