By Matthew Keegan
As far as car brands go, Buick is simply a shell of itself.
My statement isn’t meant to insult GM’s premium brand, wedged between Cadillac and Chevrolet, and designed to appeal to customers who want some of the trappings of a luxury model without having to pay the big price.
Rather, Buick’s problems can be traced to GM’s brand expansion which included until recent years eight North American brands, diluting and diminishing the power of its other brands. Following its bankruptcy and restructuring in 2009, GM shed four of those brands which has meant that it could begin to repair Buick and its three remaining brands: Cadillac, GMC and Chevrolet.
Buick is a hot seller in China thanks to its history there dating back to the 1920s when a Chinese emperor first rode in a Buick model. That positive impression was left with the Chinese who, despite communist rule, remembered years later when GM reintroduced the brand that a Buick was a car worth buying. Today, Buick sales are several times greater in China than they are in North America, giving credence to the brand at least in the sight of the Chinese consumer.
Buick in China also offers several more models than Buick in North America as it doesn’t have to compete against other GM brands. Stateside, just four Buick models are currently being offered, with more planned to roll out over the next few years. Please read on for an overview of the Buick fleet and the significance of each model.
Lucerne – Of all four model lines, the Lucerne is the most outdated one of them all. Borrowing technology prevalent during the early 1990s, this full sized front wheel drive sedan is powered by its front wheels. The body is stylish and the car is a cheap alternative to the pricey Cadillac DTS, but it shares nothing with its upscale cousin. A 3.9L V6 powers this five or six passenger sedan, but paired with a dated four-speed automatic transmission it only produces 227 horsepower, performance numbers from a bygone era. Sure, the car is well equipped, but two ton front wheel drive cars aren’t exactly prized for their steering, a weakness that has conspired to keep Lucerne sales down. As in way down.
LaCrosse – Smaller than the Lucerne, but larger than most midsize sedans, the LaCrosse was all new for 2010 and has benefited from its new body style and engine choices including 3.0L and 3.6L V6s and a recently released 2.4L I4. All engines are paired with six-speed automatic transmissions. Producing 255 horsepower, this five passenger model produces 255 horsepower or 280 with the bigger V6. If you want economy, the four cylinder will provide about 30 mpg on the highway, but that comes at the expense of moving nearly two tons of metal down the road. Imagine the strain on this engine when five people are being carried.
Enclave – This eight passenger crossover model should be considered the flagship of the Buick fleet, a car that could have easily been sold as a Cadillac instead. Don’t think for a moment that hasn’t been lost on Cadillac dealers who would prefer to sell something less bulky (and blingy) than the Escalade. Available in front or all wheel drive, the Enclave offers just one engine choice: a 3.6L V6 paired with a six speed automatic transmission. But, that vehicle produces 288 horsepower, a direct injection that efficiently works to squeeze every bit of power out of it. Lots of goodies are featured in the Enclave including rear backup camera, Bluetooth connectivity, four-wheel independent suspension, Bose system, the list goes on.
Regal – The newest Buick is built in Germany with plans to begin building it in Canada in the first quarter of 2011. Smaller than the LaCrosse by just six inches and some 229 pounds lighter, this five passenger sedan offers a 2.4L I4 engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission to deliver 30 mpg on the highway. Buick is marketing the car with just one trim level, CXL, which means you’ll get a well equipped sedan and nothing less. In Europe, the car is sold as the Opel Insignia which was to be sold here as the next generation Saturn Aura before GM decided to kill the Saturn brand. Traction control, XM radio, Bluetooth, OnStar and 12-way power seat are among the goodies offered with the Regal.
Of the four models, the Lucerne is the most problematic given its age.
In addition, analyze and you will soon realize that both the LaCrosse and the Regal are built on the same Epsilon platform. In effect, Buick is offering only two models of relevance which underscores just how lacking in product differentiation the Buick line really is.
In the 1960s, Buick’s tag line was:
Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?
With few models at the offing, making a case for Buick is difficult to do unless you have your heart set on one of its current models. But given that the brand appeals to the silver haired set primarily, young people who are expected to keep the brand alive for many years won’t be so readily convinced. Until GM bolsters the line with cars of relevance, buyers will shop elsewhere, perhaps leaving the GM fold completely.
Matthew C. Keegan is a freelance writer who resides in North Carolina. Matt is a contributing writer for Ground Dynamics an aftermarket supplier cool parts including vertical doors and hoods.
Article Source: Would You Really Rather Have a Buick?