Solstice, Sky: Different But Similar
Topics: Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky
August 24, 2007
General Motors Corp.’s distinct brands Pontiac and Saturn will be rolling off different but similar cars. How ironic could they get?
Earlier, the largest American automaker launched the Pontiac Solstice. The stunning roadster was unveiled at the 2004 North American International Auto Show. The automaker began its production in mid-2005 for the 2006 model year in Wilmington, Delaware. The debut served as an antidote to the bland lineup of the GM brand.
Shoppers who wanted the Solstice had to wait months for one to arrive, and they paid as much as $6,000 above the sticker price to be among the first in their neighborhood to have one, reported the New York Times. The waiting lists swelled after the Solstice appeared in an episode of Donald Trump’s reality TV show, “The Apprentice,” and Mr. Trump promised one to that season’s winner.
Solstice owner Hal Waldrop said that he recently saw six of the roadsters lined up at the Pontiac dealership near his home in Frisco, Tex., just north of Dallas. “I had never seen more than two there previously,” he told The Times. The 49-year-old Mr. Waldrop was told he was 45th on the dealer’s waiting list for a Solstice and would have to wait up to a year to receive one when he ordered one in November 2005.
“The car is just a joy,” Mr. Waldrop noted. “When the top’s down and you’re on a twisty road, I can’t imagine anything would be more fun. Even today, I cannot stop at a gas station without someone walking up and telling me how much they like it. Almost everybody guesses it would be a $40,000 car if they don’t know what it is.”
Though the car was such a big hit, it did not bolster much interest in the overall Pontiac brand. As such, even the Solstice itself appears to be hurting its existence. Sales of the Solstice are down 19 percent in 2007 through July. The Detroit-based automaker, which apologized for not building enough Solstices initially, now has about worth of five months’ supply in inventory, double the automaker’s average.
According to Autodata, a company that trails auto statistics, sales of Pontiac-branded cars and trucks are off 17 percent, compared with nine percent for all eight GM brands.
“It was such a radical departure from what people expected out of Pontiac that it created a tremendous buzz when it first hit the market,” said Wes Brown, an auto consultant and a partner in the Los Angeles marketing firm Iceology. “It looks pretty cool, but ultimately it’s not able to overcome some of those barriers people have within their mind with regard to the brand image.”
On the other hand, the demand for the Solstice’s fraternal twin Saturn Sky has shown no signs of declines. The automaker has about one month’s worth of the Sky available, and many shoppers still have to wait several weeks or months for the more expensive and more angular twin to arrive.
“They’re very much fashion statements,” Brown said of cars like the Solstice. “The newest one that arrives is the hottest one, and that bloom can last from 6 to 18 months, depending on what else comes out.”
The Saturn hood and other auto accessories are etching a dependable name in the industry. This is the reason behind the company’s constant growth. “Saturn, although it had been struggling, has nowhere near the type of negative baggage that the Pontiac brand does,” noted Mr. Brown. “That brand is damaged. If you ask the average person, I don’t think they could tell you what the brand’s supposed to be.”
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