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Consequences of a new Pony Car war

carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
edited April 18 in Chevrolet
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...
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Comments

  • socala4socala4 Posts: 2,427
    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:

    Pros:

    -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.

    Cons:

    -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.
  • 1racefan1racefan Posts: 932
    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.
  • dieselonedieselone Posts: 5,641
    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.
  • eliaselias Posts: 1,898
    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 ;)
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    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".
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    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.
  • socala4socala4 Posts: 2,427
    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.
  • 1racefan1racefan Posts: 932
    "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?
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    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.
  • 1racefan1racefan Posts: 932
    I still see a lot of those old 4 bangers on the road. They apparetnly were put together fairly well, and that engine is bullett proof (so to speak).
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "GM and Chrysler take note: it's not all about 0-60 times."

    Actually, it's some of their fans that need to take note of that fact. You'd think that the ONLY things that matter were engine displacement, hp ratings, and 1/4 mile numbers. It's like they want to drive a spec book instead of a car....
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    What's really funny is that despite all of the GM fanboys gushing about the last F-body's performance stats (and they were something to behold, that's for sure), not enough of them were willing to put their money where their mouth is and go out and purchase one.

    So the cars are axed and the assembly line is put to use building what people really wanted to buy, not just admire... :P
  • dieselonedieselone Posts: 5,641
    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.

    I know Ford misjudged the demand for the GT and had to scramble to make more available, but I can't believe the mix is 50-50. At least not around here, I see 2-3 v6 models to every GT at a minimum.
  • socala4socala4 Posts: 2,427
    You may be right about the mix, particularly when adding in the fleet cars. I recall reading something about this in the past, but I was unable to find it now after a quick search.

    In any case, I'd say that the six-cylinders need to be turned into bona fide versions, rather than obvious compromises, if they are to achieve high sales numbers and reach a wider audience. Remember that in a broad sense, a sporty coupe could be able to reach a fairly wide audience, and should provide at least indirect competition to a whole host of cars, i.e. Civic Coupe, GTI, Solara, etc.

    (Yes, I know that these are front-drivers, not American, not direct cousins to the Camaro, etc. but there are buyers who don't necessarily see distinctions between them that are so strong that it would bar them from considering the others, assuming that they meet similar needs. If a Camaro proved to be nicely styled, well built, reliable and otherwise appealing, it should be able to pull sales from several competing nameplates, and not just from Mustang and Challenger buyers.)
  • dieselonedieselone Posts: 5,641
    Yes, I know that these are front-drivers, not American, not direct cousins to the Camaro, etc. but there are buyers who don't necessarily see distinctions between them that are so strong that it would bar them from considering the others, assuming that they meet similar needs. If a Camaro proved to be nicely styled, well built, reliable and otherwise appealing, it should be able to pull sales from several competing nameplates, and not just from Mustang and Challenger buyers.)

    And that will be key for the Camaro to survive. A solid handling base model with a respectable powertrain would be a big plus. A 3.9 or better yet 3.6 base model with auto and manual trans would be a very competent car that may win some sales from other areas.

    The problem is most people who are looking at something like a Civic Si or VW GTI probably wouldn't be caught dead at a Chevy dealership.
  • socala4socala4 Posts: 2,427
    The problem is most people who are looking at something like a Civic Si or VW GTI probably wouldn't be caught dead at a Chevy dealership.

    That is probably true in many cases (although I am confident that sentiments don't run as deeply among typical buyers as they would among us on the Inside Line!) But yes, conquest is important, and no automaker can increase its market share without taking buyers from someone else, so this must be part of the plan. That's why the cars have to be that good -- it take more work to win over converts than it does to sell to your loyal fan base. Unfortunately for GM, its fan base just isn't large enough to help it go the distance.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    At this point, it's all speculation. GM has not committed to anything with the Camaro as of yet. Given the firm's financial situation, I'll believe that GM is producing a Camaro when I see the official auto show introduction of the production model.

    And GM, unfortunately, has a history of overestimating demand for specialty models. Has GM even unloaded all of those Chevy SSRs yet?
  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    That's true, that the Camaro might not happen at all. But given GM's great love for this sort of thing (niche/halo models) I think it'll get built. I just think that if they weren't so emotional about it, they wouldn't built it to revive the Camaro name but rather to build their brands. Pontiac would be the most logical one. But GM and logic...
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    Will we see a Asian pony car entry anytime soon?

    When the pony car wars first started, Japanese companies attempted the make their own (notably the Celica was born for this reason) to compete. However, it just didn't work (probably because of the lack of big engines), and the Asian entries went either 1) down the sport-coupe path to what they are today: relatively small engined, FWD cars or 2) down the sports-car path (the high-end ones).

    But these days, "Asian V8" is no longer a contradiction.

    So does anyone think we'll be seeing a RWD Toyota "Kirin" (based say on the Camry platform) with a V8 engine option that'll give the big three a run for their money? :confuse:
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,593
    Will we see a Asian pony car entry anytime soon?


    You could argue that the Mazda RX-8 is a Pony car
    although it isn't based on a sedan platform. :P

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

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