It's too soon to say whether the restructuring plan General Motors presented this week will win approval from its creditors, union members and the government. But under this plan, or in a possible GM bankruptcy, it looks as if the corporation's Pontiac division is out of gas. Barring a reprieve, the 2009s are the last of the wide-track line.
Pontiac will then join the long list of defunct (DeSoto!) Detroit nameplates. It was only five years ago that GM closed down ancient Oldsmobile, which dated to the dawn of the auto age. Three years earlier, Plymouth slipped off Chrysler's roster. Buick will be the sole survivor of the Buick-Olds-Pontiac trio that formed the middle of a once-formidable GM lineup bookended by Cadillac and Chevrolet.
That's the way the wheel rolls, and, with the huge exception of folks whose workplace fortunes are still tied to Pontiac, you'd think no one would care much about the demise of any particular flavor of four-wheel transportation.
Except that so many people do. Cars aren't only transportation; they're memory machines — no wonder, with all the time and distance we travel in them.
Pontiac will exert a particular emotional tug as its assembly lines fall silent. Its trademark vehicles were tire-smoking GTOs and Bonnevilles and (as Bruce Springsteen sang), "Burt Reynolds in that black Trans Am." But for decades, Pontiacs were mainly foot soldiers in GM's mighty army, family haulers a half-step up from Chevy. On the road to ruin there were false starts and outright embarrassments (the Aztek, anyone?). With the rise of global competition, and the fall of the economy, the division no longer has a place in visions of a leaner, more profitable GM.
So it goes. But Pontiac had a good run, 1926-2009, and it won't be forgotten.