Buick-GMC Dealers Have Few Options for Budget Conscious Pontiac Owners

For Cincinnati Buick-GMC dealer Kim Borcherding, the elimination of the Pontiac brand has been anything but easy. At the end of March, thirteen of her customers reached the end of their Pontiac leases. Of those thirteen, six bought new import models, three bought Chevrolets (which she doesn’t sell), three bought out their leases and one bought a used vehicle from Borcherding.

Borcherding said that without Pontiacs in her inventory, she has little to offer budget-conscious customers. She said the most affordable Buick or GMC model on her lot is priced at nearly $25,000. Pontiac customers need moderately-priced vehicles and Borcherding said she has “nothing that is in their league.”

Since killing the Pontiac brand, General Motors Company’s customer retention efforts have been on migrating orphaned customers to the Chevrolet brand. In the year preceding GM’s announcement that it would wind down Pontiac, 37% of owners traded in their Pontiac vehicles on other GM products. According to Edmunds.com, that number has remained fairly flat in recent months.  Since January 1, about 25% of Pontiac owners have traded in their old vehicles on new Chevrolet products compared with only 10% choosing a Buick or GMC for their next new car purchase.

For dealers, like Borcherding, who don’t own a Chevrolet dealership or depended heavily on Pontiac for sales, it’s meant a significant drop in sales and revenue. Mark Frost is the general manager for Jim Ellis Buick-GMC in suburban Atlanta. He says Pontiac owners aren’t buying from his dealership because “there’s nothing really comparable in the Buick-GMC line.”

The least-expensive passenger car in the Buick or GMC lineup is the Buick LaCrosse with a base sticker price of $26,995. Buick-GMC dealers have been told that a base version of the Buick Regal will be available with a sticker price below $26,995, but not until model year 2012.

In the meantime, Buick-GMC dealer Mike Mullaney is trying to retain his Pontiac customers by offering them late-model pre-owned Pontiacs. He hopes that by doing so, he can keep their business until Buick launches its new, more moderately priced models. He said, “If we can maintain that customer for one more product cycle, we’ll be in good shape.”

GM spokesman Tom Henderson said, “The loyalty rates of Pontiac owners are in line with our expectations.”

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