Duman reflects on fall of Pontiac

Published 8:21 am Wednesday, November 3, 2010

FRANKLIN—When Mike Duman drives his restored 1966 convertible Pontiac GTO, it takes him back to high school.

The Mike Duman Chevrolet Buick Pontiac GMC sign will come down at the Franklin dealership now that Pontiac no longer exists. A replacement sign is expected to go up by the end of the year. -- Gwen Albers | Tidewater News

“Being 1966, I’d just gotten my driver’s license,” said Duman, owner of Mike Duman Auto Sales in Suffolk and Mike Duman Chevrolet Buick GMC in Franklin. “One of my first jobs was washing cars.”

Of course, that involved getting to drive an occasional muscle car for which Pontiac was best known, including the Firebird Trans Am, GTO and Catalina 2+2.

On Monday — one day after Pontiac ceased to exist — Duman talked about learning of GM’s plans to phase out the Pontiac after carrying the brand for 84 years.

“To be honest, I was disappointed when I heard they were going to stop making them,” he said. “They were selling rather well.”

The end of the brand occurred at midnight Sunday when GM’s agreements with Pontiac dealers expired. General Motors announced its shutdown one year ago in a major restructuring.

At Duman’s dealership in Franklin, no new Pontiacs remain, said General Manager Rick Romesburg.

“We only had two left when they shut Pontiac down one year ago,” Romesburg said. “Within a month, they were gone.”

One was a Pontiac G-8, a rear-wheel sedan released in 2008; it took the place of the Bonneville and Grand Prix. The other remaining car was a G6, a midsize sedan introduced in 2004.

Over the past year, the Franklin dealership didn’t have many requests for Pontiacs, Romesburg said.

“A lot of Chevys look just like Pontiacs,” he said. “The new Malibu is very similar. They’ve taken the two of them (Chevy-Pontiac) and put them together.”

Romesburg doesn’t believe the unavailability of Pontiac will hurt GM sales.

“You can still get the same car from GM,” he said. “Sales have increased. I think GM quality is getting better. If you look now, it’s one of the few that doesn’t have recalls.”

The sign for the Franklin car dealership, which still advertises Pontiac, is expected to be changed by the end of the year.

“They came out and measured for new signs, Romesburg said. “It’s just a matter of replacing the sign.”

GM is expected to cover the cost.

As for Duman, he will hold on to his GTO. He got it 12 years ago, after the original owner traded it in.

“He bought it in 1966 when he entered the Marine Corps and had it ever since then,” Duman said. “It’s a great car.”