GM plans to slash dealers, more jobs and Pontiac brand

General Motors says it's moving faster on its promise to become a smaller, leaner company.

On Monday, it announced it's killing the Pontiac brand, moving up the end of making Saturns and Hummers to this year, cutting another 7,000 jobs and accelerating cuts in its dealer ranks.

GM was passed as the world's largest automaker by Toyota last year and won't be focusing on size anymore, CEO Fritz Henderson says.

"I'm more focused on getting results than being big," he says.

The Pontiac brand will be phased out by the end of 2010. The last Hummers and Saturns will be made by GM sometime in 2009, and the brands will be sold or closed.

GM also will cut more dealers faster than earlier planned: 42% of its 6,400 dealers by the end of 2010.

Pontiac's demise has been coming for more than 30 years, says Rob Huting, general manager of classic cars for AutoTrader.com. The brand had great nameplates, including Firebird, Grand Am, Le Mans and GTO.

"Those were the cars that were right up there with the Mustangs and Camaros," Huting says. "But Pontiac doesn't build those anymore. It doesn't have a car that people feel passionately about."

GM's restructuring plan unveiled in February relegated Pontiac to a niche brand with one or two high-powered models sold in dealerships under the same roof as Buick and GMC. But President Obama said many things in GM's plan showed it wasn't restructuring fast enough and asked former CEO Rick Wagoner to step aside.

Henderson, who hasn't been on the job for a month but already has held three press conferences, says he is trying to prove that the company can change faster.

The new restructuring plan will allow GM to break even in a year when overall U.S. auto sales hit just 10 million; the old profitability plan relied on U.S. sales recovering to 15 million vehicles within three years.

"The objective here is to go deeper and faster," he says.

Henderson says he wants to break GM's constant state of restructuring over the past few years. "We need to have a more stable and sustainable business model, because frankly, we only want to do this once."

The announcement that GM will stop making Saturns and Hummers this year, however, is confusing customers, says Geoffrey Pohanka, owner of Pohanka Automotive Group in Maryland. GM earlier said it would make Saturns through 2011.

"Customers and employees are very concerned, as are the dealers. It seems like things are changing every day, and in fact, they are."

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