Dodge Wants to Be Pontiac, But Why?

CHARGER VS CHALLENGER HELLCAT

I like to live in a world that makes sense, but sometimes that’s just not in the cards. An article over at Automotive News ran with the headline, “Can Dodge Rebuild Pontiac Excitement?

The headline alone leaves me with three questions:

  1. Why would Dodge want to rebuild from Pontiac’s ashes?
  2. Did Pontiac even have any real “excitement” after the 1969 GTO?
  3. Pontiac failed. Shouldn’t Dodge chart a new course?

The point of the article is that General Motors left some holes in the market when it shuttered Pontiac and Hummer, and FCA is primed to fill them with Dodge and Jeep.

In theory, Pontiac stood for performance and excitement. The marketing attempted to tell that story, but the actual product failed to deliver. The Vibe and G5 didn’t raise the heart rate of anyone, and only the G8 GXP lived up to the promise of world-class performance.

The Dodge of yesterday, with its Avenger and Neon, better filled the place of Pontiac than the current Dodge with its Viper and Hellcat twins (Challenger and Charger).

By dumping the pickup line and discontinuing the Grand Caravan, Dodge has opened itself up to becoming a genuine performance brand. The problem is with recent Dodge products like the Journey, Caliber, and Dart, which fail to instill the visceral reaction drivers of performance cars crave.

If Dodge can continue to bring the raw emotion of the Hellcats to drivers, its perception as a performance brand will eventually kick in. If it falls into the trap of promising performance and delivering Darts, it’ll likely meet the same fate as Pontiac.

The performance market isn’t an easy one to crack, because competition is fierce from automakers with a long history of success and proven vehicles. BMW, Porsche, Audi, and more build refined performance cars that are the best in the world. Dodge’s challenge is to match that performance, but do it on a budget that the average worker can afford.

Can Dodge become a genuine performance brand?

-tgriffith

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