Friday, August 14, 2009

A Buick? A Buick? You Gotta be Kidding Me!

All I could think of when GM announced its first new model since leaving bankruptcy was Jim Mora, former Saints Head Coach's beer commercial. Just imagine Jim saying the title.

The New Government Motors just released it first new car and it a Buick LaCrosse?.

I'm puzzled by that. Buick was positioned by Alfred P. Sloan architect of General Motor's success as the Doctor's Car, back when appearances mattered and local doctors couldn't be seen as making too much money by driving the more upscale Cadillac. A quaint notion in itself.

The GM version of a Lexus (itself an imitation of a Mercedes) is a surprising place to start new models, given the current auto market, and the commitments made by the government and the management in the bailout.

Alfred P. Sloan invented the the ladder of success where each of the division had a market segment and while even then they shared platforms each division operated largely independently.

From one source;

There also were fundamental differences in the cars. Chevrolet and Pontiac shared the same-size chassis, but the Chevrolet had a four-cylinder engine and the Pontiac a more powerful six cylinders. The Oldsmobile and Buick shared the same larger-size chassis, but the Oldsmobile was marketed as a sportier car whereas the Buick was more refined in its ride with more luxurious amenities.

The Cadillac was the most expensive, had the largest chassis and all the features one might want, including "Body by Fisher," an elegant carriage maker in older days.

Overtime each division had a model customer.

  • Chevrolet the working man's car.
  • Pontiac was positioned for the up and coming young adult, the original Yuppy Brand.
  • Oldsmobile for solid family men in middle management.
  • Buick was the Doctors' or executives car, luxury without flouting it.
  • Cadillac was the grand luxury car for those who had arrived.
  • Saturn was added as a way to battle imports and the perception of poor quality.

The old GM chose to kill Oldsmobile some time ago. It was clear that most people couldn't tell the difference between an Oldsmobile and a Buick, leading to the classic Oldsmobuick Queen Family Truckster.

They sold Saturn off to Roger Penske, best known as a race driver but he also owns a large truck leasing and logistics business, a massive auto dealer network and he already imports Smartcars. He will likely make a massive amount of money on the first post modern car company. He has the credibility to pull it off, offering a whole new crop of automakers access to the American market without developing a distribution network here since Penske already has one.

What puzzles me about this whole thing is that GM decided to keep Buick, a button down stale brand when it could have kept Pontiac. Pontiac could have become a GM version of BMW, with a range of sport luxury models bridging the range between the mass market Chevy's and the up market Cadillac. Pontiac has a reputation for sport and performance going back to the first Lemans GTO's. GM had long held Pontiac back from producing a two seat high performance automobile which might compete with Chevrolet's Corvette. Pontiac also has a legacy of graceful styling and a well established styling trademark in the split grill.

The 1965-66 Pontiac Lemans and GTO models were perhaps one of the most beautiful cars ever designed in America.

It's hard to see how a Buick LaCrosse would find any better acceptance that the same car badged as a Pontiac Bonneville or Grand Prix.

The one asset Buick Has was its tie in with Tiger Woods.

I wonder how many Buicks he sells. I personally don't care that a golfer pitches cars to a bunch of middle aged duffers and wanna be duffers. I drive a Volvo.

1 comment:

E said...

You know, I've been thinking the same thing. I really don't get it.

They say the reason this car is the first one out since the bailout is apparently because it's leftover from the old leadership and was too far along production to scrap.

You nail it though. GM should have ditched Buick for the future instead of Pontiac.

Was Buick ever cool?

Not like Pontiac.

It's is totally redundant w/ Caddies, which they're obviously gonna keep.