LIFE SPAN: 1899-2010
RISE TO POWER: Originally a companion brand to GM's Pontiac, Michigan-based Oakland Motor Company, Pontiac was an immediate success due to its selling of cheap performance models. (In 1933, it sold the cheapest eight-cylinder car in America). It cruised along successfully, hitting its peak in the '60s with high sales and critical praise for its affordable, powerful cars. Motor Trend magazine awarded Ponitac's entire model range its Car of the Year award for 1965. And who could forget its pop-culture icon, the '86 Firebird, made popular by Knight Rider?
NOTABLE MODELS: Firebird, Grand Prix, Fiero, GTO, G8, Tempest
DEATH KNELL: Though mired in a slight identity crisis, Pontiac seemed to be chugging along nicely. In 2008, GM announced that Pontiac would need to cut down its model line and become a niche brand, offering performance-based models like the critically successful G8. However, GM, presumably under fear that it would not trim enough fat to please Congress, decided to drop the brand all together.