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GM Scraps the El Camino Comeback

This news crossed last week but it's worth noting: Ailing GM has scrapped plans to bring back a version of its legendary El Camino.

Even a stamp of approval by notorious rapper-turned-spokesmodel 50 Cent couldn't preserve the resurrection of the short-bed car-truck combo, a hybrid of a different kind and a different era.

Here's what the old Chevy El Camino looked like.

And here's what the new Pontiac El Camino -- officially, a G8 sport truck -- looked like, as seen at an auto show last year.

It was supposed to debut late this year as a 2010 model.

There are probably several reasons why it was killed -- most of them obvious: It was a gas-sucking V8. It was too small to be a truck and too big to be a car. Anything it could do, a pickup, crossover or SUV could do better. Heck, even a minivan could do better.

Most importantly, it was never meant to sell. If that sounds silly, that's the business Detroit was in for years. Pontiac predicted it would sell maybe 5,000 units per year.

In the auto business, this is what's known as a "halo" vehicle -- a vehicle that meant to create a "halo" of buzz, sexiness and innovation around a brand, not necessarily be a big-seller. The Corvette was probably meant to be a halo vehicle, but it turned out to be popular, thanks to the fact that it 's an affordable, Porsche-eating muscle car with world-class speed.

But in the past, Detroit barely blushed at spending thousands if not millions to create vehicles that it knew few would buy just because -- well, because it was cool to design them.

Two recent examples: The Chevy SSR convertible pickup truck and the $40,000 remade Dodge Challenger.

The Ticker will be the first to give into its Id and say this: If The Ticker had an extra forty grand sitting around, there would be a shiny cherry red Challenger sitting in the Ticker's garage yesterday.

And there's no denying the retro-chic of the original El Camino. But it was crying out for a comeback about as much as the Spanish Flu.

So killing the G8 sport truck/new El Camino is exactly the right move. Even if GM hadn't just received $9.4 billion in taxpayer-sponsored emergency government loans, spending even one dime on the the new El Camino would have been economically indefensible.

Indeed, the only halo coming off Detroit assembly lines henceforth should be a halo of profitability.

-- Frank Ahrens
The Ticker is Twittering!

By Frank Ahrens  |  January 13, 2009; 3:40 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Detroit bailout, El Camino, GM  
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Pontiac Motor Division is or was building this and not Chevy????? What was Bob Lutz, the Putz, thinking???

Once again another GREAT car goes to the scrap heap.

Posted by: Computer_Forensics_Expert_Computer_Expert_Witness | January 13, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

O, Frank, the El Camino . . . grrrrrrrr. Can I have the prototype and pretend it's still 1972?

Posted by: dentuttle | January 13, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Page down one article and you'll see that the Pontiac G8 ST is dead. There is also a picture of the vehicle. The article was posted 01/06/09.

Frank, I like you but get your info straight.

Posted by: AStMarysConstituient | January 13, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

So why is it that so many of these "halos" are trucks of one kind or another? The Corvette shows how the "halo" can be a good business model: by producing innovative cars people don't realize they want until they see them. Why didn't GM make a "halo" version of the Cooper Mini? An affordable car in that market segment would have killed...

Just more proof that what Detroit really needs is less a cash infusion than a management one.

Posted by: dj333 | January 13, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

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