Other Editorials

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

John Teahen Jr
Monday, March 12, 2007

Pontiac Is Doing it Too
It will drop the Grand Prix for the G8

It will be called the G8. I don't know why, but it will.

I'm talking about Pontiac's new mid-sized, rear-wheel-drive car that goes on sale in January. It will replace the Grand Prix, which has been a Pontiac standby since the 1962 model year. And for the life of me, I cannot figure out why.

Why dump a name that has been popular for nearly two generations? Why turn away from the tens of millions of dollars that have been spent to promote and sell the Grand Prix?

Most of all, why replace it with a meaningless letter and numeral?

It's as bad as Cadillac ditching the DeVille for whatever letters that series is known as today. More about that later.

Mind you, I have nothing against alphabetical or alphanumeric names for foreign cars. That's the way things are done in Europe, and Toyota and Nissan followed suit when they introduced Lexus and Infiniti.

The Pontiac G8

An honored list

Fine for them. But Americans have much more ingenuity, much more imagination. Names of American cars roll off the tongue in a delectable manner. They mean something important, or they stir thoughts of something delightful.

Look at Pontiac. It had the Catalina, which evokes sun and sand. The Bonneville was named for Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats, where Sir Malcolm Campbell and others set world land-speed records. A friend who studied too much French in college used to call it the "Bwa-vee," but so be it.

Pontiac also had the LeMans, the Grand Am and, of course, the Grand Prix, all de rigueur for a brand that trades on performance.

And there were the Chieftain and the Star Chief, which recalled the brand's American Indian link. Chief Pontiac led the Ottawa tribe, which dwelt in Michigan in the 18th century.

And what has Pontiac today? It has the G5, the G6 and, soon, the G8.

I can imagine telling my neighbor, "Hey, George, I just bought a new G8." He won't be impressed; he'll think I'm talking about vegetable juice.

Make way for the G7

Regular readers (if I have any) know that my disdain for American alphanumerics is not new. I wrote about it in this space last May. At that time, I threw darts at Cadillac and Lincoln.

Cadillac used to have such elegant names -- DeVille, Eldorado, Seville. Now, Cadillac cars are a jumble of meaningless initials. What a shame.

I am no fan of SUVs, but I must admit that Escalade is the only Cadillac nameplate that makes sense.

And Lincoln has done the same, to the extent that even Ford Motor executives get confused when talking about Lincoln vehicles.

Getting back to Pontiac, I fully expect to learn someday soon that the name of the perky Solstice roadster has been changed to G7. Why else would Pontiac have left that gap between the G6 and the G8?

You may e-mail John K. Teahen Jr. at jteahen@crain.com