NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Buick Won’t Suffer Mercury’s Fate

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Buick Won’t Suffer Mercury’s Fate

By Jerry Flint

WardsAuto.com, Jun 16, 2010 8:00 AM

Rebuilding a failed nameplate may be the most difficult job in the business. I can think of only a few that ever were revived successfully.

A few, such as American Motors’ Rambler, were resuscitated way back when, but Jeep’s comeback is the only one that stands out in recent history.

Instead, for decades, auto makers have chosen to just kill a troubled nameplate and eliminate its dealers rather than try to resurrect it. That’s the way it was with Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn, Plymouth, Edsel, DeSoto and numerous others.

But now General Motors is making a serious effort to save Buick. And most of us do not realize how far the brand has fallen. It had only 102,000 light vehicle sales in the U.S. last year. That’s slightly better than Ford’s Mercury brand, which sold 93,000 vehicles.

And we all know what is happening to Mercury.

In 2010, Buick’s U.S. sales will be better, but still horribly low, maybe 135,000 units. Is a true turnaround possible?

The best-selling Buick car of the past few years, the Lucerne, is being killed. The old dealer body is gone, and current Buick dealers make most of their money selling GMC trucks.

The Buick buyer of the past, who wanted a big soft-riding car, is on Medicare and won’t be buying many new cars. That means a new customer base must be created.

GM is putting 4-cyl. engines in the new Buicks. The base engine in the LaCrosse, and the new Regal, will be an inline-4.

We don’t know if younger consumers want Buicks with 4-cyl. engines. And I don’t mean 20-year olds who can’t afford anything right now. I mean 45-year-olds.

I know Buick sold almost 450,000 units in China last year, and sales were up 60% compared with 2008. And yes, Buick has great brand equity in China. But that does not help in the U.S.

Even so, rebuilding Buick in the U.S. is not impossible.

The Buick Enclave cross/utility vehicle and the LaCrosse and Regal sedans are getting praise from car magazines that usually sneer at the brand. Motor Trend actually put Buicks on its April cover for the first time in 28 years.

Buick also usually does well in J.D. Power & Associates quality and dependability studies. And I have to admit I was amazed at the sticker on a LaCrosse CX model I recently test drove with a 4-cyl. engine and 6-speed automatic. It was $27,345.

The interior wasn’t cheap-looking. It had an audio system with satellite radio, an MP3 player and seven speakers. It also had cruise control, air conditioning and air bags galore and offered excellent mileage: 19/30 mpg (12.4-7.8 L/100 km) city/highway.

That price is lower than a loaded 4-cyl. Hyundai Sonata ($28,415) or a loaded Toyota Prius ($32,771).

If GM succeeds, it will be natural to question Ford’s decision to kill Mercury. But Ford really is getting out of the true luxury business and turning Lincoln into a new Mercury.

That is, there is no distinct Lincoln platform – just dolled up versions of Fords, which is what Mercury had become.

With only three other brands now, GM is going all out to rebuild Buick. The odds are long, but this time, GM just might do it.

link:

http://wardsauto.com/ar/buick_wont_suffer_100616/

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CSpec    515

Aren't historical division-specific sales numbers a bit misleading when overall US light vehicle sales are substantially lower?

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Paolino    99

I'm confident in Buick. Since they Enclave they've gotten better with each new vehicle. I had a Toyota-humping friend of mine actually say, "Wow, that Enclave is absolutely GORGEOUS. There's nothing that even comes close to how classy it looks."

There isn't a vehicle now that I wouldn't want to own that Buick has out here. Granted the Lucerne is a bit long-in-the-tooth, it still is a beautiful car, large, smooth, quiet, and has luxury features that would totally make me happy. If it had been updated properly, I don't see why it couldn't be a future product.

The LaCrosse and Regal are just gorgeous (even though I haven't seen the latter in person, I'm confident I'll love it since GMs photos tend to make the car look worse than it is). I'd be proud pulling up to work in either one of those and I know they'd garner a lot of attention in the sea of bland silver or beige Camry's, Accords, etc.

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cavalier36    7

The Chinese market saved Buick, period.

Mercury was down to nothing but extra trim added. No added value.

Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac's are sold pretty much around the World. This is why these 4 brands were kept. Saturn was only sold in the U.S and Canada. Pontiacs only in north america. as for Saab and Hummer no one was buying them. I think Saab only made money like 3 years the entire time GM owned them.

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Croc    268

Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac's are sold pretty much around the World. This is why these 4 brands were kept. Saturn was only sold in the U.S and Canada. Pontiacs only in north america. as for Saab and Hummer no one was buying them. I think Saab only made money like 3 years the entire time GM owned them.

...due to GM accounting magic. GM allocated a lot of development costs to SAAB that actually weren't SAAB costs.

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