Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ode to a Pontiac

Now that the Pontiac brand is no more, does that mean that my 2006 Vibe is a collector's item? Or does it just mean that I drive an obsolete vehicle?

I am going to pretend it's the former even though I know it's the latter.

My family has a tradition on buying cars that aren't produced for very long. I could spin it to say that we're quirky, and adventurous, and nonconformist. But I think the truth is that we're not good car buyers.

Oh, I shouldn't say that. I like my Vibe and the only trouble it's given me is brake trouble and that's just because my local CarX doesn't like to do things right the first time. But perhaps the only reason my Vibe runs so well is that it's not really a Pontiac at all; it's really a Toyota Matrix with a sporty Pontiac grill.

Just like the 1990 Geo Prizm I bought from my dad and drove for 6 years that was really a Toyota.

"Ahh, the Chevrolet Corolla," a technician once said as I rolled my little red car into his shop for a repair.

Just like the Ford Fairmont he was so proud of buying in 1979, my dad had thought that Geo was the next big thing in cars. He totally believed in that short-lived collaboration between GM and their foreign "enemy." The cease-fire was short-lived, though, and once it became the Chevrolet Prizm, it was only a matter of time before that model would see its end. Probably for the best; as we discovered, the Japanese motor in our Geo Prizm mandated that the car would run long after its American body fell apart. And getting repair, or even getting a key made, was an exercise in patience; sometimes the part needed was a Chevy part, sometimes a Corolla part, sometimes something that didn't exist anymore. Driving a car that was half foreign, half-domestic, and not seen all that much by mechanics made for fun times.

So you would have thought I'd learned my lesson. But the lure of my dad's discount (which the family of GM retirees get even after the retiree has passed away) on a car that had a Toyota engine was hard to pass up when we found ourselves car shopping in 2006.

And I was happy. Until now, 3 years in, when I see that Pontiacs are to be a thing of the past.

Despite assurances that I shouldn't be, I'm worried about my warranty. I am worried about getting knowledgeable repair if and when something goes wrong. Jason and I keep cars for a long time; I was planning on keeping my Vibe until, like the Prizm, it literally falls apart at the seams.

And perhaps I will. Perhaps I will be able to take the Vibe into a shop seven years from now and have the technician know exactly how to make it tick. But it already doesn't bode well; the last oil change I got, I heard the following exchange from the guy in the well below the car to the technicians checking the fluids:

"Wait, this is a Pontiac, you said? Then why does it have a Toyota engine? What kind of car is this?"

The kind of car the Cranky family loves to buy, that's what.

Let's talk cars: Have any of you ever driven a car that is no longer made? Are any of you sad to see Pontiac go?

1 comment:

Rick said...

Actually, your biggest concern is resale value, which is naturally affected by public brand perception. Now that GM has officially "killed" Pontiac (unlike Saturn or Saab which will at least supposed to live on in some form, even if owned by someone else) the public perception will plummet. Collectible Pontiacs will go up in value, modern Pontiacs will go down. But don't worry about service. Unlike your Geo, the only differences between the Vibe and Toyota Matrix are purely cosmetic, so Toyota techs won't have any problem with it.

For what it's worth, Obama has already said that the federal government will back the warranties of Chrysler and GM if either company were to fail. Oddly, he didn't say how that would work or how they'd pay for it, but I'm sure he'll take care of it. Of course, GM could have kept Pontiac as a performance niche brand instead of killing it if their federal overlords...I mean the government...hadn't said the last turnaround plan they submitted wasn't good enough. Anyway, conservative diatribe over now. Please resume your normal routine :-)