This storied brand has a great heritage but no future -- as part of General Motors' bailout, it finally discontinued the proud Pontiac nameplate. Introduced in 1926 as the "companion" marque to GM's Oakland line, Pontiac was conceived as an affordable six-cylinder vehicle. After World War II, Pontiac emerged as a styling leader with cues such as rear fenders integrated into the design of the car. Fresh divisional leadership in the late Fifties crafted Pontiac into a performance brand, "America's No. 1 Road Car," with new models including Bonneville and Catalina. The charismatic John DeLorean became general manager in the mid-Sixties and raised Pontiac to its pinnacle with the GTO series, based on the Ferrari concept of race-ready "Gran Turismo Omologato" versions. That era also birthed the Firebird, which would define Pontiac sportiness for decades. In fact, those years became a standard to which Pontiac tried unsuccessfully to return over the next few decades. Its occasional later hits included, in the mid-Eighties, the fiber-glass-bodied Fiero Sport Coupe. But despite the use of advertising themes such as "We Build Excitement" and "Wide Tracking," Pontiac fell victim to GM's homogenization of its product lineup in the Eighties and Nineties, including front-wheel-drive platforms that hurt "performance" characteristics. Pontiac's demise was sealed in federal bankruptcy court in 2009.
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