Crikey! A New Pontiac from Down Under!

Pontiac G-8

Between the headline-hogging BMW Hydrogen 7 launch, and the Big Three’s desperate attempts to draw attention to their new truck models, another Chicago Auto Show unveiling might go next to unnoticed. I’m intrigued, though, by General Motors’ decision to import Australia’s best-selling sedan, the Holden Commodore, and market it as the new Pontiac G-8.

Holden is an Aussie icon: founded in 1919, it was purchased by General Motors in 1931, but continued to be marketed as “Australia’s own car”. The Holden brand is identified with durability and practicality–your first Holden might be a tough “ute” for the outback, or a family sedan for the Sydney suburbs, but it probably wasn’t the sports car of your dreams.

Global multi-sourcing, adaptation, and rebranding have been part of the Holden business model since its early years. With a strong sense of the Australian domestic market, they’ve retooled models, lines, and styles to fit buyers’ specific needs; Holden’s emphasis on toughness and fuel efficiency, which have made good sense in the Oz outback for many years, may be just the kind of thing GM needs in order to re-engage the US market.

And so, after a brief experiment with importing small batches of the Holden Monaro (rebadged in the US as the Pontiac GTO between 2004 and 2006), General Motors is jumping in with both feet. Earlier this month, Bob Lutz announced plans to bring in 50,000 Pontiac G-8s a year; if sales are strong, this is going to be a significant chunk of the full-size sedan market.

Bold move, and it will be interesting to see how well it pays off for GM. On the other hand, it seems like they could have placed their bets on a car with a little more zip, a little more pizzazz. The Holden is a solid car, a comfy car, a car with a good repair record, with decent power under the hood–but it isn’t really any fun.

But there are plenty of people out there who are looking for roomy comfort, reliable performance, and good fuel efficiency. Let’s see if the new G-8 tickles their fancy!

An Australian auto site’s take on the announcement here. You can see the Pontiac G-8 in person at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show, February 9-18.

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