Buick Still Lives

By Brendan Moore

03.20.07

A lot of people in the U.S. don’t really think much about Buick anymore when they’re ready to buy a new car. Buick hasn’t gone away like Oldsmobile did a while ago, but for many Americans; Buick ceased being relevant years ago.

Sales figures bear this out with Buick selling 40% less vehicles in 2006 (240,000 U.S. sales) than it did in 2000, and the 2000 numbers were already down from the 1990’s. Some of this decline was of course attributable to the same import tide that has washed away domestic sales across the board, but Buick has lost more sales than average, and lost those sales more quickly as well. And all of this despite a lot of positive attention from GM, which has replaced everything in the Buick lineup in recent years, mostly to the indifference of the buying public. Buick does have two recent additions to the fold which are very good vehicles; the Enclave, an elegant crossover, and the Lucerne, an attractive, capable sedan that is bargain-priced for its segment. These two vehicles will suffice to keep the division afloat while reinforcements are rushed to the front lines over the next few years.

2007 Buick Lucerne

Then there is China. General Motors is the number-one carmaker in China, and Buick is the brand responsible for most of that success. Most Americans are stunned when you tell them that Buick is considered a premium brand in China, and a brand millions and millions of Chinese aspire to own. Buick sold more vehicles in China last year than in the U.S. with over 330,000 units retailed in 2006. When GM decided to start selling cars in China in the 1990’s, they chose to brand the vehicles as Buicks since the brand enjoyed a stellar reputation there before WWII. Sometimes GM gets it right, and that turned out to be a prescient decision on their part.

2006 Buick Royaum – China-only model

When will this sales schizophrenia end for Buick? When the U.S arm of Buick gets it together, basically. Buick in China is on a roll, and if Buick North America could replicate their success, there’d be a lot of big smiles over at Buick Division headquarters.

In the interim, since you, like the rest of the country, haven’t been thinking about Buick much either, here are some random facts about Buick:

Buick is 104 years old, has good brand recognition in other countries, and still enjoys a good reputation for American quality and dependability internationally.

Buick dealers in the United States were offered a version of the excellent rear-wheel-drive platform from Holden in Australia that will soon be used in Pontiac and Chevrolet performance models, and politely declined. They conveyed their fears that the car would steal sales from their current FWD offerings that are approximately the same size. Reporter’s note: this is a mistake.

The brand managers at Buick believe that black buyers are an untapped gold mine for the brand and have experimented with expensive marketing campaigns aimed at young black professionals in metro areas like Atlanta.

Buick is bringing back the “Super” name to use on their highest-trim level models. The name was last used in the Fifties.

Most of the large Buicks in China are for executives and are chauffer-driven.

Nicola Bulgari of Bulgari jewelry fame, has over 40 Buicks housed in Italy that he uses for high-speed driving across Europe. Among these cars is the last retail sale Riviera Silver Arrow up-rated with a 420 HP supercharged engine, heavily modified suspension, special over-sized disc brakes, and performance-rated tires. To quote Bulgari, “”I fell in love with the Buicks. To me, they were the symbol of America. They had glamorous styling, personality, power and responsiveness.´ And then, “For me,” says Bulgari, “Buicks are the most elegant cars. Mercedes are no longer a status car. To me, they are just taxis.” Bugari has another approximately 50 Buicks stored in the U.S. that he uses when he visits the States.

Buick says the 2008 Buick Enclave is targeted at Lexus RX 330 and Acura MDX buyers.

2008 Buick Enclave

 

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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5 Comments

  1. Great post, Brendan. One comment regarding captions – the US LaCrosse is the same as the Canadian Allure. However, the Chinese LaCrosse is the one that confounds, because it’s so much better looking than the US model’s mid-1990s ovoid style.

    Another interesting point is that after an internal competition between the US Buick designers and the Chinese Buick designers to create the design for the next LaCrosse, the Chinese team won. Here is an article about it:
    http://www.fastcompany.com/subscr/114/open_features-made-in-china.html

    The black car in the second photo on the above page is the current Chinese LaCrosse (you should see the interior!)

  2. My brother who knows a lot about cars, bought a Lucerne and loves it. So now he has two cars, a 2005 Porsche (weekends) and the new Buick Lucerne (drives to work). But I have to admit, when I think of Buick I think of elderly drivers in Florida.

  3. Good catch, Chris – thanks. I’ve replaced it with a shot of the Buick Royaum, the large RWD sedan Buick sells in China.

  4. Very good article – no idea Buick was so strong outside the U.S.

    Maybe GM should get rid of the brand here and keep it everywhere else.

  5. I am an American ex-pat living in Italy and I have been passed on the Autostrada here by of all things, a Buick Roadmaster going over 180 kph. Now I wonder if that was Bulgari!

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