Talking Pontiac's Post G8 ST Future With GM VP of Marketing Susan Docherty

Yesterday's announcement from GM stating the 2010 Pontiac G8 ST was being canceled came to us like a knife in the heart, so today, we had a conversation with Susan Docherty, the Pontiac Marketing VP.

We all knew the G8 ST would be a niche product, with a concentrated but rabid fan base, us included—it was so close we could almost smell the burning rubber. Unfortunately, forces beyond the control of the General have colluded with forces within its control to put an end to the not-El Camino. But why? We took a half hour and talked to General Motors Vice President for Marketing at Buick, Pontiac and GMC, Susan Docherty.

First and foremost we had to ask if it was a postponement or a permanent cancellation. We're sorry to report it is a permanent cancellation. As part of the recovery plan submitted to Congress, Pontiac will "focus the brand on useful, sporty, passenger cars," the G8 ST just didn't fit into that definition. She further went on to note that, although it was a car enthusiasts were waiting for, it was a prudent business move to cancel the program.

But what of Pontiac? Well, the pointy-arrow brand is in for some shake ups. Just as Buick has been paired down to a leaner, meaner product portfolio over the last few years with the stylish Enclave and the new 2010 Buick LaCrosse set to unveil at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show, so too will Pontiac be slimmed down. The current lineup includes six nameplates if you include the to-be-released Pontiac G3 and GM now believes this is too many. Beginning immediately, Pontiac is evaluating its portfolio and examining product plans to determine what the brand will look like in the years to come.

Dealers are apparently behind the culling as well. After the announcement of the cancellation of the G8 ST and a refocusing of the brand, Docherty says she received emails from dealers stating their support for the move. She's believes they'll be happy with fewer models if the trimmed down product line is as good at Pontiac as it has been at Buick. Docherty also doesn't believe that a Pontiac full of "useful, sporty, passenger cars" will necessarily abandon the longterm "Driving Excitement" mantra at Pontiac. The decision to include the Pontiac G3 in the US lineup to satisfy the demand for a fuel miser makes us pause at that assertion, but we'll grudgingly admit it makes sense from a dollars and cents perspective in today's automotive climate.

It's a tough moment for GM, and it's requiring tough decisions. Painful as it may be to see products like the G8 ST fall under the knife, Pontiac, and in the larger picture GM, will probably be healthier in the long run. We don't have to like it though.