NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Cargirl: Can Buick Be Saved?

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Cargirl: Can Buick Be Saved?

Can it be saved, or is this a sentence to a slow death?

by Kate McLeod (2007-04-16)

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Figuring out the General Motors plans for Buick isn't easy. On the surface, it doesn't look good. Buick today is selling fewer cars and trucks than Oldsmobile did when it was killed.

You'll recall that GM announced it would kill Olds late in 2000. That year Olds' sales were 299,000 cars and trucks. Last year the Buick total was 241,000 and it's still going down this year.

The entire U.S. Buick line is being reduced to three vehicles: two four-door sedans and a coming crossover, the Enclave. The Rainier and Rendezvous SUVs, the Terraza minivan, the Century, LeSabre, Park Avenue, and Regal cars are gone with the wind - except in China , where Buick seems to be hot stuff.

Girldriver USAIndividual dealers are being eliminated and the franchise is being lumped together in showrooms with Pontiacs and GMC. Yet exclusive dealers have been the traditional route to success, always. GM even says its Chinese designers - in China- will help design the next Buicks, which doesn't exactly sound like a recovery plan that will sell in Middle America.

There is another side to this: Buick announced at the New York Auto Show that they will bring back the "Super" badge to their premium models, which has been absent for 50 years. The LaCrosse and Lucerne Super models will be engineered for Buick by the GM Performance Division. The LaCrosse Super is sport tuned and powered by a 300-hp small-block V-8. The Lucerne ups horsepower with a Northstar V-8.

"Supers" won't have big sales but they may create buzz. Bob Lutz, GM's vice chairman of global product development, has seen this work before and it is one of his favorite ways to get people into a showroom. The LaCrosse has been spruced up but both the LaCrosse and Lucerne need a real makeover that will put them on par with the coming Enclave crossover. And Buick is not revealing a timetable for other new models. "Supers" are good for buzz, but buzz doesn't a division make.

Doing a lot right

The Buick division is doing a lot right. They brought their median age down to 53 from around 67 by offering models that have now been killed. The lower median age is positive but most marketers (other than pharmaceutical companies) look at 53-year-olds as dead. I guess they don't want to be caught selling to older consumers with paid-off mortgages and money in the bank.

Yet, 40 percent of Buick's customers, according to J.D. Power PIN data, paid cash for their Buicks in 2006. Okay, maybe you don't get to make money on their loans, but you also don't have to deal with defaults. Buick ranks as the highest domestic brand, and third in the industry behind Porsche and MINI, for customers who paid cash. MetLife demographic data says there are more than 77 million baby boomers whose annual spending power is $1 trillion. They could buy a lot more Buicks if GM would give the brand more support.

In the J.D. Power Consumer Satisfaction Index, Buick came in one point below Lexus. If I hadn't learned that from Buick people, I never would have known.

Buick is having a hard time getting the word out. I'll bet they're marketing budgets for the LaCrosse and Lucerne don't touch those of the Cadillac's DTS and SRX, but GM won't say. And they have been relegated to a shared showroom - Buick calls their space a slice or a channel.

Meanwhile, Automotive News reported that the number of single line stores among imports is rising. The more vehicles you sell, the more single dealerships you must have. If Buick sold 400,000 vehicles tomorrow, they would not be relegated to a slice in a GMC-Pontiac dealership. GM doesn't really believe that a young Pontiac buyer will grow into a GMC truck and then decide they need a Buick, do they?

It seems that GM has decided against killing Buick, as they did with Oldsmobile. But they don't seem to want to support it and restore it to health. Buick now doesn't have enough vehicles to merit stand-alone dealers so they've been tossed in with GMC and Pontiac in the hopes that they will have better days in some distant future. (I think one of my screenplays will win an Oscar too.)

At General Motors, brand is a big word. They are refocusing their lines and streamlining their different businesses so that every brand doesn't have to appeal to every segment of the automotive market. Of course this makes sense in the master plan, but what it does it to the Buick brand is still a question. And we have learned that GM has put a hold on its plans for a large rear-drive Cadillac, which might have rolled over into something for Buick.

Buick showed journalists their model lineup recently at the annual Buick luncheon in New York . The star in Buick's portfolio is the 2008 Buick Enclave, a crossover with the same underpinnings as the Saturn Outlook. The Enclave has the sweep and elegance of a big luxury car. It's signature waterfall grille, xenon headlamps, lush, super-quiet interior, captain's chair seating, space for seven passengers, 19-inch wheels, and 275-horsepower engine combine elegance with cool conveniences. This could be a winning combination for Buick's future.

But one Enclave and two Super Buicks cannot save Buick. What can they sell, 40,000 or 50,000? Buick was the cornerstone on which all of General Motors was built. If they can't save Buick, can they save anything?

Buick just seems to be on a shelf waiting for better days. That's life support. Will this be enough? It is hard to say.

Edited by NINETY EIGHT REGENCY
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There lies the reason why Oldsmobile should have not been killed. They are sending Buick down the same path, but it is thriving in China.. go figure...

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A couple of glaring differences:

- Oldsmobile was in this state of Emergency in 2000 (Buick was not)

- Oldsmobile wasn't profitable in 2000 (Buick was profitable in 2000 and is profitable now overall)

- Many Oldsmobile dealerships were individual franchises without supporting brands (Buick is merged with Pontiac and GMC)

- Oldsmobile's line-up was growing (not strategically shrinking like Buick's now. Even then, Buick's current line-up is smaller than Oldsmobiles in 2000)

- Oldsmobile Fleet and employee sales were near or over 50% when GM announced Oldsmobile's closing (Buick's fleet sales are currently around 30% and shrinking)

- Oldsmobile was only sold in North America (Buick is sold internationally)

However, Buick needs more than three models down the road. GM has already announced the US line-up will eventually grow to 4 or maybe 5, but at the moment it will have 3 models. People want to kick Buick now in attempts to soil its reputation as much as possible while knowing that new products are on the way.

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The main difference is that Buick is part of BPG now... they can stay afloat until the new Lacrosse comes out.

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Nearly every Olds dealer I've seen was either paired with Chevy or Cadillac.

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Sorry... Got distracted and had to post my above comments before completing them. 98, the last outburst was not directed at you. It was directed at "doomsday" editors who choose to ignore Chrysler Group, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, etc... but pick on Buick and take several facts out of context.

I'll have to elaborate later.

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Buick could be a great brand. Trouble is at the top of GM. Bob Lutz is a complete idiot as is Rick Wagoneer. How do you expect a brand to survive if you don't give it products and don't advertise. I have been a fan of Buick since the early 70's and I am quite trouble buy GM's lack of committment. They also give, give give to the other brands but screw Buick. The Enclave is great but that only is not enough. Buick needs RWD, Coupes and Convertibles. I am sick and tired of seeing Buick get slammed because of the stupiditiy of the people at the top.

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Buick could be a great brand. Trouble is at the top of GM. Bob Lutz is a complete idiot as is Rick Wagoneer. How do you expect a brand to survive if you don't give it products and don't advertise. I have been a fan of Buick since the early 70's and I am quite trouble buy GM's lack of committment. They also give, give give to the other brands but screw Buick. The Enclave is great but that only is not enough. Buick needs RWD, Coupes and Convertibles. I am sick and tired of seeing Buick get slammed because of the stupiditiy of the people at the top.

Oh quit your whining. Buick, and GM in general, would be far more worse off if it wasn't for Lutz. Edited by blackviper8891
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Buick could be a great brand. Trouble is at the top of GM. Bob Lutz is a complete idiot as is Rick Wagoneer. How do you expect a brand to survive if you don't give it products and don't advertise. I have been a fan of Buick since the early 70's and I am quite trouble buy GM's lack of committment. They also give, give give to the other brands but screw Buick. The Enclave is great but that only is not enough. Buick needs RWD, Coupes and Convertibles. I am sick and tired of seeing Buick get slammed because of the stupiditiy of the people at the top.

Buick is getting revived. GM commited Billions to them for new products but they take time. Also Buick is going to be a truely world class car because of Buick China. Buick doesn't need coupes or convertibles it needs classy, fully modern, sophisticated sedans in all shapes and sizes. Coupes comprise a small portion of the market. Convertibles even smaller. If a chassis shared b/t a low volume niche model and a high volume sedan it can be quite profitable.

If you want Buick to really come back and stick around you better hope that Buick China continues on its winning streak and you need to understand that coupes and convertibles aren't going to help as much as sedans and possibly crossovers. Also you need to understand that GM and consequently Buick are WOLRD brands and need to appeal to broad markets in many different countries. It has to be more than a narrow definition of Buick as a lux sport brand from the 70s.

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Think about it this way...At one point, saturn had only 3 models....vue, ion sedan, and coupe. And now look what happend...So don't fret Buick people!

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Buick could be a great brand. Trouble is at the top of GM. Bob Lutz is a complete idiot as is Rick Wagoneer. How do you expect a brand to survive if you don't give it products and don't advertise. I have been a fan of Buick since the early 70's and I am quite trouble buy GM's lack of committment. They also give, give give to the other brands but screw Buick. The Enclave is great but that only is not enough. Buick needs RWD, Coupes and Convertibles. I am sick and tired of seeing Buick get slammed because of the stupiditiy of the people at the top.

GM has limited resources (money, mainly) and therefore it can't give every brand 7 or 8 different models, even if it wants to. Pontiac is even worse off, they have nothing concrete after the G8.

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Nobody is whining it is the truth! WHAT HAS LUTZ DONE! NOTHING His designs are uninspiring. And what about that Billion, how many years ago was that? All Buick has had is worn out platforms. And how do you justify 5 models for Saturn, 8 Pontiac, 10 Chevy, 6 Caddy, 3 FOR BUICK. So I am not whining I am stating the obvious. Buick has had some wonderful concepts that have recieved wonderful reviews that have never materialized. Buick has never been important to GM.

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Buick is alive today because of China. Having said that Lucerne and Enclave are very competitive vehicles. (Specially Enclave) What they really need is a new LaX, the Park Ave and a GNX (based on a GTO/Camaro) 3.6L DI Twin Turbo V6, 6spd DSC auto, that would be sweet. This also would help get people in showrooms buzz products are good.

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They are doing to Buick what they did to Oldsmobile.. This is why I say this..

1. I was not offended at anything anyone said. Facts are still facts, Oldsmobile should still be here even in a smaller form.

2. They did the same thing to Oldsmobile before it died and after. These same people wrote articles and others got in heated debates over the whole Oldsmobile thing.

When Oldsmobile was dying and under the gun, I was told to get over it, accept it and worse by past GM boards and current GM boards..

My division is gone. I made my peace. I drive my Oldsmobiles.

I sit back and watch with great interest what is going on. I have seen Pontiacs die and Buicks die and I have seen the same news all over the place contemplating their demise. I have seen fan boys act the same way I did when Oldsmobile was going through.

Now it it is happening to their favorite divisions, it looks different from a different perspective when it is happening to them.

I keep my peace and read and watch. I have been where most of the Buick and Pontiac fans are now. I lived it. I hope your divisions do not suffer the same fate as mine did. I just do not comment, but I watch.

I will leave you with one thing.. Never believe everything GM does or tells you. You will be quite shocked at what they do. Do not follow them blindly.

China is what keeping Buick alive. If it had not been for that legacy there.. Saturn would have more vehicles and maybe even the WM Caprice/Statesman and VE Commodore. GM would choose Saturn over Buick and Pontiac any day of the week on one simple fact. It does not have a past.

Edited by NINETY EIGHT REGENCY
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Nobody is whining it is the truth! WHAT HAS LUTZ DONE!

Lets see:

Solstice/Sky-for the cost of a mediocre marketing effort you get one pure sex Solstice and 3 deriviatives of the Saturn Sky which are all being sold on different continents!

Lucerne-selling well and does awesome in reviews.

GMT9000s- do I really need to say more?

Impala-selling well and doing alright in reviews.

NG CTS-top of the line interior it should have had in 2003. Likely the BEST GM interior EVER!

Got GM to notice Holden bringing us the 350 hp then 400 hp GTO, the upcoming G8, and engineering RWD for the world!

Is setting up Opel design and engineering to make Saturn a TRUE import competitor while costing pennies on the dollar.

Is setting up Buick USA w/ world class top of the line products for pennies on the dollar w/ the help of Buick China!

Do I really need to go on here?

NOTHING His designs are uninspiring.
In your opinion. IMO the Lucerne is the best Buick since the GN-X.
And what about that Billion, how many years ago was that?

About 3. It takes about that long to get an all new model out. Hmm...about the same time as the Enclave was started, wasn't it.

All Buick has had is worn out platforms.
Lambda is not worn out. The G-body Lucerne is over 50% new if I remember right. The Lacrosse is going to be replaced as soon as EPII is ready. Would you rather they replace the aged W-body Lacrosse with a soon to be replaced Epsilon I Buick?
And how do you justify 5 models for Saturn, 8 Pontiac, 10 Chevy, 6 Caddy, 3 FOR BUICK.

Easy they needed them. Chevy is THE most important division for GM. It likely makes over half the profits for the brand. Buick has new products coming but they are a combined division w/Pontiac and GMC. They don't need the volume, would you rather they still sold a rebadged Envoy, outdated Rendevous, and crappy CSV? Also Pontiac has 6 models (Solstice, G5, G6, GTO, and Grand Prix (2 of which won't be here when the G8 arrives).

So I am not whining I am stating the obvious. Buick has had some wonderful concepts that have recieved wonderful reviews that have never materialized. Buick has never been important to GM.

What wonderful concepts? Seriously they had the late 90s Lacrosse which was beyond wild and the Velite. What other concepts are you talking about?

Why should Buick, a brand which sells to old men and women in the US, be more imporant than the money maker (Chevy), the import fighter (Saturn), the status symbol (Caddy), or the sport division (Pontiac)?

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I think GM's strategy for Buick is

1. Get the darn old age of gramps buying it down from where it was, the author complains of the median age being 53, but does she know that Lexus has average buyer's age of 60+? Considering 14 years off the average age is a huge plus for the brand. If it can attract younger people now, chances are they will be a better repeat customer than the 60+ generation.

2. Quality, just one point behind Lexass is a huge development considering how bad it was in quality a few years ago. By controlling the number of vehicles now, Buick is getting a better hold of quality and will be easier too ramp the production up gradually otherwise we will have a Toy disaster of recalls.

3. Make it a niche. Guys who think Buick will have full scaled portfolio need to get over it. At least it seems like Buick will be niche for preventing any product overlap with other brands. Making it for those people who are not in a dog race of more horsepower, or attracting any consumer. I think smaller Buick has a better chance to survive than a full scaled one.

4. They will not let Buick die. All they need is some time before China products start getting here.

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They are doing to Buick what they did to Oldsmobile.. This is why I say this..

Not really. GM is doing to Buick what they're doing to Saturn... just to a smaller degree. Buick will continue to share platforms while sharing most of its line-up with another market overseas. It just happens to be that line-up is under the Buick brand also.

1. I was not offended at anything anyone said. Facts are still facts, Oldsmobile should still be here even in a smaller form.

Very true... You are actually stating GM should have done to Oldsmobile what they're currently doing to Buick. If GM would have started importing Holdens back in the 1990's instead of investing billions in the Aurora, shortstar, etc... Oldsmobile would probably still be here.

2. They did the same thing to Oldsmobile before it died and after. These same people wrote articles and others got in heated debates over the whole Oldsmobile thing.

GM is intentionally reducing Buick's size while repositioning Buick as a premium/luxury brand. GM was working full-force to give Oldsmobile several unique products that were "import fighters" with exclusive powertrains. Oldsmobile lost its core market without gaining a foothold in the new one. GM isn't attempting anything that severe with Buick. Buick isn't pretending to be something it isn't nor is it ashamed of its name and history. Buick will still be familiar to many existing customers and to the public (In model names, Buick shield emblem, styling elements, and premium features) after GM completes its revitalization. The BUICK name will be proudly displayed inside and out on Buick vehicles.

When Oldsmobile was dying and under the gun, I was told to get over it, accept it and worse by past GM boards and current GM boards..

My division is gone. I made my peace. I drive my Oldsmobiles.

Buick isn't dying and under the gun. Buick is currently selling over 500k internationally and increasing. Buick doesn't need to have a huge marketshare in the US to be viable and profitable for GM. GM is pushing Buick to become an image brand in the US. See Buick's website in reference to how GM is advertising the new Enclave. I'm very pleased with Buick's updated site.

I sit back and watch with great interest what is going on. I have seen Pontiacs die and Buicks die and I have seen the same news all over the place contemplating their demise. I have seen fan boys act the same way I did when Oldsmobile was going through.

Now it it is happening to their favorite divisions, it looks different from a different perspective when it is happening to them.

Uhm... Buick is profitable and isn't being called upon to be axed by stockholders. In support, I put my money where my mouth is. I buy Buicks.

I keep my peace and read and watch. I have been where most of the Buick and Pontiac fans are now. I lived it. I hope your divisions do not suffer the same fate as mine did. I just do not comment, but I watch.

I will leave you with one thing.. Never believe everything GM does or tells you. You will be quite shocked at what they do. Do not follow them blindly.

China is what keeping Buick alive. If it had not been for that legacy there.. Saturn would have more vehicles and maybe even the WM Caprice/Statesman and VE Commodore. GM would choose Saturn over Buick and Pontiac any day of the week on one simple fact. It does not have a past.

That's all very true... which is why GM is not doing the same thing to Buick as it did to Oldsmobile. :smilewide::gitfunky::cheering:

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Buick's median buyer age is 53 ?!?! I thought merce3des' was 54 only a few years ago (tho different sources will show different results for the same year/make). What will the 'Buick's buyers are all dying off' and 'octegenarian Buick drivers' going to whine on about now ??

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Buick's median buyer age is 53 ?!?! I thought merce3des' was 54 only a few years ago (tho different sources will show different results for the same year/make). What will the 'Buick's buyers are all dying off' and 'octegenarian Buick drivers' going to whine on about now ??

They're going to whine about Pontiac, of course. :AH-HA_wink:

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Can Buick be saved?

Yes, it can.

IF...the executives and managers can get off their asses and show some real initiative. Buick traditionally was the luxury car for folks who didn't want all the glitzy-ness of a Cadillac. A classy, stylish brand. The Enclave is a start, but Buick can't be supported by a crossover...and especially not one of a trio.

The idea that the world's biggest automaker with all its vast resources can't spice up a damaged brand is ridiculous. Its not that hard to build a Buick that would have almost universal appeal...GM has the Velite concept, and if built (keeping true to the design, not watering it down) it could very well spark a revival for the brand.

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I haven't been a GM fan for long, but what really made me one was the way they have strategically set about rebuilding each of their brands. You just have to realize that it takes time and sacrifice to rebuild brand images. In fact, it's a lot easier to build a brand from scratch than try to revamp one that's been beaten up.

It was mentioned that GM has had limited resources with which to turnaround. So what you do in that situation is prioritize. I know that plenty of people will disagree with me, but here is what my priority would have been:

1. Chevy - Cadillac could be considered #1, but when you need money, you go to your bread and butter.

2. Cadillac - Have to have a stong presence in the luxury market, it sets the tone for the rest of the brands.

3. Saturn - Saturn gets this spot because of their excellent sales satisfaction. Fixing Saturn's problems is as easy as giving them decent products; the other brands are harder to fix. You can get quicker returns out of Saturn than with other brands and if GM can pull off the import-fighter with Saturn, the returns they will get won't come at the expense of other GM brands.

4. GMC - This is debatable, but if you're revamping Chevy, you can pretty much give GMC what it needs (Sierra, Yukon)

5. Hummer - I know I'll have plenty disagree about this, but the best way I can explain is this: There's a reason so many companies want to get their hands on Jeep. If handled correctly, Hummer could become just as valuable as Jeep if not moreso.

6. Buick - This brand is beaten all to crap and is going to take a lot to turnaround. So why dump money into it at a crucial time when you can see quicker returns by investing in other places?

7 & 8. Pontiac and Saab - Pontiac is in a tough spot because a fundamental question is being raised as to whether a performance division is relevant in today's market. And Saab, well, they shouldn't be considered part of the NA turnaround, they should be a Europe-first brand that can be used in spots here.

As for pearing Buick down to 3 vehicles, this is so that they can concentrate their dollars into a few great vehicles and then build from there. Lucerne is doing pretty well, Enclave is, IMHO, going to be the finest crossover on the market and I expect good things from the next LaX. But why muddle the dealership with the outdated and Terraza, Rendezvous and Ranier? Let the new products build a new brand image without having to carry their weight.

Now project yourself 10 years out. If GM does pull off a great turnaround and has all of their brands working as specified (with BPG grouped into boutique brands), what is the next logical and easy avenue for growth? Expanding the Buick and Pontiac brands again. But you have to get the brand images right before considering these extensions.

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As for pearing Buick down to 3 vehicles, this is so that they can concentrate their dollars into a few great vehicles and then build from there. Lucerne is doing pretty well, Enclave is, IMHO, going to be the finest crossover on the market and I expect good things from the next LaX. But why muddle the dealership with the outdated Terraza, Rendezvous and Rainier? Let the new products build a new brand image without having to carry their weight.

Now project yourself 10 years out. If GM does pull off a great turnaround and has all of their brands working as specified (with BPG grouped into boutique brands), what is the next logical and easy avenue for growth? Expanding the Buick and Pontiac brands again. But you have to get the brand images right before considering these extensions.

Exactly 100%. Best way it's been explained yet = Consolidate. Focus. Expansion.

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