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GM, Toyota Seek Replacement for Vibe

2009 Pontiac Vibe GT

As the Vibe crossover expires with the Pontiac brand, GM and Toyota seek a new vehicle to produce under their joint venture.

Even as it shrinks its North American product portfolio, General Motors is negotiating with Toyota Motor Corp. to determine a new GM product to be jointly produced at the automakers’ 50-50 joint venture, New United Motor Manufacturing Inc.

A GM spokesman said that, if successful, the negotiations would result in a new model for one of GM’s surviving brands — Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac.

Earlier today, GM revealed that it will end production of its Pontiac line, including the Vibe crossover.
The Vibe is currently GM’s sole yield from the NUMMI partnership — meaning the Pontiac decision effectively leaves GM without a need for NUMMI as it cuts factory production plans around the country.

But Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson said GM is in talks with Toyota and NUMMI itself to determine another vehicle to be produced there.

“We’re negotiating to see how best to utilize that facility going forward,” Hopson said. “We’re clearly not backing away from our partnership at NUMMI. There’s no issue of us backing away from NUMMI.”

GM and Toyota began building small cars together at the former GM plant in Fremont, Calif., in 1984. Toyota also obtains its Tacoma pickup from a separate line there.

Over the years, GM has obtained models all related to the Toyota Corolla platform.

The venture was supposed to supply the cars on a 50-50 basis to Toyota and GM, with each side receiving 100,000 to 120,000 cars a year. But in recent years, GM’s take from the plant has fallen. Last year Pontiac sold 46,551 Vibes, a gain of 25 percent over 2007.

Toyota combines Matrix sales reports with the Corolla, so no data exist comparing Matrix to Vibe sales.

GM has little else in its portfolio like the Vibe. Like the Vibe, the Korean-built Chevy Aveo5 and Pontiac G3 are five-door hatchbacks. But they are smaller than the Vibe.

“There’s really nothing wrong with the Vibe,” Hopson said. “Its only problem right now is that it is a Pontiac.”

Asked whether the company is considering continuing production of the Vibe with a different GM badge, Hopson flatly said no.

By Lindsay Chappell of AutoWeek

John Paul Strong

John Paul Strong combines his two decades of automotive marketing experience with a team of more than 150 professionals as owner and CEO of Strong Automotive.

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