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Popular Mechanics Article


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PM OWNERS REPORT
PONTIAC FIERO 2M4
Popular Mechanics, May  1984
__________________________
 
The article starts with a couple passing an object over the top of a 
Fiero with the following captions encircling the picture:
 
"Some difficulty shifting into first and reverse"
Texas Computer Consultant
 
"Would have been willing to pay an additional $4,000 for it."
Michigan Programmer
 
"My teen-agers love it--have to make an appointment to drive it myself."
Alabama Registered Nurse
 
"19 mpg is rather disappointing."
California Corporate VP
 
"Too wide a turning radius."
Arizona Electronics Technician
 
"Classier than the 280ZX and RX7."
New York Engineer
 
______________________________
 
               Many owners ordered Fieros sight unseen.  And they weren't bothered 
by early production kinks.  Owners confessed to falling head over heels in love 
with the Fiero's styling, often before seeing an actual car.  Looks 
ranked No. 1 as the reason for buying, hotly pursued by price, 
patriotism, economy and handling, in that order.
               "I saw pictures of the Fiero months before it went on sale," said an 
Ohio steelworker, "and instantly fell in love with the car.  It's 
exactly the kind of two-seater I wanted.  Besides, it's made in the U.S.A!"
               A Colorado businessman: "Call it love at first sight, but back in 
August '82 up in the Rockies, I happened to come across a Fiero being 
tested during Pontiac's engineering shakedowns.  I ordered my car right 
after that without knowing what the price would be."
               A Texas computer engineer: "It's the sportiest inexpensive car 
around.  It cost less than a Camaro, Trans Am or Mustang.  On top of 
that, it's loaded with new technology, gets good gas mileage and is made 
in America."
               "It's what the 1984 Corvette should have been," wrote a Michigan 
artist.  "The Fiero's styling makes a more powerful statement than 
anything else on the road.  My friends at GM say the Fiero has 
outrageous potential, part of which will become evident in 1985."
               Many owners noted the styling link between the Fiero and the Corvette--
and it's true: Way back at the beginning of the 1984 Corvette's development 
program, GM's designers projected that car to become very nearly what the 
Fiero is today.  So the similarity goes beyond front-end design and even 
beyond the plastic body--it amounts to a root kinship.
               A Wisconsin mechanic became one of many respondents who 
mentioned the similarity, but he put it a different way:  "I've followed 
the Fiero's development in the car magazines for about two years and had 
pretty much made up my mind to buy one.  As a former owner of 10 
Corvettes, I feel the Fiero is what the new Corvette should have been in 
terms of size.  If it came with an aluminum V6, 200hp and a European 
name, it would cost $35,000 and be a steal at that!"
               Many owners referred to their Fieros as "sports cars."  Pontiac, 
however, views it more as an economical, sporty commuter.  But just as 
Vette fanciers tend to be more up on cars, so are Fiero owners.  No 
Fiero driver felt lukewarm about his or her automobile.  And when things 
went wrong mechanically--as they're bound to with any car this 
new--j10.6 percent of the respondents to our survey fixed it themselves.
               In a way, it's not fair to survey owners of the very first cars off any 
assembly line.  But because we want to report on new models as soon as we 
can, we have to go to the very first buyers available.  We did this with 
the 1984 Corvette, and we've done it again with the Fiero.  However, our 
sampling contains the sorts of early production glitches that might have 
been remedied at the factory by the time your read this.
               The biggest headache with early Fieros involved the electrical 
system.  In some cases, the engine's ECM (electronic control module) for 
the throttle-body injector malfunctioned causing jerky performance.  A 
North Carolina store manager complained that his dealer had replaced the 
ECM three times, always under warranty, "but it's time-consuming and an 
annoyance to have to keep going back."
               Mostly, though, electrical problems involved more minor items.  "The 
gauge-panel fuse keeps blowing out," a Minnesota housewife told us, "and this 
seems to happen when I use the cruise control."  The fuse for the electric deck-
lid latch also had a tendency to blow, and a few owners had problems with their 
wiper motors.
               A California business executive:  "The voltage regulator went bad, and 
then I had a series of blown fuses, but service was prompt and courteous."  
Nearly 70 percent of our respondents rated dealer service good to excellent.
               Owners with manual transmission Fieros growled that it's sometimes 
hard to shift into low gear, and 8.6 percent complained that the pop-up 
headlights tended to stick.  In some cases the lamp mechanisms merely needed 
adjustment, but in others, the relays had burned out.
               Fiero drivers were generally impressed with the way their cars 
handled.  A mail carrier form Michigan said, "This has to be the best 
handling car I've ever had the pleasure of driving."
               A nuclear reactor inspector from the same state added, " I ordered the 
WS-6 sport suspension, which is expectedly firm, but I prefer to drive a 
car as opposed to being carried in splendid isolation.  Therefor, the 
levels of both handling and comfort suit me fine."
j              A few owners mentioned that the Fiero could use power steering, 
especially for parking maneuvers.  Power steering isn't yet a Fiero option, but 
it's one that Pontiac is watching.  They might offer Saginaw's new 
electric-servo type, which is now coming out of the experimental stage.  
Also , the car's turning radius seemed a bit wide to some owners, 
especially for a two-seater with such a short wheelbase.
               But a New York electrical technician said, "This car handles great.  
I've owned Jags, MGs and Corvettes, but they didn't handle like this 
Fiero.  The interior design has a way of making you feel snug, secure, 
in complete control, but there's still that air of roominess in the 
cockpit.  The dashboard looks miles away, yet it's right there, and 
everything is very functional.  Then there's the stereo--absolutely great!"
               The up-option stereo won solid praise from many owners. A Minnesota 
bodyman said, "The stereo system with those speakers mounted in the 
headrests, totally surrounds you with sound!"
               The Fiero's Lear-Siegler sport seats brought both good and bad 
comments.  "The seats feel like they're built around you," said a California 
manager, "and the car handles like it's running on rails."  A California 
network coordinator:  "I'm 5-foot-2 and have to put the seat all the way 
forward to reach the clutch pedal.  But because of the many seatback 
positions, I don't feel I'm sitting on top of the wheel."
               A 6-foot-3 businessman figured he was about the tallest person who'd 
fit into a Fiero, and even at that he was having trouble getting in and 
out.  A Nebraska nurse added, "Seats need more thigh support.  A person 
with long legs suffers on long trips."  And a few wide-bottom drivers 
considered the seats too narrow.
               Most owners voiced satisfaction with the Fiero's performance, and a 
Tennessee engineer wasn't alone when he commented, "I enjoy driving my 
Fiero.  It handles and corners well, and the four-cylinder engine 
delivers all the power I desire."  But we also heard from those who 
voted for more power.  "Add a turbocharger."  suggested a Maryland 
electrical engineer.  That's another item Pontiac is considering."
               "I'd be happier with the V6 engine." lamented a New York voucher 
clerk.  She, like many Fiero owners, had heard about the forthcoming V6 
and wished Pontiac had offered it earlier.  Others noted the lack of a 
five-speed--another possible future option.  So far, Pontiac lists just 
the 92-hp four with four-speed or automatic for the Fiero, but off-road 
HO parts are available from dealers, including one kit that makes the 
Iron Duke deliver around 250 hp.  Speed shops are likewise selling hopup 
and suspension goodies.
 
PLASTIC BODY WINS PRAISE
 
               Overall workmanship was judged good to excellent by 97 percent of our 
respondents--right up there with the very best from Europe and Japan.  The 
plastic body contributed to that fine rating and came in for quite a bit 
of praise. A New Hampshire steamfitter pointed out that "the body can't 
rust," and a Michigan housewife said, "So far as body alignments go, 
this is the best car we've ever owned.  The pop-on body panels don't dent."
               A Wyoming mining foreman wanted better visibility, "There's a blind 
spot at the fake rear side glass," he wrote.  "Pontiac could improve 
this, I'm sure."  An Ohio hostess felt the choice of body colors was too 
limited when she bought her car: "Just red and white."
               Several respondents also mentioned a lack of luggage space, although 
this came as no surprise to anyone.  the absence of a real glove compartment, 
no room to hand a suit, and the fact that a flat tire wouldn't fit into 
the Space-Savr spare compartment bothered a few.  "But I'll sacrifice 
the space rather than see a change in the body design." added an 
Illinois stock clerk.
               Most owners gave Pontiac great credit for a job will done.  A 
Wisconsin foundation assistant wrote:  "The Fiero has renewed my faith 
in the American automobile.  It's my first Detroit product in 15 years, 
and it's excellent in every way.  I look forward to driving it.  Many 
people ask me about the car, and other look over their shoulders to grab 
a peek."
               A Texas programmer: "the potential of this basic design is limitless.  
It'll be interesting to see what Pontiac does in the future.  If the 
Fiero had 150-plus horses and a larger fuel tank, it could compete with 
cars costing twice as much, notably Corvette, Porsche, 300ZX, and Alfa 
Romeo.  As it is, the Fiero is an exceptional value for the price."
               And finally, from a Florida corporate general manager: "Candidly, 
it's a tremendous ego trip!"
 
SUMMARY OF 1984 PONTIAC FIERO OWNERS REPORTS
 
Total miles driven                 863,922
 
Average miles per gallon
  Four-speed manual
    in town                                             24.0
    On the highway                 31.1
  Three-speed auto
    In town                                             23.2
    On the highway                 29.7
 
Transmission choices:
  Three-speed automatic                       50.0%
  Four-speed manual                            50.0%
 
Why did you choose the Fiero?
  Styling                                 85.5%
  Price                                                   27.5%
  Made in America                 18.8%
  Economy                                             16.4%
  Handling                                             13.4%
 
Specific likes:
  Styling                                 84.4%
  Handling                                             63.1%
  Economy                                             25.1%
  Comfort                               24.7%
  Stereo system                                     23.6%
 
Specific dislikes:
  Not enough trunk space      26.1%
  Hard shifting into low 
  gear                                                    14.1%
  Needs more 
  horsepower                                        12.0%
  Disappointing mileage                       7.6%
  Hard to park
  (Heavy steering)                  7.2%
 
What changes would you like?
  More powerfull engine                       19.0%
  Five-speed
  transmission option                            15.9%
  More luggage capacity                       12.4%
  No changes                                         8.5%
  Easier shifting                      8.5%
 
How much did you pay?
  Average                                              $11,213
  Range                                                 $8,878-$14,000
 
Workmanship opinion:
  Excellent                                            56.6%
  Good                                                   40.4%
  Average                                              2.6%
  Poor                                                    0.4%
 
Comfort opinion:
  Excellent                                            64.3%
  Good                                                   32.3%
  Average                                              3.4%
  Poor                                                    0.0%
 
Had any mechanical trouble?
  Yes                                                      54.9%
  No                                                       45.1%
 
What type of trouble?
  Electrical                                            27.8%
  Manual shifter                     17.9%
  Headlamp mechanism                        8.6%
  Brakes                                 7.3%
  Windshield wipers                              7.3%
 
Dealer service opinion:
  Excellent                                            30.7%
  Good                                                   38.1%
  Average                                              19.3%
  Poor                                                    11.9%
 
Number of vehicles owned:
  This car only                                       24.1%
  Two cars                                             34.3%
  Three cars                                          22.6%
  Four or more cars                               19.0%
 
Makes of other cars owned:
  Chevrolet                                            43.3%
  Pontiac                                31.3%
  Ford                                                    15.4%
  Oldsmobile                                         13.0%
  Buick                                                  12.5%
 
Would you buy another Fiero?
  Yes                                                      69.7%
  No                                                       5.5%
  Maybe                                                 23.6%
 
Would you buy another Pontiac?
  Yes                                                      73.4%
  No                                                       3.0%
  Maybe                                                 23.6%
 
Age distribution of owners:
  15-29 years                                          37.5%
  30-49 years                                          54.0%
  50-plus                                 8.3%

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