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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Buick's Proven Path to Quality
Why it will stay on track
GMInsidenews.com
5/15/2004

Rainier, Terraza, Lacrosse, Rendezvous. What do all of these Buicks have in common? Not a one of them can hold the claim "all new" at time of launch. This might at first seem like a bad thing. But this cautious approach may actually be Buick's secret weapon in the quality war that will keep it on top of the JD Power survey and high on other customer satisfaction and quality surveys/lists.

Is this intentional on the part of GM, or just a matter of coincidence and a lack of design dollars dedicated to Buick? Either way it would seem to be a safe way to further bolster, or at least maintain Buick's image as a dependable, high quality brand, and make it recognizable as so to young people and those who've never set foot in a Buick dealership.

By choosing this method of pursuing tried and true vehicles, platforms and engines, GM assures itself a "proven" lineup at Buick. It also allows Buick buyers the ability to get into "new" vehicles that while freshly styled don't have all of the bugs that "all-new" platforms bring with them. And its not even necessary that buyers know this - as long as the quality speaks for itself. It goes beyond just "using old stuff" in new Buicks - it means using the best parts for the job, and weeding out the parts that have proven less than reliable in other GM cars in the past. This is the "evolutionary approach" to quality engineering that Bob Lutz heralded when the 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix was introduced, and attributed to the best of the Japanese brands long-term strategy.

Boring? Maybe. But smart for this GM brand.

Of course, if this was all Buick marketing had up its sleeve, it would lead to derision and dismissal of Buick vehicles the young, hip, or high tech crowd so often attracted to Import brands. To help keep itself in the game with them, Buick can continue to offer "Ultra" versions of existing models that employ new Cadillac-bred "techy" engines, trendy paint and trim schemes, and an air of exclusivity of a type that appeals more to 30-somethings than Continental kits, Designer Interiors, and Gold Packages that would likely lure in 60-somethings instead.

Buick also needs to pursue ever smaller panel gap fits, and continue to improve the tactile feel and look of its interiors and exteriors. The Lacrosse seems to be doing a good job of this, but the pre-production model of the Terraza I saw at the Auto Show (despite claims of smaller fit tolerances on this vehicle as well) had a poorly attached "cargo storage bin" with a wide gap between the original load floor and the (removable?) plastic tray. The cargo bin didn't seem quite molded to the shape of the floor, and even looked warped - like it would never fit correctly. Hopefully this was just a pre-production oops. GM needs to ensure that no matter what factory its variants come from - even the ones that produce Uplanders - they have the same dedication to Lexus-like quality for the Buicks they roll out.

Breaking down the new and recently introduced Buick vehicles:

1. Rainier - Had the luxury of being a Bravada for some time before making the "Quiet Tuning" transformation into a Buick.
2. Rendezvous - Perhaps the "newest" of them all at launch - but it was still derived from a years-old minivan platform, utilizing the same basic powertrain.
3. LaCrosse - By the time it is on dealer's lots, the 2004 Grand Prix sibling will have been on the market for over a year, with its "evolutionary" platform dating back over a decade. At launch this new Buick will offer the "bulletproof" 3800 engine - tried and true (if a little long in the tooth for a 2005 model) - even though the newer 3500 gets almost the same horsepower and torque. A Cadillac CTS-employed 3.6L DOHC engine will likely be offered for an "Ultra" version, just like the Rendezvous.
4. Terraza - An improvement on the GM minivans that came before it, but not radically new by any means - except in interior and front end looks. This is another example of a Buick on a tried and true platform getting the "Quiet Tuning" treatment for differentiation.

With a lineup like this, Buick is the "safest" of all of the GM brands. And while auto enthusiasts and automobile magazine editors might not be thrilled by the lack of new goodies under the skin of their mainstream models, the labels of "safe, reliable, and proven" seem to go a long way with the crowd that in ever growing numbers buys Toyota's products.

These are precisely the labels Buick should shoot for.

 

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Both insulting and up-beat? I guess one could look at it this way. Why does GM get bashed for using a "decade" old chassis, when Ford uses chassis that date back 20, 25 and 30+ somthing years? Didnt this "old" chassis with its "tried and true" 3.8 beat out the brand new, all amazing, superfantastic Maxima in testing? Why is everything negative when it comes to GM?
GM is the only one who uses old, yet updated chassis
GM is the only one who badge-engineers cars
GM is the only one that uses "old tech" push rods
GM can do nothing right
GM is horrible

rant off.

I personaly love the LaCrosse, and when compard to the ES, Im sure it will show an equaly qualified car. The interior and exterior are fantastic. I cant wait for the first reviews. I can already hear the "cons" of the car, and its gunna focus around the 3.8, even the 3.6 is there and produces great power.

Good article Ming.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Originally posted by bigals87z28@May 15 2004, 02:43 AM
Both insulting and up-beat?  I guess one could look at it this way. 

I personaly love the LaCrosse, and when compard to the ES, Im sure it will show an equaly qualified car.  The interior and exterior are fantastic.
For Buick I don't see the use of older platforms and engines as a negative. As far as the competition goes, Ford is not the first one I'd point to for comparisons of a fire-breathing competitor. Nauseating though it may be to hear it day after day, market share point after market share point, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan are the big players these days - and the ones to beat. It seems like they do a ground up redesign every 4 years -- but without knowing the details on these guys I can't say for sure, and I'm sure they do their fair share of engine and platform recycling when needed. And Ford gets plenty of bashing for its Mustang platform - just about every review I've read on it.

As for the Maxima, was that a supercharged 3800 engine versus a naturally aspirated one? I guess if the price is similar it wouldn't matter to me, but it might make a difference to others.

Anyway, sorry you saw this as a negative - while I might see it as negative for Pontiac (to some degree), Saab or Cadillac to use the same approach, I think this is the right path for Buick. And I like my Bonneville's Pushrod engine very much, thank you. ;)
 

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Sorry if I was a little harsh Ming, Its been a rough week.

I dont think that Honda, Toyota and upcoming Nissan are coming up with new chassis every 4 years! They do recycle a lot more. I think now Toyota and Honda are on "coast" mode as far as there products, and there sales are kinda showing.
The Civic and Accord sales, last time I checked, were on the decline.

I think GM could do better, but I think the LaCrosse is the kind of product that Buick needs to start off there rally. It needs to be there CTS, and I think they got it to a point. Its not as radical as the CTS was, but its very nice front end is very European. The interior looks good, and if they can keep it up quality wise, I think that would be a great deal. I think that with time, Buick will turn back into a great company. They need something that will really attract people. When I think of what Buick needs to do is look at Chrystler and how they are turning themselves around with a few products. Instead of downplaying the push rod small block, GM should praise the small block chevy and pump it as much if not more then the Hemi does!
...moving on
I think Buick needs to come out with some hard hitting products. I think that the LaCrosse is a great car, but doesnt have that impact that Buick needs. Buick needs a "300C" kinda car to really get there name out and put it in the minds of people looking at Luxury cars. Doesnt have to be RWD or V8 powerd, but something that really shows off the style. They had it with the Velite, and if that was released, Im sure that would overshadow the 300. Buick needs an Impact car. As soon as that happens, then we will start to see things turn around.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
No problem man, you should see me on political forums! :)

You're right about Toyota and Honda now. I think I know the reason.

GM has had umpteen factories in the US, Canada, and elsewhere for a looong time. Honda, Nissan and Toyota have only relatively recently built some of their assembly facilities.

In Japan, you can still buy a lot of "old" Toyota product, probably produced by older factories like the one that makes the Astro here.

Nissan's Ghosn had a plan to share vehicle architecture to the max, and that shows. Honda's Pilot and Toyota's Highlander are both derived from pre-existing platforms.

The only place it seems at least Honda and Nissan have an edge for now is with engines. How are Nissan and Honda able to squeeze out 20 or 30 more horsepower in their engines every few years, and GM's 3/4L --> 3.5L requires millions and millions of investment and factory retooling? Well, I'm not up on this either...

Old Toyota stuff still on sale in Japan:





 

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On the one hand, Ming, I understand your point. However, if your hypothesis about Buick's strategy is correct, I predict it will not translate into significant sales increases, nor will Buick ease its burden of being perceived as a "typically domestic automobile."

Cadillac's rebound almost exactly coincides with the CTS. Granted, many within GM point to the Escalade series, which is largely shared with Chevrolet and GMC, as the turning point, but one could argue that the CTS is where Cadillac's car renaissance began. That was with a new, unproven platform on which sat a distinctly-styled vehicle with a "daring" design that was sure to earn both praise and scorn. The result was impressive: not only did this totally new CTS meet its 30,000 unit/year sales objective, it blew past it all the way to roughly 50,000 units per year in 2003. And the folks who build this car wear a gold medal around their necks: Lansing Grand River is the best (foreigh or domestic) assembly plant in North America in terms of initial quality! That's how you fabricate a division's turnaround. Lexus, you have been warned.

Contrast that to the decidedly more cautious approach at Buick, and I think the results will be mixed. Simply "badgengineering" new vehicles is a mild attempt at success that may gain sales solely through entering new markets (i.e., Buick sales are sure to increase with the Terraza; there has been nothing like it at Buick before). However, as mentioned previously, it's quite doubtful that the LaCrosse will move more than the 9,000-10,000 units per month that the Regal/Century move presently. As an example, the totally new, and IMHO totally hot, $24,000-to-start 300C moved 10,000 units per month in April 2004. It initially was slated to move 80,000 copies per year (6,500 units/month). Will the LaCrosse exceed the 300C's numbers? I count myself among the skeptical.

Quite honestly, I had hoped that Buick's recent successes with quality that nearly match its sister division's admirable success would prompt a more daring attempt at a revival. Obviously, we will have to wait until the Velite is born for Buick's hard work and well-deserved praise to bear fruit.

How disappointing...
 

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Cadillac's rebound almost exactly coincides with the CTS.  Obviously, we will have to wait until the Velite is born for Buick's hard work and well-deserved praise to bear fruit.
Buick needs a CTS. Something to call its own. The Velite will probably only be just another rebadged version of something that will be available as a Chevy or Pontiac.
 

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Oh but I see that is the point that is made here that it is a good thing
 

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Originally posted by ilaoc77@May 15 2004, 07:02 PM
Most people only look at the power, handling, and the gas mileage.. the rest is a matter of taste... just because the 3800 is Supercharged and the Maxima is naturaly asperated, doesn't mean a thing... most people will trade the car in, a few years after they purchase/lease it.. so those are really the only 3 important factors.
I'm not so sure about that. I'm sure other manufacturers use it to reinforce GM's old unchanged technology. If you are shopping a Maxima against a GTP the Nissan dealership could easily use it against GM by saying. Look GM needs a supercharger to still make less hp than our new Maxima. Also go test drive it and listen to the noise it makes and how much smoother our engine is and the supercharger is a very expensive additional part that can go out yadda yadda yadda.

Don't think I only have this viewpoint because I drive a Maxima because I don't. I drive a GTP.
 

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Originally posted by bigals87z28@May 15 2004, 02:43 AM
Both insulting and up-beat? I guess one could look at it this way. Why does GM get bashed for using a "decade" old chassis, when Ford uses chassis that date back 20, 25 and 30+ somthing years? Didnt this "old" chassis with its "tried and true" 3.8 beat out the brand new, all amazing, superfantastic Maxima in testing? Why is everything negative when it comes to GM?
GM is the only one who uses old, yet updated chassis
GM is the only one who badge-engineers cars
GM is the only one that uses "old tech" push rods
GM can do nothing right
GM is horrible

rant off.

I personaly love the LaCrosse, and when compard to the ES, Im sure it will show an equaly qualified car. The interior and exterior are fantastic. I cant wait for the first reviews. I can already hear the "cons" of the car, and its gunna focus around the 3.8, even the 3.6 is there and produces great power.

Good article Ming.
I agree BigAl, GM gets bashed way to much for using a similar chassis design in "all-new" models. So what if GM uses updated platoforms, at least they are updated to current terms. I also like the LaCrosse, more and more recently and I think it compares favorably against the ES (just give us a Nav System Buick). Great Article Ming, good points.
 

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Ah, yes. I dont see why if the Grand Prix will get it, how Buick didnt figure a way to get it into there car.
Even if its not really needed with On Star and such...its still one of thoes things that luxury cars need to have.
Like OHC and 5spd or mroe trans....its just one of thoes things that you either have it, or you arent worth looking at...at least in some peoples minds.
In reality, the Lacrosse is a 5spd and a DVD nav away from perfection I guess....

The Lacrosse is the first Buick id buy since the GS.
 

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By choosing this method of pursuing tried and true vehicles, platforms and engines, GM assures itself a "proven" lineup at Buick. It also allows Buick buyers the ability to get into "new" vehicles that while freshly styled don't have all of the bugs that "all-new" platforms bring with them. And its not even necessary that buyers know this - as long as the quality speaks for itself. It goes beyond just "using old stuff" in new Buicks - it means using the best parts for the job, and weeding out the parts that have proven less than reliable in other GM cars in the past. This is the "evolutionary approach" to quality engineering that Bob Lutz heralded when the 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix was introduced, and attributed to the best of the Japanese brands long-term strategy.
The Evolutionary Approach to designing a car is IMHO the best way to design anything. Buick's have a history of being the most reliable in the GM stable and now the world. When I, as a buyer, go out to look at cars, reliability is the most important factor for me. If a car is "all new" I will not buy it, nor will I recomend that anybody buy it. I want a proven track record. For everyone that bashes the 3800 I say why? It is among the best engines, reliabilty wise, that GM (or anybody) has ever produced. I keep cars for the long term. Therefore, while I like working on cars I don't nessasrily want to.

The ONLY cars I would consider buying is the Park Ave (3800 SC), and I really like the LaCrosse, with the 3800 of coarse.

BTW, I'm 28, and presently own a Park Ave.
 

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I think the Terraza will have good quality, since it is a revised and improved Silhoette.
 

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Re: Buick's Proven Path to Quality

BigAls87Z28 said:
Both insulting and up-beat? I guess one could look at it this way. Why does GM get bashed for using a "decade" old chassis, when Ford uses chassis that date back 20, 25 and 30+ somthing years? Didnt this "old" chassis with its "tried and true" 3.8 beat out the brand new, all amazing, superfantastic Maxima in testing? Why is everything negative when it comes to GM?
GM is the only one who uses old, yet updated chassis
GM is the only one who badge-engineers cars
GM is the only one that uses "old tech" push rods
GM can do nothing right
GM is horrible
You hit it dead on, even though you're being sarcastic.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Re: Buick's Proven Path to Quality

DrewSG said:
You hit it dead on, even though you're being sarcastic.
Did you read after that? :yup:

Why GM and Buick get "bashed" for using older designs by the other magazine guys has little to do with my original posting.

In fact, I tried to take a commonly perceived negative, turn it on its head, and show why it could be a positive.

Buick's Century had some of the best quality in the industry - I think it would be difficult for any manufacturer to match that kind of quality with an all-new product (engine, platform, everything). Cadillac has done it well, but that's partially due to people being willing to pay top dollar for that quality new technology.

Leave the affordable and bleeding edge performance to brands like Pontiac. Meanwhile, Buick can serve up dollops of reliability and quality.
 

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Quality my foot! First of all, a J.D. Power and Associates award isn't going to help Buick. Neither is Aerosmith's song 'Dream On' and a lady whose matching with her car. What's going to help Buick is 'uniqueness'. I'm sure Cadillac's general manager can tell Buick that. Chrysler's general manager could tell Buick that. The edgy Art & Science design helped Cadillac...The retro styling helped Chrysler...something can obviously help Buick! Have they discovered it? Right now, no!
 

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Re: Buick's Proven Path to Quality

Ming said:
Did you read after that? :yup:

Why GM and Buick get "bashed" for using older designs by the other magazine guys has little to do with my original posting.

In fact, I tried to take a commonly perceived negative, turn it on its head, and show why it could be a positive.

Buick's Century had some of the best quality in the industry - I think it would be difficult for any manufacturer to match that kind of quality with an all-new product (engine, platform, everything). Cadillac has done it well, but that's partially due to people being willing to pay top dollar for that quality new technology.

Leave the affordable and bleeding edge performance to brands like Pontiac. Meanwhile, Buick can serve up dollops of reliability and quality.
So your say it's good to use a decade old platform for the sake the quality?? I think I'm missing the point here..
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Re: Buick's Proven Path to Quality

Well, Lutz claimed a while back that Toyota and Honda made their quality gains in an evolutionary manner - not by starting from scratch each time.

Personally I feel that it has more to do with being cheap and honoring some Union contract somewhere, but the argument may have some validity to it.

Surely if Buick were to rush to market with new platforms, engines and transmissions they would have difficulty maintaining quality.

There is a segment of the car buying population that values dependability and quality over newness of tech.
 

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Re: Buick's Proven Path to Quality

Will someone please trim the eyebrows off this thing?


 
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