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Pontiac axes Aussie ute

Stillborn: The Pontiac ST was previewed at last year’s New York auto show.

Struggling GM cancels Holden's US export ute deal

7 Jan 2009

HOLDEN’S export program was dealt a blow last night with confirmation from its struggling parent company in the US that the Commodore-based Pontiac G8 ST ute has been axed.

As predicted by GoAuto last month, the Australian-made ‘sport truck’ has become one of the first casualties of the company-wide model review caused by GM’s financial crisis.

However, with projected sales of only about 5000 in the US, the cancellation of the program is more disappointing than debilitating for Holden.

Although it was previewed last March at the New York auto show, the ST was not due to have gone on sale in the US until the third quarter of 2009 and was therefore still some months away from going into production at Holden’s Elizabeth plant in Adelaide.

Pontiac says that the G8 sedan program is unaffected and that the high-performance HSV-based 6.2-litre GXP model will be launched as scheduled next month.

Only 15,000 G8s with V6 and V8 engines have been sold in the US since it was launched in March 2008 – a little over half the company expectations when the car was launched – but it remains a core product in the Pontiac line-up.

“The only vehicle impacted by this decision is the ST, the sport truck,” said Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson.

Although GM told the US Congress last month that is saw Pontiac as a niche brand, it is still seeking higher volumes as it plans to halve its six-model range – just as Buick went from seven nameplates in 2005 to only three today.

“Even when we announced it in a good market, the ST was going to be a low runner, selling maybe 5000 – 7000 units at the most optimistic,” said Mr Hopson.

“In today’s market, it simply doesn’t make financial sense to go ahead with the vehicle.

“We’re taking a look at all of our vehicles and making certain that they still fit into our revised plan for the future of GM and its brands.

“With Pontiac being more focused on sporty, fun-to-drive cars, we took a long look at the ST and it didn’t fit with what our future vision of Pontiac would be. At that point, we decided to not proceed with this vehicle.”

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