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The Pontiac GTO loses its muscle

GM to discontinue performance car rather than meet new safety requirements

DETROIT -- General Motors Corp. has confirmed that it will quit making the Pontiac GTO high-performance vehicle this summer.

The last GTO is expected to roll off the lines in June and reach US customers in July, Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson said. The car is made in Australia.

GM decided to stop production of the GTO because of new US safety requirements, Hopson said. The GTO shared a platform with the Australian Monaro, which has been discontinued.

''As this platform is being phased out worldwide, it simply doesn't make financial sense to make those kinds of investments," Hopson said.

Pontiac is exploring the possibility of adding a high-performance, rear-wheel-drive vehicle to its portfolio, but no decisions have been made in this regard, Hopson said.

The original GTO was an icon of the muscle-car era from 1964 to 1974.

Revived in late 2003, the current GTO, which starts at $31,990, received high marks for performance and power and has a 400-horsepower engine. But many considered the styling boring.

Last year, GM sold 11,590 GTOs, down 15 percent from the first full-year production in 2004, Autodata Corp. reported.

Despite the drop in sales, the GTO was doing well for a high-performance car and winning customers who traditionally did not buy GM vehicles, said James Hall, vice president of industry analysis for AutoPacific Inc. in Southfield, Mich. About half of all GTOs were sold to customers migrating from a non-GM vehicle, company data show.

But the GTO couldn't reach the sales volume necessary to justify reengineering the old platform, Hall said. And the decision to build it on a new platform is complicated by the possible production of a Chevrolet Camaro, he said.

GM showcased a Camaro concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January. If GM decides to make it, the Camaro, also a rear-wheel drive, probably would come in a wide range of versions, including a high-performance model.

This could crowd out the GTO, Hall said.

''The whole market has been cluttered with the possibility of a Camaro," he added.

The original GTO was an icon of the muscle-car era from 1964 to 1974. Above is a 1965 model. The car was revived in 2003 (at top is a 2004 model), but critics called ts styling bland. The new Camaro concept car (bottom) could fill the void, if GM decides to proceed with production.
The original GTO was an icon of the muscle-car era from 1964 to 1974. Above is a 1965 model. The car was revived in 2003 (at top is a 2004 model), but critics called ts styling bland. The new Camaro concept car (bottom) could fill the void, if GM decides to proceed with production.
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