Whatever Happened to the Pontiac Fiero?

The Pontiac Fiero was one of the automaker’s most sporty and attractive models. It became an instant success but the vehicle would not be on the market for long. Some serious issues with its design made it one of the most unsafe vehicles on the road. You don’t see many of them on the road these days. If you’re wondering whatever happened to the Pontiac Fiero, here is a history with the explanation of why this sporty model was discontinued.

History of the Pontiac Fiero

According to Wikipedia, the Pontiac Fiero was produced by General Motors under the Pontiac brand. The Fiero was the creation of Hulki Aldikacti and George Milidrag as a sports model with two seats and a mid-engine design. The first model year was released in 1983 as a 1984 model year. This was Pontiac’s first 2 seat car as well as the first mid-engine model in mass production. It was a technological wonder in some aspects. It came out with hidden headlights, composite panels, and speakers that were integrated as a luxury feature. The Fiero had tremendous curb appeal and it drew sportscar enthusiasts in for the first few years of production.

The run of the Fiero

The Pontiac Fiero was produced from 1984 through 1988. GM produced them for five years with a total of 370,168 built. It was off to a good start in 1984, chosen as one of the Ten Best List by Car and Driver magazine, and chosen to be the 1984 Indianapolis 500 Official Pace Car. The Fiero most closely resembled a Porsche in its sporty body design. Throughout the life of the Fiero, GM was faced with multiple safety issues and challenges with the design. This made it necessary for the automaker to become innovative and apply a series of fixes which resulted in a high overhead cost for production resulting in a loss of approximately $2,000 per vehicle sold.

The Pontiac Fiero’s reputation

For a vehicle that had such a good start in its first year of production, the reputation of the vehicle diminished quickly after its first year of sales. According to Tree Hugger, the Pontic Fiero had some serious design flaws that made some of the models catch fire. The Fiero was a car that tended to run hot. It was also plagued with oil leaks. When the oil leaked onto the hot exhaust manifold, the result was a fire. Other factors contributed o the explosive nature of the car, including faulty radiator hoses that were also responsible for some of the fires. Multiple fires were reported with the Fiero and it led GM to issue a recall notice for each of the 244,000 Fieros that had been built during that time.

GM’s findings

An investigation conducted by the NHTSA Office of Defects revealed that many of the fires that erupted in the Fieros were a result of faulty and improper owner maintenance along with improper service procedures. These were identified as the chief causes of engine compartment fires in the Fieros with four-cylinder engines. They concluded that it was not associated with design flaws.

The damage was done

According to Hot Cars, the Fiero had its merits, but the vehicle had so many reports of catching fire that there was no way to recover its reputation. It was named to the list of the most explosive cars on the planet, which doesn’t make buyers feel comfortable about driving a dangerous vehicle. Other issues were identified with the Fiero. The car was expensive to maintain. It earned a reputation for having power performance and it was sketchy when it came to reliability. The engine was underpowered and heavy which didn’t do much for its reputation. The Pontiac Fiero was called the worst sports car by Motor One. There was little that General Motors could do to repair the damaged reputation of the Fiero. It became a lost cause as the general public had already seen enough with the fires and the negative experiences that were reported and legitimized. The Fiero was an attractive car that had a sexy and sporty aesthetic but it represented a host of possible issues that were expensive and dangerous. Owning an attractive vehicle was not worth the safety risks and other associated problems.

Sales dropped dramatically for the Pontiac Fiero after the reviews started rolling in about its safety hazards. Although GM tried to explain them away as owner maintenance issues, this could not be taken seriously when one of the vehicles caught on fire during a testing run. There was no owner to blame for the situation. If Fieros were catching fire during testing, that was ample support for the fact that there was something amiss in the design of the vehicle.

Final thoughts

The Pontiac Fiero was a significant model in the history of General Motors’ Pontiac division. It was the first mid-engine two-seat sports car to be produced by the automaker. This gives it an automatic entry into the history books of the brand. It was sleek and attractive with a few prominent luxury features. After the first year of production, reports of poor performance, high maintenance costs, and frustrating issues with reliability began to turn the positive reviews of its first model year into frightening reports of multiple units catching fire and burning. The reputation of the Fiero was damaged by these issues and sales dropped off dramatically. GM was losing a few grand on each model it produced anyway and with sales going south, it didn’t make sense to continue producing the car. GM continued to try to salvage the reputation of the Fiero through 1988, but seeing that it was a losing deal, they permanently retired the Pontiac Fiero. It was a nice idea that didn’t make the final cut.

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