Monday, May 4, 2009

Killing the Chief

I've long maintained that GM would have to slim down if it hopes to survive, and so I approve of the company's decision to rid itself of several divisions, including Pontiac. That doesn't mean, however, that the move won't be awfully painful to a lot of good, hard working people. The New York Times, for instance, has a story today about one such group of people: a family in Pennsylvania that has been selling cars since 1916, and Pontiacs exclusively since 1926, and whose dealership has been passed down, from father to son, since the very beginning. The death of Pontiac is like the end of their world:

Small, out-of-the-way Arnold Pontiac sells only Pontiacs, GMC trucks and used cars, so the Arnolds figure their G.M. warranty is about to expire. “It was just like getting kicked in the stomach,” says the elder Mr. Arnold, who sold his first car in 1950, to a local man named Paxton. (“Pontiac Catalina. Two-door hardtop. It was cream and rust.”)

His son, who started working at the dealership when he was 6, using a step stool to dust the tops of gleaming Bonnevilles and GTOs, is still trying to process the apparent evaporation of this chunk of his inheritance. “I’m not going to entertain that just yet,” says the younger Mr. Arnold, who sold his first car in 1987. (“Green Sunbird.”)

As Detroit and Washington work to save the car industry from going over a cliff like some roadster in a black-and-white melodrama, entire families have been upended — families that long ago linked their surname to the name of Pontiac in commercial banns of marriage.
The article is worth a read, as it is important to never forget the human cost of our decisions.

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