TTAC - Buick: The American Lexus (or Not)

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jul 9, 2007.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2001
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    By Justin Berkowitz
    July 8, 2007

    General Motors is a trash talker. The automaker brags about future show-stoppers, unveils concept vehicles with a sly wink (knowing full well they're stuck in development Hell) and offers press hacks "preview" drives of half-baked green machines. No GM brand has been more abused by these dishonest "you just wait" promises than Buick. The 2004 Velite was a glimpse of an alternate universe, where Buick made perfect sense. And as far back as 2003, board-certified spin specialist Bob Lutz was busy proclaiming that Buick will be "an American Lexus." As if.

    That said, last year, with minimal fanfare, General Motors introduced a brand new model: the Buick Park Avenue. The badge-engineered Aussie (nee Holden Statesman) is a full-sized rear wheel-drive sedan boasting the kind of understated elegance– both inside and out– capable of resurrecting the ailing marque's appeal. In China.

    America didn't get it. (Literally.) Buick's U.S. aficionados couldn't understand why America's favorite military dictatorship received the brand's potential savior, while the States got a milquetoast sedan whose name means masturbation in Quebecois. Slapping the "Super" moniker on Buick's front wheel-drive sedans did nothing- as in zilch- to appease the faithful. Buick's beat-up bolsterers lit-up their corner of the Internet, venting their electronic ire at the missed opportunity.

    Understandably, John McElroy over at Autoline Detroit wanted to quiz Bob Lutz about Buick building better cars in The People's Republic. In May, GM's Car Czar agreed to tackle the issue– provided Autoline didn't air the relevant segment on TV. The news op could, however, put video of Maximum Bob's reply on their website.

    Hang on. Never mind the fact that "one of the deans of the Detroit automotive press corp" [sic] agreed to censor himself at GM's behest. Consider GM's logic. The automaker attempted to minimize the spread of Lutz's response to an internet-disseminated controversy by restricting it to the internet.

    Anyway, Lutz blamed that the Statesman misstep on Buick's beleaguered dealers. Back around the time Lutz had been playing the dozens with Lexus, his minions had previewed Lucerne and Holden Statesman prototypes to American Buick [Pontiac, GMC] dealers. According to Maximum Bob, the car floggers said they didn't need two models. They picked the Lucerne to grace their showrooms.

    It's hard to understand why General Motors left the fate of the entire Buick brand in the hands of its dealers. Buick dealers don't really have customers. How does a car dealer grasp the desires of potential buyers that have never darkened their doorways?

    Answer: you don't. Buick's sharp-end sharpies opted for what was clearly the worse of the two cars
    : a front-wheel drive H-body sedan riding on a platform dating back to the year Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone's secret vault (1986). Twenty-one years later, and these not-entirely-prescient Buick dealerships are selling, on average, six cars a month. Not six Lucernes. Six Buicks.

    Normally, GM in general and Bob Lutz in particular sweep these sorts of decisions under the red-ink stained rug (GTO?) and tout The Next Big Thing. For reasons known only to Maximum Bob and his handlers (i.e. his ego and super ego), Lutz felt compelled to address the question again, via a video on GM's Fastlane Blog. So, Bob's people asked Bob, why is China selling a better looking Buick luxury car than the U.S.?

    "I don't think they are," Maximum Bob insisted, confusing prevarication with fact.
    "They simply are the first market to get the new Buick Park Avenue, which they will actually assemble in China. And that vehicle, or a variant of it, is always a possibility for Buick [USA] in the future."

    Translation: "The critics are wrong! And even if they are right, we were also right, just a bit… premature. Cautious. Sensible. You'll see! Maybe." Bob's answer may not set new standards for this master of ill-informed, shoot-from-the-hip and sort it all out later (or just forget it) analysis, but it's not for lack of trying. Meanwhile, the Buick brand is spinning off into oblivion.

    Or not. No discussion of Buick's Lexian aspirations would be complete without mentioning the new Enclave. The brand's sales may be down 30.4 percent from last June, but their crossover is gaining traction. May's aforementioned six cars per dealer per month average represents a two car per dealer improvement on their previous stat. As GM ramps-up Enclave production, Buick dealers may soon stagger into double digits.

    But the broader question remains: is the vehicle pitched against the RX350 Bob Lutz' "American Lexus?"

    Perhaps. But there is an important corporate disparity that overshadows any model vs. model comparison. Toyota doesn't compete with itself. GM does (Buick Enclave vs. GMC Acadia vs. Saturn Outlook vs. Chevrolet playertobenamedlater). As Buick's Chinese debacle proves, whenever you compete with yourself, you lose.
  2. Ronin

    Ronin Guest

    American car companies are so fucking dumb

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