Buick, the rock upon which General Motors was built more than a century ago, appears to be fading in the company’s rearview mirror.
As of the 2019 model year, the Buick name is no longer stamped across the back of its North American models. In China, where Buick claims most of its sales these days, the “Buick” nameplate disappeared years ago. The brand’s logo is all that’s left, and soon, the company might be gone from the car business altogether — making only S.U.V.s and crossovers.
It seems that, after 115 years, the name’s image has become too outdated for a company that wants to be thought of as a thoroughly modern “attainable luxury” vehicle in a class with Acura, Infiniti, Lincoln and Lexus, a notch below high-end offerings like Cadillac.
The company has gone so far as to produce advertisements that explicitly distance the brand from its reputation. “That’s not a Buick” spots were placed in high-profile slots, like the Super Bowl, to drive home the point.
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Today’s Buicks are arguably not quite Buicks anyway — not in any sense that the founder, the all-but-forgotten David Dunbar Buick, would recognize.
Buick, the company, effectively ceased to be an automobile manufacturer after 2010, when General Motors shut down its vast “Buick City” manufacturing complex in Flint, Mich. Buick City, once the largest auto factory in the world, had for more than a century produced purebred Buick vehicles, parts and powertrains.
Since then, Buick dealers’ lots have been filled with a mélange of G.M.-owned vehicles borrowed from Opel, Holden, Daewoo and others, with a Buick badge affixed. So-called badge-engineering is a tried-and-failed G.M. strategy that has been criticized as helping to undermine brands including Oldsmobile, Saturn and Pontiac.
Today’s Buick-less Buicks still carry a stylized version of the brand’s “tri-shield” logo, which was introduced to highlight its stylish but poor-selling 1959 Electra, Invicta and LeSabre models. The absence of Buick lettering leaves room for the new Avenir badge, which Buick introduced as a “sub-brand” suggesting a higher level of luxury. Some auto analysts expect that Buick will eventually make a full transition to the Avenir name.
A Buick spokeswoman, Michelle Malcho, wouldn’t comment on that possibility. She did push back on any suggestion that the division might be facing any existential crisis.
“We see dynamic changes, certainly, but we see opportunities for growth,” she said. “The company is uniquely suited and well positioned for today’s global automotive market.”