Pontiac: R.I.P. – What’s Next?
Little GTO, you’re really lookin’ fine
Three deuces and a four-speed and a 389
Listen to her tachin’ up now, listen to her why-ee-eye-ine
C’mon and turn it on, wind it up, blow it out GTO
LITTLE G.T.O. (John “Bucky” Wilkin) — Ronny & The Daytonas – 1964
News item: Pontiac, 84, Dies of Indifference.
Pontiac, the brand that invented the muscle car under its flamboyant engineer John Z. DeLorean, helped Burt Reynolds elude Sheriff Justice in “Smokey and the Bandit” and taught baby boomers to salivate over horsepower, but produced mostly forgettable cars for their children, will endure a lonely death on Sunday after about 40 million in sales.
I never owned a Pontiac. But for a 1968 High School Graduate like myself, I can still sing the 1964 song Little GTO. And I drove one a time or two. And I always wished I owned one. (Detective Dan Stark on The Good Guys loves him some Pontiac muscle car!)
But now, they are gone. Along with Circuit City, the Oldsmobile Cutlass, Steak and Ale, my local Blockbuster (which was, by the way, the original location for the entire chain), and just a few days ago, a local restaurant Sweet Temptations. Sweet Temptations had this cake that looked like a triumph of modern architecture, and was so rich that it was indescribable. We would buy one about every five years – it took that long to get ready for the next one. It was really good!
It’s not that I was a loyal customer (although, for a while, I was at Blockbuster pretty regularly), it’s just that I’m sad to see them all go.
We live in a world of constant innovation. The challenge to get better, to stay on top, to get even better while on top, is unending, and exhausting.
What happened to the Pontiac? Again from the article:
For most of the 1960s, Pontiac ranked third in sales behind Chevy and Ford — a position now held by Toyota.
But in the decades since, Pontiac’s edge and high-powered image wore off. Repeated efforts in the 1990s and 2000s to revive the brand failed. Drivers too young to remember the GTO came to associate Pontiac with models like the DustBuster-shaped Trans Sport minivan or the Aztek, a bloated-looking crossover widely regarded as one of the ugliest vehicles of all time.
But what really happened is that it is really, really tough to stay on top (ok – to stay a strong number three). Some other company out there is trying to move past you. And if enough folks move past you, you fade, you become a memory, you…die.
And part of it may be this. We like the new. Yesterday’s new is so yesterday, so quickly.
It seems to me that business success requires a combination of factors at which a company, a leader, and the entire team, need to perpetually excel. Excellence in product, innovation in product, excellence in customer service, perpetual attention, constant encouragement of the team members, schmoozing with the current and future customers, attention to the competition, capturing and maintaining a hold on the Zeitgeist, and on and on.
It was time for Pontiac to go. So, what’s the next product, company, restaurant, to bite the dust?
As an evolutionary economist, I know the death of weaker businesses is inevitable, but I sure miss the homey, hopefully slightly quirky local, one of a kind businesses – especially restaurants when I travel.