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Bloomberg.com said:
Pontiac Solstice's Good Looks Are a Rarity for GM: Doron Levin

Aug. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The new Pontiac Solstice roadster is an eye-catching example of what General Motors Corp. has had trouble building in recent years: attractive cars.

This month, Pontiac dealers will start selling the low- slung, two-seater to customers paying between $20,000 and $25,000. If you haven't seen it, think Mazda Miata with an American flavor.

GM is counting on Solstice to perk up Pontiac's sagging image. Expected to sell a relatively modest 15,000 to 20,000 copies a year, the new model by itself can't make much of a difference for GM, which had $193.5 billion of revenue on sales of almost 9 million vehicles in 2004. A Solstice success, however, might suggest that GM has a shot at recapturing a once- estimable reputation for design.

The automaker was the first to grasp the importance of style and color back when Henry Ford thought all cars should be black. GM lost its supremacy during a 20-year fit of corporate confusion, apparently forgetting that it wasn't selling machinery or transportation solutions. Cars are the way many American drivers express themselves, as reflective of their owners' personalities as the clothes they wear.

German and Japanese vehicles first made inroads in the U.S. market for reasons of quality, cost and engineering prowess. Then, borrowing from the lesson that GM once taught Ford, they focused on making cars with emotional appeal.

New Design Chief

``We are paying attention to the appearance of our cars and trucks as never before, especially the interiors,'' said Ed Welburn, 54, GM vice president of design since October, 2003. The 32-year GM veteran is only the sixth person to hold the job. ``Today we have a totally different attitude, we had to go back to basics.''

Solstice is the pet project of former Chrysler Corp. executive Bob Lutz, the 73-year-old vice chairman that GM hired toward the end of 2001 to promote the creation of more compelling vehicles. Since the lead time on a new design typically is at least three years from conception to delivery, Solstice is the first GM vehicle to bear Lutz's imprint from birth.

Pontiac's image, and that of other GM makes, has suffered for years due to bland exteriors and unappetizing interiors. The Pontiac Grand Am, for example, was a favorite of rental fleets mostly because the car was such an aesthetic dud that it had to be sold at a discount.

`Fiero Flambe'

Pontiac last attempted a two-seater in the 1980s with Fiero. Fiero's looks were undermined by big troubles under the hood: the plastic-body car had an engine with an unfortunate tendency to leak oil and then ignite spontaneously -- earning it the nickname ``Fiero flambe'' and leading to its early demise.

In its heyday, GM led the industry in styling, creating such classics as the 1957 Chevrolet and 1963 Buick Riviera.

``GM owned design for decades,'' said Jim Hall, vice president of industry analysis for AutoPacific Inc., a marketing consulting firm in Southfield, Michigan. ``It was the first automaker to really understand color and shape as differentiators.''

According to Hall, the priorities of GM planners and manufacturing executives -- such as fuel economy and ease of assembly -- trumped visual appeal in the 1980s and 1990s. GM, moreover, insisted on testing designs with focus groups, selecting those that didn't elicit intense reactions. The process tended to promote safe, non-descript designs.

``The problem was that nobody loved these cars, and nobody hated them,'' Hall said.

Sneak Peek

Or as Lutz often asserts: ``A car that can be everyone's second choice is doomed to fail.'' The 2001 Aztek crossover, certainly the most ridiculed Pontiac ever to wear the badge, may live forever as proof of why the committee system of approving new models is dangerous. Lutz, before joining GM, once professed incredulity that top executives lacked the gut instinct to veto Aztek irrespective of how it tested.

The good news for GM is that the Solstice appears to be the first of a series of several potentially appealing car, truck and crossover models headed for showrooms in the next 30 months.

Since June, the automaker has been inviting journalists to its design studios in Warren, Michigan, a half-dozen miles north of Detroit, to view future versions of the Cadillac Escalade, Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Malibu, GMC Sierra and a series of new Saturns. One, the Saturn Skye, is a two-seater mechanically identical to the Solstice with styling cues similar to GM's Opel European brand.

Cutting Corners

The No. 1 automaker worldwide in terms of vehicle sales is making headlines because of its junk-rated debt, the size of its health-care spending and talks with the United Auto Workers union about reducing costs.

The automaker's leaders now seem to grasp that in the race to compete in global markets based on efficiency and competitive prices, they lost touch with the reason many people buy a vehicle. The look, feel and touch of a car still count for a lot.

As GM's Welburn explained, ``it was always easy to cut corners on the interior'' if a project was running late and over budget. Now GM realizes that survival depends on matching, and even surpassing, innovative interiors by the likes of Toyota Motor Corp. and BMW AG.

``Proportion is everything,'' he said. ``You can move a dashboard back just a few millimeters and the feeling for passengers is much more pleasant.'' He said GM also is making smarter selections of materials that are pleasant as well as cost effective. ``All plastic,'' he said, ``is not created equal.''

GM's latest design initiative is hardly the first time the automaker has sworn it will improve its vehicles. And GM's competitors aren't standing still while it tries catching up.

With GM's financial cushion nearly gone, the race to recapture the good looks of its youth is more critical than ever.
http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000039&cid=levin&sid=aS08LWOLGBbw
 

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mceb said:
Originally Posted by Bloomberg.com
Pontiac Solstice's Good Looks Are a Rarity for GM: Doron Levin

Aug. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The new Pontiac Solstice roadster is an eye-catching example of what General Motors Corp. has had trouble building in recent years: attractive cars.
Amen to that ... I am still astround that this car came from GM. Way to go Bob.
 

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Why does everybody think that the Grand Am is an "Aesthetic DUD!!" :confused:


Maybe it is just me, but I have always thought the 2000+MY Grand Am's were the ONLY car in its class with any style. Tell me if I am wrong, but the Grand Am has a very sporty look. And even the 3.4 litre SE out performed most vehicles in it's class, both phsically and visually.


I'm talking about the Sedan too. not the coupe. I've always thought they had a certain sporty flair to them, that the competitors just could never match. And formt he number of them I see on the road, I would have guessed that I lot of people felt that way as well.


Am I wrong?:confused:

Am I the only person who thinks the Grand Am was a Hot looking Car in its past few years?
 

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Liam1694u said:
Why does everybody think that the Grand Am is an "Aesthetic DUD!!" :confused:


Maybe it is just me, but I have always thought the 2000+MY Grand Am's were the ONLY car in its class with any style. Tell me if I am wrong, but the Grand Am has a very sporty look. And even the 3.4 litre SE out performed most vehicles in it's class, both phsically and visually.


I'm talking about the Sedan too. not the coupe. I've always thought they had a certain sporty flair to them, that the competitors just could never match. And formt he number of them I see on the road, I would have guessed that I lot of people felt that way as well.


Am I wrong?:confused:

Am I the only person who thinks the Grand Am was a Hot looking Car in its past few years?
:agree:
For the class it is in... It is definitly the best looking.
 

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Liam1694u said:
Why does everybody think that the Grand Am is an "Aesthetic DUD!!" :confused:


Maybe it is just me, but I have always thought the 2000+MY Grand Am's were the ONLY car in its class with any style. Tell me if I am wrong, but the Grand Am has a very sporty look. And even the 3.4 litre SE out performed most vehicles in it's class, both phsically and visually.


I'm talking about the Sedan too. not the coupe. I've always thought they had a certain sporty flair to them, that the competitors just could never match. And formt he number of them I see on the road, I would have guessed that I lot of people felt that way as well.


Am I wrong?:confused:

Am I the only person who thinks the Grand Am was a Hot looking Car in its past few years?
I wouldn't say that you're the only one. I think articles like this are misleading, because they imply that all GM's vehicles are ugly. And yet millions of people buy them every year. I owned a 2001 Monte Carlo SS, and I bought it because I thought it was attractive. I think GM's trucks are the best looking too. I think Cadillac has done an exceptional job with design. Everyone ridicules the Aztek, but it got positive feedback when it was a coincept vehicle. And where is the same ridicule in the press for the Scion or the element? If everyone thinks the Japanese vehicles are so superior in every way, including design, why does GM out sell them all? Do I think GM can improve in this area? Sure, but I think the other manufacturers can too. Most Japanese sedans are so boring that I don't even give them a second look.
There were legitimate points in the article, but I think it shows a lot of bias.
 

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Liam1694u said:
Why does everybody think that the Grand Am is an "Aesthetic DUD!!" :confused:


Maybe it is just me, but I have always thought the 2000+MY Grand Am's were the ONLY car in its class with any style. Tell me if I am wrong, but the Grand Am has a very sporty look. And even the 3.4 litre SE out performed most vehicles in it's class, both phsically and visually.


I'm talking about the Sedan too. not the coupe. I've always thought they had a certain sporty flair to them, that the competitors just could never match. And formt he number of them I see on the road, I would have guessed that I lot of people felt that way as well.


Am I wrong?:confused:

Am I the only person who thinks the Grand Am was a Hot looking Car in its past few years?
Although Exterior was ok, Interior was Ugly. Therefore over all "DUD". You have to have the whole package for proper marketing! :yawn:
 

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ntouched said:
Although Exterior was ok, Interior was Ugly. Therefore over all "DUD". You have to have the whole package for proper marketing! :yawn:
I actually like the interior of my 2004 Grand AM. ANd I really REALLY like the red guages. :cool:
 

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Liam1694u said:
I actually like the interior of my 2004 Grand AM. ANd I really REALLY like the red guages. :cool:
See, that's the reason why all these kinds of articles are a problem to me. It's very subjective. What I find attractive another person might hate. That doesn't make it wrong or right. Take the Miata for example, I think it's one ugly little car, but there are many people who love it, and that's okay. These types of articles paint with too broad of a brush.
 

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Editguy said:
See, that's the reason why all these kinds of articles are a problem to me. It's very subjective. What I find attractive another person might hate. That doesn't make it wrong or right. Take the Miata for example, I think it's one ugly little car, but there are many people who love it, and that's okay. These types of articles paint with too broad of a brush.
:agree:

Instead of saying the style sucks, they should say the style is "outdated" or "lacks the sharp contour lines that more modern cars are pushing". or mention that the molded plastic interior of the Grand Am has not "kept up with the times and is still 3 years behind other modern vehicles".

That way your at least justifying your opinion. That way your not saying the Grand Am is an Aesthetic Dud, but that the styling is past its prime, and needs updating.

4 Years ago the Grand Am interior would have drawn a whole different opinion i bet.
 

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I've owned my '99 Grand Am SE for well over 3 years now. It still looks the best on the outside than even the newest of cars on the road (-Mitsu. Eclipse). The interior design is not bad but comparing a '99 to a new car -- of course it is going to be dated.

I was stunned when they announced the phase out of one of GM's top sellers. That's like Chevy phasing out the Cavalier, it's retarded.
 

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My mother had one. We called it the "Grand Ma". Sorry, it didn't appeal to me.

We used to call my mother-in-law's brown Pinto, "The Millenium Cockroach". :)
 

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mceb - great post. This is near and dear to my heart. GM is not the only company to blame, though. The state of overall car exterior design has been uninspired for about 2 decades, with only a few notable exceptions.

You need look no further than the Mustang and 300C for examples of how attractive cars sell. Or conversely, the GTO for how a plain car can sit despite being outstanding. If the GTO was gorgeous, the car would be fought over.
 

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GM, moreover, insisted on testing designs with focus groups, selecting those that didn't elicit intense reactions. The process tended to promote safe, non-descript designs.

``The problem was that nobody loved these cars, and nobody hated them,'' Hall said.
OUCH! That explains the entire problem right there.

``A car that can be everyone's second choice is doomed to fail.''
This has to be the quote of the year!
 

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Editguy said:
I wouldn't say that you're the only one. I think articles like this are misleading, because they imply that all GM's vehicles are ugly. And yet millions of people buy them every year. I owned a 2001 Monte Carlo SS, and I bought it because I thought it was attractive. I think GM's trucks are the best looking too. I think Cadillac has done an exceptional job with design. Everyone ridicules the Aztek, but it got positive feedback when it was a coincept vehicle. And where is the same ridicule in the press for the Scion or the element? If everyone thinks the Japanese vehicles are so superior in every way, including design, why does GM out sell them all? Do I think GM can improve in this area? Sure, but I think the other manufacturers can too. Most Japanese sedans are so boring that I don't even give them a second look.
There were legitimate points in the article, but I think it shows a lot of bias.
:agree: I also thing both the Camaro and Firebird/TA were always head and shoulders better looking than any Mustang...
 

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Classic66vair said:
:agree: I also thing both the Camaro and Firebird/TA were always head and shoulders better looking than any Mustang...
No doubt. And there would be other example, too.
 

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Quote:
``A car that can be everyone's second choice is doomed to fail.''

This has to be the quote of the year!
Except, many of them have not been "failures".
 

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If bland is what this reporter and the Asian car manufacters think is cool, then consider me a "geek", cause I don't want to be one of the cool kids. ;)
 
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