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Pontiac could be scaled back in GM restructuring

From left, Rex Dugan, Gary Houser Jr. and J.R. Dugan talk at Dugan Chevrolet Pontiac in Avon, Ind., last month.

Associated Press

From left, Rex Dugan, Gary Houser Jr. and J.R. Dugan talk at Dugan Chevrolet Pontiac in Avon, Ind., last month.

General Motors needs an immediate cash influx to survive even just the next few weeks, company officials say.

To persuade Congress to pony up $4-billion in government loans by the end of the year and an additional $8-billion by the end of March, GM has agreed to severely reduce its number of employees and dealerships.

One of GM's main targets is its more-than-80-year-old Pontiac line, which the company has indicated it will make into a niche brand.

Despite the news, some top Pontiac sellers in the Tampa Bay area said that they're confident their dealerships would survive and that the Pontiac line would endure.

"I'm worried about the health of General Motors, of course, because my livelihood depends on it," said Roger Rivard, owner of James-Rivard Pontiac in Tampa. "But once they get this handled in Washington, I'm not worried. In fact, I agree with their strategy."

Rivard pointed out that about 80 percent of Pontiac dealers sell other GM brands like Buick and GMC, which will help them adjust even with the changes to the Pontiac line.

Niche cars, performance cars and sporty, fuel-efficient cars will be Pontiac's focus, Rivard said.

"The brand (Pontiac) is being scaled down a bit but not going away," Rivard said. "Pontiac will no longer have any crossovers or SUVs. Just cars."

GM CEO Rick Wagoner and the CEOs of Ford and Chrysler are all expected to make their cases for bailout loans at a Congressional hearing that starts today. Last month, they failed to convince a skeptical Congress that they had a plan that would save the companies if granted bailout loans.

This week's hearings could be the last shot for GM, before cash flows run so short that it is forced into bankruptcy.

"I don't think we're going to see GM, Ford and Chrysler like we've seen them through our lifetime, but do I think we're going to see them," said Dick Norris, owner of two dealerships that sell Pontiac, Buick, GMC and Mitsubishi in Pinellas County. "But I think the products have got to change."

Norris, who has sold cars for 34 years, said he is not too concerned about the changes with GM. He said the company would be "streamlining Pontiac," not getting rid of it.

Norris said he has seen a copy of GM's report to Congress.

"They've got extremely good products. They're going to be attractive to the consumer," he said. "And I believe they're going to survive."

Pontiac could be scaled back in GM restructuring 12/03/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 5, 2008 8:46pm]
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