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Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, Future Vehicle, Coupe
#1 of 53 Consequences of a new Pony Car war
May 17, 2006 (11:16 pm)
The upcoming (we hope) war of pony cars could be pretty exciting, and should give us lots to talk about.
I'll start with a thought that I had about the Camaro, that I haven't seen anywhere else in automotive websites or blogs. Maybe being first to say it out loud means I'm missing something, like a few screws. But anyway, I'll start by making myself real popular:
The Chevy Camaro will kill Pontiac and is therefore a BAD IDEA.
I like the car, but it can't come into existence as the Camaro. It'll kill Pontiac!
GM's "sporty" brand should be built around a car like the Camaro. The brand's volume seller, its heart and soul, should be a pony car. I'll refer to it as the Firebird in this post, but I don't care what it's called.
That would give Pontiac meaning. But it would only be practical if GM had no other pony car for sale. The Camaro would probably kill the Firebird in sales just by virtue of being a Chevy, rendering the Firebird ineffective as a volume seller. Pontiac would have to base its sales on something more mundane, like a G5 or G6 - something you also buy at any other GM brand.
More importantly, the Camaro's existence would render Pontiac more pointless than ever. Between Chevy and Saturn, you can find everything that Pontiac has - and usually better. Chevy has a faster FWD sport compact, a faster V8 sedan, a faster V8 sports car, faster SUVs, and I bet the fastest version of the Camaro will be faster than the fastest Firebird.
Is this making any sense? Can Pontiac survive without being GM's pony car banner bearer? Can't Chevrolet survive just fine without the Camaro? It's nice to see GM get emotional about car development after decades, but I think they've lost sight of the big picture...
#2 of 53 Re: Consequences of a new Pony Car war [carlisimo]
May 17, 2006 (11:52 pm)
I like the car, but it can't come into existence as the Camaro. It'll kill Pontiac!
Pontiac is already on life support, and probably needs to die. The brand has no value -- its nameplates are largely relegated to the rental car circuit, and you could sell the Solstice with any other badge and do just as well with it. (If anything, if the goal is to preserve at least a few GM badges, rather than start over again, it would have been preferable to have branded the Solstice as a Chevy than as a Pontiac.)
I see pros and cons to the Camaro. Overall, I'd put it in the plus category, but it does have some downsides attached:
-Profits: If done properly (and that's an "if", to be sure), it will sell in large numbers and generate a profit. If GM needs anything right now, it's having a car that is profitable.
-Positive buzz: It might create some nice PR and glow for a GM brand that isn't a truck and isn't a limited production model. If the goal is to pull people into showrooms based upon a car they find appealing (Camaro) but that lure them into buying a car that might actually need (a 4-door sedan or minivan, for example), then that alone would be reason enough to do it.
-Might hurt the brand: GM already has a reputation of being behind the times, and building a retro pony car may just reinforce that impression. Yes, it will appeal to Big 2.5 buyers, but if it turns off potential import buyers as being a redneck throwback, then the overall result might be negative. Some care will need to be taken in how the car is marketed and styled to manage this risk.
If oil prices remain high, one key here will be to include a 6-cylinder model that is neither just a base model nor a horrendous compromise to own and drive. In a world of $4 fuel, my bet is that you won't have much demand for V-8's, which means the demand will skew to smaller motors. I have my doubts that GM would be very capable at creating a six that is sufficiently smooth, modern, economical and reliable to fit the bill.
#3 of 53 V6 Pony cars...
May 18, 2006 (3:52 am)
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of a V6 Pony car is "rental". Whenever I go to the airport, the rental car lots seem to be full of V6 Stangs. Not saying that V6 Pony cars are bad - they definitely have their place from a marketing perspective.
With that said, I do wonder how concerned Pony car buyers are with fuel economy - regardless of gas prices. I also have to think there are many "wanna bes" that buy the 6 cyls and still drive 'em like they stole 'em - but they just bought the 6 cyls in order to save some money up front.
I would like to see research as to whether the Pony cars would benefit by utilizing the cylinder deactivation technology to where they could run on 4 cylinders when strain is not being applied to the engine. One option for GM could be to offer a smaller V8 with this technology as the base engine, and then offer a higher performance V8 for the enthusiast. If GM is considering throwing Camaros into fleet service (rentals) on a large scale, then I guess they would have to include a 6 cyl in the lineup.
May 18, 2006 (5:02 am)
I've read Bob Lutz has mention they have to sell 100k units/yr for the Camaro to be successful. If that's the case, a solid v6 offering in the low $20s is a must. You need these entry level sales to support a v8 model that will sell in modest numbers. Look at the GT0 (not the best comparison I know, but similarities exist).
The Mustang is successful because they sell a ton of v6 models, probably in the order of 3 to 1 or more over a GT. It has been that way since 1964, women have always loved Mustangs and have bought tons of the entry level model.
The fact is, while many will want to see nothing but HiPo v8 models, there are not enough buyers to plunk down $30k plus on a muscle car.
If Dodge brings the Challenger to market it will also make things tougher in the market place. The Mustang has a foot hold and with it's attractive price along with a convertible.
While I miss the "pony" car wars and I miss reading and seeing head to head comparisons, I just don't know if the market can support 2-3 muscle cars in relatively large numbers.
#5 of 53 Re: Consequences of a new Pony Car war [carlisimo]
May 18, 2006 (5:16 am)
carlisimo, you say that chevy has a faster v8 sedan than pontiac, but isn't the gto a 2 door sedan? there's only one chevy faster - it's not a sedan and it's nearly double the cost.
regarding the supposed pony-car war, i wonder if it will occur if recent fuel prices continue in USA.
one feature i would probably like in my 6-speed GTO is cylinder-shutdown since i use the car for mucho highway cruising where the engine is loafing. i hear the next-gen camaro will have cylinder-shutdown for the V8 models... and there's a good chance i'd trade my GTO for a next-gen camaro, unless i decide to go for a diesel. i doubt we'll be seeing any diesel pony cars
#6 of 53 I think the basic premise...
May 18, 2006 (6:00 am)
of this topic is flawed. None of the Big Three have a sporty RWD compact coupe anywhere in sight. They do have a raft of full-size heavyweight coupes on the way. The Solstice is more of a pony car than the neo-Chevelle "Camaro".
#7 of 53 Re: I think the basic premise... [bumpy]
May 18, 2006 (7:27 am)
The interesting philosophical question your comment brings to mind is "what makes for a pony car?" This was the real subject of the Ford Probe/Mustang fiasco in the 1980s, and I suspect might resurface again soon (possibly with different results this time).
But to the immediate point, in terms of size and weight, pony car status is usually relative to what else is out there. For instance, Mustang specs have shifted up and down as the rest of the automotive market has. Look at 1965 and a 1973 together, and the difference is astounding.
The current Mustang seems quite large compared to my 2002, just as my 2002 seems quite large compared with a Fox body. But when you compare them each to the size of the average family sedans in the market at the time, they're all relatively about the same in proportions.
#8 of 53 Re: v6 a must [dieselone]
May 18, 2006 (8:38 am)
The Mustang is successful because they sell a ton of v6 models, probably in the order of 3 to 1 or more over a GT.
If I'm not mistaken, the split is about 50-50, with many of the retail six-cylinders going to women, and the majority of the retail V8's being sold to men.
To clarify my previous point, the six-cylinder variants of these cars have tended to be crude afterthoughts with coarse, anemic motors and less appealing styling, definitely screaming out "Base Model"! I would suggest that the 6-cylinder models be attractive and appealing in their own right, so that getting one isn't such an obvious compromise. Just as a BMW 325 doesn't seem to be such a horrendous compromise as compared to the 330 -- each car is desirable in its own right -- I wouldn't continue to build a second-rate 6-cylinder pony car just to make the 8-cylinder version look better.
The V8 needs to be available to maintain the image, while understanding most of the buyers won't actually buy one if the fuel costs too much. The V8 helps to maintain the allure of the nameplate, even for those who buy the less powerful version.
#9 of 53 Re: v6 a must [socala4]
May 18, 2006 (9:12 am)
"To clarify my previous point, the six-cylinder variants of these cars have tended to be crude afterthoughts with coarse, anemic motors and less appealing styling, definitely screaming out "Base Model"!"
Could be worse...remember back in the late 80's-early 90's when the engine choices for the Fox body Mustang were either a 2.3L 4 cylinder, or the 5.0V8?
#10 of 53 Re: v6 a must [1racefan]
May 18, 2006 (9:49 am)
I think the V6 to V8 ratio is more toward the 3 to 1 range than a 50-50 split. There just aren't enough GTs made for the 50-50 spread to work.
But on the "screaming 2.3 liters of Mustang fury" topic , it's interesting that right now in one of the other discussion theards, there have been in the past week two seperate people with 4cyl Foxes who have inquired if they should fix them up and hold onto them.
I think it says a lot about the non-performance qualities that a good pony car should have that there is interest in even those versions...GM and Chrysler take note: it's not all about 0-60 times.