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Its Muscle Car Glory Faded, Pontiac Shrivels Up

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Automotive Blog

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Pontiac models, clockwise from top left: a 1968 GTO, a 1970 Firebird Trans Am, a 2005 GTO and a 2001 Aztek GT. The earlier models had far more fans.

With its history of building muscle cars like the GTO and the low-slung Firebird, Pontiac had good reason to take pride in its best-known marketing slogan from the 1980s, “We Build Excitement.”

Lately it has been using “Pontiac is CAR,” a phrase more likely to catch the attention of grammarians than car buffs.

And on Tuesday, when General Motors asked the federal government for more bailout money, it also announced a reorganization plan that included demoting Pontiac to a “focused niche brand,” signaling that its lineup of vehicles would shrink and that it would no longer be a separate division.

To industry analysts and Pontiac’s longtime fans, the downgrade provides a case study of the product missteps that helped put G.M…

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