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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Can This Brand Be Saved?
Thursday March 11, 6:32 pm ET
By Jonathan Fahey
GM is spending $3 billion to make you rather have a Buick. That's one tough turnaround.

For much of the last two decades Buick has been entombed--forgotten by General Motors and remembered only by a dwindling band of loyalists. Twenty years ago Buick sold 845,000 vehicles. Last year it sold 337,000. The average age of a Buick buyer, 62, is the oldest in the industry (AARP members sometimes get a $500 rebate). Buick is retaining less than half of its customers, according to J.D. Power and Associates. These days the likely buyers are flocking instead to Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.

"The buyers who are about to be Buick buyers hate Buick," says Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at forecasting firm Global Insight.

All of which leaves GM (NYSE:GM - News) executives with the ultimate marketing assignment. Can this brand come back from the crypt? GM is about to spend $3 billion over the next five years to find out. The idea is to reinvent the charisma Buick once displayed with its big, beautiful cars of the 1940s and 1950s. That vision will be shown off in April, at the New York Auto Show, in the form of a long, elegant rear-wheel-drive convertible prototype called Vélite. With cars like Vélite, and a new sport utility, a minivan and a pair of redesigned sedans, GM hopes Buick will compete with imports like Volvo, Infiniti and the lower-price offerings from Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.

The goal: a sales revival to 500,000 vehicles a year by the end of the decade.

It could be a fool's errand, but GM thinks it has little choice. Buick still occupies the sweetest part of the market: high-end vehicles that are pricey enough to make a profit--they sell from $20,000 to $40,000--but affordable enough to attract buyers in volume. Even while slumping, Buick sells as many vehicles as competitors Mercury and Volvo combined. There could be some nostalgic motive for keeping this brand, which debuted in 1903 and evolved under William Durant into the vertically integrated powerhouse called General Motors.

Problem is, Buick will be waking up to a changed world. Japanese carmakers have been steadily improving their luxury brands. And older brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW now offer many vehicles in Buick's lower price range, while mass-market brands have been offering pricier versions. A customer with $28,000 can buy a Honda--or a Mercedes-Benz. And no matter how good the new Buicks are, they still lack the intangible prestige of a luxury import.

"There used to be room between mass-market cars and luxury cars, but luxury cars are lower priced and mass-market cars are much more luxurious," says Merrill Lynch analyst John Casesa. "Buick is fighting its way back in to a part of the market that it created but is unrecognizable to them."

To the doubters, GM points to Cadillac's recent resurgence and says Buick will follow the same path. GM spent $4 billion developing new vehicles for Cadillac, and sales are encouraging, if less than torrid (216,000 last year, up from 179,000 in 1999). C.J. Fraleigh, a former PepsiCo executive steering Buick's turnaround, says Buick will aim to offer quieter, more powerful vehicles with nicer interiors, more graceful looks and a smoother ride than its competition.

Buick does have at least two things in its favor: Its quality and reliability are among the best in the industry. And Buick dealers, who have subsisted on scraps for years, are well respected and savvy. "We don't have any choice in that matter," says an embittered Dennis Doerge, who has been selling Buicks for 28 years in Glenview, Ill. "The only thing we can do is take care of our customers. We don't have one new car in our showroom."

General Motors let Buick go to seed because it could. Buyers were loyal, and Buick's turf, large cars, was not under direct assault from foreign competition in the early 1990s. GM, like the rest of Detroit, poured its development money into trucks and SUVs. For much of the last decade Buick offered four different four-door, front-wheel-drive sedans with V6 engines. Coupes and convertibles were rare, there were no V8s, and the first Buick SUV arrived in 2002, long after the market turned that way. The cars themselves were rarely updated. The $38,000 Park Avenue and the $24,000 Century were last redesigned in 1997, and the Century is based on underpinnings developed in 1988.

When Robert A. Lutz joined GM as vice chairman in September 2001 he put the brakes on only two projects--both Buicks. "One had a huge, snoopy nose, and it was completely undramatic," Lutz says. "The whole thing was like a parody. The research was devastating. And it had a big brother that was even worse."

This fall the car Lutz changed, now called LaCrosse, will arrive in showrooms and replace the aging Century and the $27,000 Regal. Next year that "big brother" will arrive to replace the other two sedans, the $29,000 LeSabre and the Park Avenue. And Buick just started offering a powerful SUV, the Rainier, that will sell for as much as $40,000. In the fall Buick will get its first minivan, called the Terraza. A car like the Vélite prototype won't arrive until 2006.

Full Article Here

 

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It's true that GM needs Buick, however uninterested I or the majority of buyers are in Buick,it has a place.

Not every senior citizen can afford a Cadillac. ;)
 

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< :angry: Now if you put a Grand National type car back into the line up.......you might have younger buyers (hint hint). If you aim to sell old people cars that's what you get old people buying. But remember our seniors are going to more frugal with purchases so buying a new car every five to six years is not going to happen if your retired. I see alot of the old 80 thru 87 Buick Regals as hot rods now and GM had a good thing going for them with rear wheel drive performance. There"s not a whole lot you can do with front drive cars for after market availabilty. Being a gearhead and avid hot rodder my purchases of hot rodding material is not going to be anything new than 1988 unless its a Mustang, Camaro, Firebird or even a Corvette. With Technology at it's all time high in automtive industry with fuel injection, overdrive units and aftermarket distribution of parts for classics car............why should I buy a new car when I can rebuild my Cutlass for half the price, drive a classic and have decent fuel economy.
 

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Originally posted by chev454ls@Mar 12 2004, 04:34 PM
They need something exciting to bring in younger buyers, plain and simple.
it seems that GM is targeting younger buyers already with saturn, the cheaper pontiacs, and chev's new trio of daewoo products and the cobalt. buick should too? an average age of less than 65 might be nice, but i don't think buick has to attract young buyers the same way some of the other divisions do.
 

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lets take a look at the current buick lineup...Century too old fashion and lookalike of the regal...Century should go-redesign the Regal and add a GN edition to it with rear wheel drive and have it share the same platform of the hopefully coming soon Pontiac Grand Prix 2dr GXP..Park Ave GONE!!! build a new large car off the caddy upcoming DTS frame maybe called Torrand GTS...Rendezvous cool looking and different yet not enough sales-due for redesign maybe the Centienne concept would go well vs Lexus RX330 and MB ML500 and add the Ultra to it with 7 spoke chrome wheels..Rainier-REDESIGN very soon and not make it look like a olds rebadging like the current one nor a GMC/Chevy..a convertible,compact(aka Caddy CTS style),and mid size car maybe off the Solstice and G6 platforms..and another 2dr Regal should come back and be around the same price range as the new Toyota Solara... Buick needs a wake up call and very soon otherwise C YA BUICK!! but i owned a 4dr 87 Skylark a lot of quality in it and it was a great car...if Buick can go back to basics to building their cars maybe theyll become one of the best next to caddy and hopefully saab will do the same and get toyota off GMs back..but i hope the Buick lineup comes out of the fog and starts building cars that are made with class and style...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I agree. Lexus isn't targeting young buyers, and is successful.

What Buick really needs is to drop any and all "Value" technology if it wants to compete with Lexus. 4-speeds and old engines, that is.

High performance is not required, but cutting edge tech is. All "value" V6 engines should be replaced by the 3.6L CTS engine, and without charging extra for "Ultra" trim. All 4 speed trannies should be replaced with at least 5-speed automatics --- the competition demands it.

The Lacrosse and Terazza should be the only two with "value" V6 engine options (the 3800 and the 3500). And the Terazza should only offer the 3500 engine in a base model, the up trim should be the 3.6L -- if it fits in the Rendezvous, it will fit in a Terazza.

GM needs to wake up and realize that even with excellent interiors they are coming out with, sound proofing and looks alone aren't going to fool today's saavy buyers. If you want people to pay a PREMIUM price, you have to offer premium parts, not rehashed "value" parts from 1992 disguised in a pretty skin.

Parts bin sharing is fine. Just use the right parts. Buick should be the first division to borrow parts from Cadillac, and Pontiac second. The Rendezvous Ultra is a step in the right direction, but the wrong strategy. Lexus doesn't require "Ultra" trim for a recently designed engine, and neither should Buick.
 

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Face it everybody, a grand national does not fit buicks current "philosophy". Buick doesnt need to attract younger buyers...thats why there is pontiac, saturn, and chevy. Buick customers are the most brand loyal in the industry.
 

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My prediction: in 5-10 years Buick will be killed off. They're doing exactly what was done to Oldsmobile 10 years ago. A premium SUV, luxury minivan...excuse me, MIDvan, and etc. Frankly, I'd rather have an Olds...
 

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When I think of the possibilities for Buick and how they can atract younger buyers, one thing in this article gives me hope, the mention of Infiniti. How about Buick coming up with something in the same class as the G35 Coupe? A Rear wheel drive sports coupe that can sell for around $30-$35k. Basically, a cheap sports car with slightly more room and luxury styling/features.
 

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Originally posted by chev454ls@Mar 12 2004, 04:34 PM
They need something exciting to bring in younger buyers, plain and simple.
And that silly, 1991 minivan ain't gonna do it.

As for the GN and T-types? Lloyd Reuss, of Stempel/Reuss ouster fame, oversaw the brand at the time of the turbos. Even though they are the most memorable Buicks of the past three decades, he was flamed pretty badly at the time for making Buick a more performance-oriented division. People felt he was abandoning the core, geezer buyer, and that Pontiac should be the division tasked with offering exciting, youth-oriented cars. To some degree, that's true. If Pontiac becomes an American BMW, then what kinds of youth-oriented products would Buick need to deliver? I guess the LaCrosse is the type of car that'll appeal to people aged 45 and up, more conservative than Cadillac, but not as boring as Lexus. Unfortunately, I don't think LaCross is much less boring than Lexus. But it is more conservative than Cadillac. Maybe gets a grade of B? But how will Buick really cater to people under 35 without stepping on Pontiac or Cadillac's toes? Maybe it doesn;t have to. The age 45 and over market will always be huge, and all won't be into the edgy contemporary stuff like Cadillac. If Buick improves it's image, the DTS and STS won't have to be so softened up in order to appeal to everyone. All Cadillac models can stay leading-edge, and Buick can go after the well-heeled softees.
 

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Originally posted by desmo9+Mar 12 2004, 06:17 PM--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (desmo9 @ Mar 12 2004, 06:17 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> <!--QuoteBegin-chev454ls@Mar 12 2004, 04:34 PM
They need something exciting to bring in younger buyers, plain and simple.
And that silly, 1991 minivan ain't gonna do it.

As for the GN and T-types? Lloyd Reuss, of Stempel/Reuss ouster fame, oversaw the brand at the time of the turbos. Even though they are the most memorable Buicks of the past three decades, he was flamed pretty badly at the time for making Buick a more performance-oriented division. People felt he was abandoning the core, geezer buyer, and that Pontiac should be the division tasked with offering exciting, youth-oriented cars. To some degree, that's true. If Pontiac becomes an American BMW, then what kinds of youth-oriented products would Buick need to deliver? I guess the LaCrosse is the type of car that'll appeal to people aged 45 and up, more conservative than Cadillac, but not as boring as Lexus. Unfortunately, I don't think LaCross is much less boring than Lexus. But it is more conservative than Cadillac. Maybe gets a grade of B? But how will Buick really cater to people under 35 without stepping on Pontiac or Cadillac's toes? Maybe it doesn;t have to. The age 45 and over market will always be huge, and all won't be into the edgy contemporary stuff like Cadillac. If Buick improves it's image, the DTS and STS won't have to be so softened up in order to appeal to everyone. All Cadillac models can stay leading-edge, and Buick can go after the well-heeled softees. [/b][/quote]
I agree with desmo9 (and Ming).

Buick absolutely can be saved, though I'm thinking it's not going to happen with half-hearted attempts like the LaCrosse, Rainier, or Terraza. And I'm hoping, despite what the article indicates, that the LeSabre and Park Avenue are more than just the big brothers to the LaCrosse.

Buick doesn't need to have completely unique platforms or parts. Like Ming indicated, they just need to use the *right* parts from the GM parts bin. There are plenty of good offerings, though these premium parts come at a higher cost, something that GM seems reluctant to justify when deciding which parts are shared with Buick (engines are a perfect example).

From a historical perspective, when Buick was successful, it seemed to occupy a near-luxury niche, appealing to people not unlike myself, a more affluent professional who desires an understated (don't read: cheap) near-luxury car without wanting to justify a luxury car price. I'm perplexed that they seem to be searching for an identity; the answer is pretty obvious. They simply need to rediscover their heritage and translate it to 21st century autmobiles (Grand Nationals, Roadmasters, Century's, Skylarks, and Terraza's need not apply).

"...The idea is to reinvent the charisma Buick once displayed with its big, beautiful cars of the 1940s and 1950s. That vision will be shown off in April, at the New York Auto Show, in the form of a long, elegant rear-wheel-drive convertible prototype called Vélite." No ****, Sherlock. If you can do that without necessarily emphasizing the word "big," you've got yourself a winning plan! Buick already plainly possesses the quality and reliability that seems to elude other makes, several of which occupy the luxury market. The point at which Buick fails [quite miserably, I must say] is in design and engineering. Nothing about what sits on a Buick lot screams elegance or sophistication (nope, cars designed in 1997 like the Park Ave don't qualify as sophisticated). However, cars like the Velite, at least what I can discern from the single picture making its way around the web, hold promise. If the same type of design and high-quality engineering philosophy can be translated to several coupes and sedans in the $25,000-$45,000 price range, then 500,000 units per annum in the US without incentives seems very reasonable.

"...These days the likely buyers are flocking instead to Lexus and Mercedes-Benz." Boy, are they ever going to regret going to Mercedes; talk about problem-prone automobiles! (I had to add that dig).
 

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Originally posted by tgagneguam@Mar 12 2004, 07:29 PM
Buick absolutely can be saved, though I'm thinking it's not going to happen with half-hearted attempts like the LaCrosse, Rainier, or Terraza.

They simply need to rediscover their heritage and translate it to 21st century autmobiles (Grand Nationals, Roadmasters, Century's, Skylarks, and Terraza's need not apply).
Buick absolutely can be saved, though I'm thinking it's not going to happen with half-hearted attempts like the LaCrosse, Rainier, or Terraza.

(edit: bonehead over here... forgot to write anything! just ignore and move on. nothing to see here!)
 

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Buick absolutely can be saved, though I'm thinking it's not going to happen with half-hearted attempts like the LaCrosse, Rainier, or Terraza.
what do you think makes the lacrosse half-hearted, if i may ask (and i'm really asking... not being a troll!)? i actually see it as a pretty fresh interpretation of buick. i think buick'd do well to emulate the subdued sophistication of the lacrosse across the board. and for a rebadge, the rainier also fairly screams what i'd think buick wants to have heard. as for the terazza... nice weather we're having, eh? :)


They simply need to rediscover their heritage and translate it to 21st century autmobiles (Grand Nationals, Roadmasters, Century's, Skylarks, and Terraza's need not apply).
while the century is getting tired, i also think it's not way out of line for buick. a very unoffensive (okay, it's a little TOO bland, but work with me here!) alternative to the other unoffensive sedans offered by some of the imports. perhaps it's a little below the lexus level of vehicle buick aspires to, but i think the 21st century has room for calmly elegant cars like teh century (or at least something in that spirit!).
 

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Originally posted by RCtennis3811@Mar 12 2004, 12:47 PM
My prediction: in 5-10 years Buick will be killed off. They're doing exactly what was done to Oldsmobile 10 years ago. A premium SUV, luxury minivan...excuse me, MIDvan, and etc. Frankly, I'd rather have an Olds...
Sadly, I think you're exactly right. It seems to me that GM is trying to fit Buick into the price range that is already occupied by Pontiac. Buick could be saved, but I think it would take something extraordinary to capture the public's attention, something it doesn't appear as though Buick is willing to do.

My idea (and call me crazy if you will) is that GM should produce a Buick version of the next GTO. Make it more luxurious, visually distinct, perhaps offering a manumatic rather than a 6-speed manual transmission. Make the ride a little softer than the GTO's but with all the power. Target it against Aston-Martin and Maserati and give it a new name, not one from the past, to reflect the new age of the automobile. This way Buick will turn heads and draw people into dealer showrooms without stepping on the heels of Cadillac or Pontiac.

Another 4-door [yawn], front-driver [yawn] or minivan won't cut it.

Follow up the new car with several attractive sedans (Allure is a good start) and an SUV. The Buick range need not be too large to increase profits. The van idea should be dropped--it may sell a little but will tarnish the reputation Buick so desperately needs to build.
 

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Originally posted by paul8488@Mar 12 2004, 07:48 PM
Buick absolutely can be saved, though I'm thinking it's not going to happen with half-hearted attempts like the LaCrosse, Rainier, or Terraza.
what do you think makes the lacrosse half-hearted, if i may ask (and i'm really asking... not being a troll!)? i actually see it as a pretty fresh interpretation of buick. i think buick'd do well to emulate the subdued sophistication of the lacrosse across the board. and for a rebadge, the rainier also fairly screams what i'd think buick wants to have heard. as for the terazza... nice weather we're having, eh? :)


They simply need to rediscover their heritage and translate it to 21st century autmobiles (Grand Nationals, Roadmasters, Century's, Skylarks, and Terraza's need not apply).
while the century is getting tired, i also think it's not way out of line for buick. a very unoffensive (okay, it's a little TOO bland, but work with me here!) alternative to the other unoffensive sedans offered by some of the imports. perhaps it's a little below the lexus level of vehicle buick aspires to, but i think the 21st century has room for calmly elegant cars like teh century (or at least something in that spirit!).
It's funny, paul8488, I actually agree with many of the things you say. But take notice of some of the somewhat muted description of the present Buicks you mention: "...pretty fresh interpretation of buick...and for a rebadge, the rainier also fairly screams what i'd think buick wants to have heard. as for the terazza... nice weather we're having, eh?" I'm not trying to nit-pick you by cutting/pasting what you say (cuz that's just plain irritating), but when I describe Buick vehicles these days, I find myself saying similar things as you. My praise for Buick is never superlative (except in the area of quality).

The LaCrosse is a good car, certainly, and I'm sure its quality will be second-to-none. I just don't think it possesses the class and sophistication of previous generation Buicks; it's not living up to its heritage. I look at the Corvette, Astra, Solstice, CTS, and SRX, and GM seemed to hit the target with laser-point accuracy in the design and engineering of these automobiles. Not everyone likes the Corvette, but you can rest assured that Chevy will sell every single one of them [without incentives] this fall. I don't get the same type of feeling with the LaCrosse. Do you?

"...but i think the 21st century has room for calmly elegant cars like teh century (or at least something in that spirit!)." Agreed.

Think about this: isn't it frustrating to have to tolerate vehicles that are mere rebadges, "pretty good," and "not so bad" when GM has demonstrated with some of the above autos that it can build cars without compromise for certain audiences? In several cases, they have raised the bar and proven they can design, engineer, manufacture, and advertise cars on par with the best in the world. Unfortunately, now I expect an equal effort with every single one of their new vehicles... And I think they can do it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
A lot of people have mentioned that the Buick Minivan won't help them. I think this is correct. Sure, they will sell, but not to any Lexus intenders. Unfortunately, the way GM works, it doesn't only care about this aspect. GM is offering 4 versions of the Minivan to fill capacity at a plant. Capacity which could be filled by 2 versions/clones if they were really good and hot sellers.... <_< It's kinda sad when you design a vehicle and your own projections say that capacity will be so underfilled that you need to make a 4th version... (previously it was 3, Venture, Montana, Sihouette)
Anyway, its this sort of "well, we have extra capacity, so we need to toss a rebadged version in over at Buick" that got GM in trouble in the 80s.... :( (cough, Skyhawk, cough, Cimmaron, cough, Firenza - Sunbird + Cavalier)
 

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Originally posted by Jay@Mar 12 2004, 08:56 PM
My idea (and call me crazy if you will) is that GM should produce a Buick version of the next GTO. Make it more luxurious, visually distinct, perhaps offering a manumatic rather than a 6-speed manual transmission. Make the ride a little softer than the GTO's but with all the power. Target it against Aston-Martin and Maserati and give it a new name, not one from the past, to reflect the new age of the automobile. This way Buick will turn heads and draw people into dealer showrooms without stepping on the heels of Cadillac or Pontiac.

But would this really not step on Pontiac? In the '60s, you could sell a Buick GS and a GTO at the same time, with the Buick being a touch more luxurious per your porposal. But brand distinctions have changed. GM has insufficient market share for the brands to compete with one another as they did in the '60s. Today, the brands must complement one another, with as little overlap as possible. If Pontiac is to emulate BMW, and Cadillac is already on that road, shoehorning a performance-oriented Buick in-between them may be a little tough.

I love the notion of a new Grand National, a more opulent GTO if you will. I happen to think the original one brought youth to the brand without alienating the old folks. But there is probably a greater need right now for more conservative near-luxury cars. Like Cadillac and everything else, though, success depends on good product. Buicks must be a touch conservative, yet striking in an understated, American-car sort of way. Not as much Euro-influence as Pontiac, and not as contemporary or upscale as Cadillac. But even in this vision, there may still be room for a performance-oriented Buick coupe. Whether it is more like a GNX or a LaCrosse coupe with RWD and V8 power, remains to be seen. I like the former better, but Buick needs the latter. But hey... the GTO is alot like a 2-door LaCrosse in appearance, a bit bland but powerful, so maybe you're right after all. Maybe the Monaro should have gone to Buick and not Pontiac... do the GTO skin right, right out of the gate.
 

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Originally posted by Jay@Mar 12 2004, 08:56 PM
I totally agree. You don't see Lexus or Infiniti making minivans! It only works for Chrysler because they INVENTED the minivan, so the public trusts them.
 

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two words, grand national! bring it back, put a good price. maybe use the gto platform with the 3.8 turbo, and have a special dual turbo t-type. that will bting the youth market.

Alan
 
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