Pontiac Car Manufacturers

While the production of Pontiac-branded cars didn't begin until 1926, the company can trace its roots back to the days of the horse and carriage.
While the production of Pontiac-branded cars didn't begin until 1926, the company can trace its roots back to the days of the horse and carriage. The Pontiac Buggy Company was started in Pontiac, Michigan in 1893 by Edward M. Murphy. To remain a player in the personal transportation industry as cars gained in popularity, Murphy launched a new company--the Oakland Motor Car Company in 1907.

As the Oakland Motor Company progressed, it wasn't Oakland automobiles that drew General Motors attention, but Murphy himself. In order to secure Murphy's expertise, GM acquired 50 percent of the Oakland Motor Company in 1909; however, Murphy soon died. Shortly after Murphy's death, GM purchased the remainder of the Oakland Motor Company, which enjoyed a successful run through 1920.

In the early '20s, a minor recession left both Oakland and its parent company, GM, in financial turmoil. As GM struggled through the crisis and the need to compete with the lower-priced Ford Model T, the decision was made to launch a new, less expensive line of cars, as a companion to Oakland. The new line would be called Pontiac and, in 1926, the Pontiac Series 6-27 debuted.

Pontiacs and Oaklands were sold side by side, but while Pontiac sales increased, Oakland sales began to dwindle. Production of both brands continued until 1932, when the Oakland line was discontinued.

Pontiac Car Manufacturers
Oakland County, Pontiac, Michigan, United States (1926)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
October 31, 2010
Until the mid 1950s, Pontiac sold cars based on a reputation for reliable, quiet and comfortable cars, leaving the power battle to other GM divisions. The Pontiac Star Chief was the most popular model during this moderately powered era. In 1955, Pontiac's perceived aversion to performance would change when the company introduced a Pontiac a 173-horsepower V-8. The new V-8 replaced the long-running straight six and put the world on notice. In 1957, Pontiac introduced the Bonneville--a performance version of the Star Chief--with the new V-8. The Bonneville was subsequently chosen as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 in 1958.

Pontiac had laid the foundation for power and performance and was ahead of the game when the muscle car era began in the early 1960s. In fact, the Pontiac GTO arguably helped spark the muscle car power race in 1964. Some of Pontiac's most notable models were ushered in at the height of the horsepower wars of the '60s under the guidance of division head John DeLorean, including the Pontiac Tempest, Grand Prix, GTO, Firebird, and Trans Am.

When the gas crisis of 1974 hit, Pontiac survived by switching its focus to six-cylinder engines and smaller cars. The Firebird, one of the few remaining muscle cars remaining from the 1960s, continued to sell despite the market's shift toward more fuel-efficient cars, but as more stringent emissions standards set in, the Firebird eventually had its wings clipped as well. Performance-minded design would not return to Pontiac again until the '80s with a redesigned Firebird and the mid-engined Fiero.

This time around, Pontiac wasn't just a test bed for performance, but also design, with the introduction of the plastic-clad Trans Sport and Grand Am. Pontiac phased the aging Firebird out of the lined up in 2002 but moved to fill the performance void with a new Holden-based GTO in 2004 and GXP performance trim on several models.

Pontiac continued to produce performance-oriented vehicles with the introduction of the G6, G8, and the drop-top, two-seater Solstice. Unfortunately, the return to power came at a time when economy, not performance was the priority for most new car buyers. Just as a depression helped trigger Pontiac's launch in the early 1920s, another economic slowdown helped bring about its demise. GM announced on February 17, 2009, that the Pontiac brand will be phased out as the automaker struggles to survive.

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