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Pontiac Hires Marketing Director

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DETROIT Craig Bierley is the new marketing director of Pontiac, replacing Mark-Hans Richer, whose departure was announced earlier this week.

Published reports have Richer headed for Harley-Davidson, although a Harley representative declined to confirm such accounts.

Bierley comes from General Motors' GMC unit, where he was product director and truck marketing manager.

He has had the unenviable job of defending GMC's large truck line as gas prices have increased over the past two years. But he has also enjoyed the success of the GMC Acadia CUV, which came out earlier this year.

Bierley was also the brand manager for the 2003 Pontiac Vibe. As part of his job, he met regularly with the media, indicating that he will at least match Richer's legendary availability.

Bierley's style is more likely to lean to evolution rather than revolution. Pontiac has no new models this year, only retools of existing vehicles. The next launch is the G8, a full-size, rear-wheel sedan that will be positioned as a family car with performance. It will debut early next year.

"Craig knows his way around Pontiac, and that will make this an easy transition," said Pontiac rep Jim Hopson. "He was brand manager for the Grand Am and also worked on the Bonneville in the '90s."

Bierley has also stated publicly the importance of the Gen Y consumer, just as Richer had in attempting to woo younger buyers via less traditional marketing plans, including the all-Internet launch of the Pontiac G5 last summer.

"[The Pontiac Vibe] will help us broaden our appeal with younger buyers," Bierley told Knight Ridder in January 2001. "Gen X and Gen Y are the fastest-growing segments of the population, especially Gen Y. They'll exert an enormous influence on the marketplace."

Still, Pontiac's average buyer age is 46, one year below the industry average, according to Power Information Network.

Pontiac sales have suffered with the dearth of new product this year, down 14 percent through June.

Pontiac spent $145 million on ads in 2006, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Through April, spending was $50 million.