Pontiac's future lineup to focus small, front-wheel drive models

Although Pontiac was earmarked for a return as General Motors' performance division, it looks as though those plans have been put on hold indefinitely. Thanks to higher gas prices and looming emissions and fuel economy standards, Pontiac will likely be limited to smaller, front-wheel drive models.

Pontiac's first step away from its performance image will likely be in the form of the G3 - a sister vehicle to the Chevrolet Aveo. Although the G3 program was rumored to be on hold, Automotive News reports the program is back on, with the G3 slated to hit the market in 2009.

To complement the G3, two new Pontiac sedans are said to be in the works. The first would be a sedan to slot in between the G3 and G5, although it remains unclear what architecture the new model would ride on. However, the sedan hasn't officially been given to the Pontiac brand yet - Buick is also in the running. And, since Pontiac and Buick dealers are typically housed under one roof, only one brand will be receiving the new model. Whatever division ends up with the new model, it should be ready to hit the market by 2012.

A Pontiac sedan based on the 2010 Chevrolet Cruze is still in the cards, with a simultaneous launch date possible in 2010. As with the Cruze/Cobalt, it still remains unclear how and if the new sedan and G5 will coexist.

The only other question mark surrounding Pontiac's future lineup in is the direction of the next-generation G6 sedan. Some within GM are intent on keeping the popular four-door as a front-driver, while others want to move the G6 to GM's new rear-wheel drive Alpha architecture in order to differentiate the G6 from other mid-size GM offerings. If the G6 remains FWD, a new model should hit the market in 2011, while the move to RWD would set that launch back by one year.

In keeping with Pontiac's new fuel-efficient theme, the Solstice sports car will most likely get GM's new 1.4L turbocharged four-cylinder. Despite its diminutive size, the new engine will up the Solstice's horsepower ratings and should improve overall fuel economy from the base car's 2.4L motor.