By on May 6, 2009

Earlier today, Robert noted that “GM doesn’t have a fucking clue what it’s doing with its products or brands.” For more proof of this, consider this report from GMInsideNews which claims that a Buick-branded version of Opel’s Astra has been approved for the North American market. According to the GMI story, the 2012 Buick “Astra” will be built at either GM’s Lordstown, OH, assembly plant or at their new San Luis Potosi, Mexico, assembly plant starting in 2011. The crazy part? “At this point the car has NOT been approved for Buick in China, that decision will be up to Shanghai GM.”

Of course, to make it all work GM has to hang on to Opel. Which means getting an outside investor to pony up cash (in order to secure a further $4.4 billion in German government loans) without buying the whole concern out from under The General. This outcome is highly unlikely to say the least. But that’s probably good news for GM in the long term, since the Astra-as-Buick decision proves that GM desperately needs to be saved from itself. The Astra has been a singular sales flop for GM under the Saturn brand, with sales hitting noticeable numbers only after the model was canceled. At a higher price-point, and with an even more compromised brand’s badge on the hood, the Astra will be headed nowhere fast.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

42 Comments on “If it Won’t Sell at Saturn Prices, Try Selling it as a Buick...”


  • avatar

    Which is too bad, because the Astra is a decent car. The shifter is a little notchy (defeats the purpose of buying a European car if you get the slushbox, no? :) ) but the handling is quite good and the car is comfortable. We gave it some serious thought when we bought our last car in September. (My wife preferred the known commodity of Japanese reliability.)

  • avatar
    ca36gtp

    Depends on if they just rebadge it, or if they design it to be more upscale.

    The Astra itself isn’t bad quality, and if the Buick version has a fairly luxurious interior, a few years of low-volume production could slowly start to train Americans what the rest of the world already knows: Luxury =/= Big barge.

  • avatar
    Droid800

    You should note in this article that this is NOT the Astra pictured above, but is instead the new quasi-Insignia Astra.

    And this report is completely false. GM has no plans to sell any small car under any brand except Chevy. This is thanks in large part to the fact that the Cruze will cover both the low and high-end of the compact market.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    GAAAAAA! OK, that’s IT! There is only one thing to do here. GM must be stopped before it badge-engineers again. GM has to kill ALL of the brands, keeping only GMC. One brand. Then they can build any doggoned car they want to, but only one version of it.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    And when Fiat pick up Opel and Chrysler, we’ll have Chrysler Astras too.

  • avatar

    A Buick hatchback?! Smart move guys… not!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It’ll flop as a Buick, too, because no one entering a Buick showroom is going to want a taughtly-sprung Euro-hatchback. Or any hatchback. Or a small car.

    The Astra flopped because GM brought over the absolute worst powertrain and priced it to the stratosphere. When they realized this (eg, after about a year and a bit) the car’s price was cut and existing customers kicked themselves. Had they priced it sanely (eg, not in line with the 2.5L Golf) or equipped it with the 2.4L EcoTec, this wouldn’t have been a problem.

    As it stood, it was a nice car that got worse mileage, cost more and was noticably slower than the 3 and Matrix and–possibly–Golf/Rabbit.

    Note: GM does this all the time: Introduce new model, price it stupidly, watch sales plummet, cut and incentivize, kill resale, rinse, repeat. They did it for the Astra, the Malibu Hybrid, the Cobalt, the GTO. They can’t help it, mostly because pricing and packaging decisions are being made by senior people so isolated from reality that the reasons don’t even occur to them.

    In this case I think we saw a little of the Bob Lutz Effect: Bob never really drove the 1.8L auto, doesn’t care about gas, and wouldn’t think about a grand or two in MSRP. Because Bob is a Big Swinging Dick. Mark La Neve, whose job it would have been to sell this thing, should have screamed blue murder, but he’s even less clueful than Bob Lutz.

  • avatar
    Paul W

    Please be so kind to remind me why the Astra flopped in the US. Those things are everywhere in Europe.

  • avatar
    Runfromcheney

    No, GM is not a huge bureaucracy. No, not at all.

  • avatar
    Casual Observer

    psarhjinian: “They did it for the Astra, the Malibu Hybrid, the Cobalt, the GTO.”

    Add the Saabaru 9-2x to that list.

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    Droid800: Photo updated with next-gen Astra. Looks more Buick-ish, I guess.

    “this report is completely false”

    I’ll agree that the odds aren’t great, but there’s an undeniable downsizing trend at Buick. GM has to be at least considering a Delta II Buick. But a (GM-DAT) Cruze rebadge just seems almost to horrible to imagine. Doubtless The General will prove me wrong. Either way, trying to imagine the “workings” of GM new product development at this chaotic moment is no easy task.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    I think this is a load of crap and remains to be seen. I just can’t imagine GM being that stupid, and I also think they’ll get Opel sold. WHY would they plan to bring Opels over for any brand knowing that they’re trying like hell to dump the division? I just don’t buy it.

  • avatar

    Paul W: $

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    superbadd75 Never forget the GM never fails to amaze on how stupid the management can be. As dumb as this all sounds they might actually be thinking it. They seam to have no clue what they are doing with their brands, I sometimes think the management are still stuck in the 60′s or 70′s as far as the brands are concerned, WTF are they keeping Buick for?

    I don’t know if anyone has asked this question before but if they do shed Opel what happens to their next gen Malibu? The current one technically started life as an Opel then Aura then morphed into the Malibu.

  • avatar
    carguy

    A Buick venture into the premium compact market is as unlikely as the Astra having any future in the US. A Buick version of the Cruze? Maybe.

  • avatar
    chinar

    if Audi, Volvo and Lincoln can have small hatchbacks….why not Buick too ?

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    GM should have made a competitor to the Prius (before Honda developed the Insight) and given it to Saturn. Saturn drivers would have been more likely to buy a Prius-type Saturn rather than an Astra. The Opel/Saturn Astra should have been made more of a performance hatchback, like the pre 2003 Saab 9-3′s– and could have been sold as a Pontiac as their front wheel drive sporty car. The Pontiac Astra with the current 9-3′s turbo 4 would be a pretty good car.

  • avatar
    John Williams

    “I sometimes think the management are still stuck in the 60’s or 70’s as far as the brands are concerned.”

    Their thinking is stuck in the 60s and 70s because they WISH it was 1965 or 1971. Back then, GM had near-complete dominance over the market and as far as it was concerned, they could pop out a turd, press it against two pieces of stale bread and serve it to the public, and the public would lap up every steaming morsel.

    This is why I want GM’s entire management structure to be hustled out of the RenCen, persona no grata. Either bring in a LOT of new blood or simply sell the GM name and properties to someone who actually knows what the hell they’re doing.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    I still see some value in the Buick brand in the NA market. They hit a home run with the Enclave. In time I can see it as the soccer mom’s American SUV of choice. The ones who don’t like minivans and who think the Yukon/Tahoe/Suburbans and Expeditions are too macho- too Sarah Palin, country-ish, red state-ish.

    If you see their recent commercials, they show a bunch of well-dressed MILFs cruising around a semi-urban area in an Enclave.

  • avatar

    chinar: Lincoln has a small hatchback?

  • avatar

    dcdriver, the Enclave has been out a long time now and the only people I see driving them are blue hairs. I’ve never seen anyone even close to my age (20s) driving a late model Buick, let alone a new one. Buick is toast in the US.

  • avatar
    John Williams

    chinar: Lincoln has a small hatchback?

    The last Lincoln concept. Add a trunk and a longer hood and you’ll have the perfect Town Car (IMHO).

    Dig the Continental Concept back up and then add a Mark IX or Mark X, then have the MKZ and that crossover thing as entry-level (relatively speaking) appetizers to the costlier full course. Keep the Navigator.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    chinar I’m pretty sure Audi and Volvo customers don’t cross shop with Buicks. They will have along road ahead of them if they are trying to grab those people.

    GM need to just concentrate on what they can do well and the brands that sell in numbers right now and quit living in the past.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    I believe the Lincoln hatchback is the newly unveiled concept c car. I’ve seen pictures and it is the most bizarre looking car I’ve seen in a long time.

    Lincoln’s new MKT crossover looks very promising however.

  • avatar
    albert

    considering a car with a wheelbase of 270 cm and a length of about 450 cm as a small car is something only americans are capable to.
    the current astra is quite a good car. well built. pretty reliable. it is not without reason that in europe this is among the best sellers, even in it’s last year of production.
    wait untill fuel costs you $ 9 a gallon.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen the Lincoln hatchback concept, and it’s…interesting, but I doubt it will ever see production so it’s a moot point.

    The Astra is indeed a great car. I just don’t see it as a Buick, unless GM really pays great attention to detail and transforms it a great deal (we know how that usually works out, the Saturn Astra had the military style clock carried over from the Opel).

  • avatar
    Shogun

    BMW has the 1-series.. which Buick can compete with (if we disregard being wrong-wheel drive) should they decide to import the Astra again. I don’t see why GM can’t badge them as a Chevy though.

    At least GM was wise enough to not badge the Astra as a Cadillac.

  • avatar
    the duke

    The return of the Apollo?

  • avatar
    rpn453

    The current Astra looks good in many pictures, but in person it seems awkward in profile, with its long low nose hanging way over the front wheels. It might be a good car, but I wouldn’t be able to look at it everyday. This one looks great. I hope it exists someday.

  • avatar
    akear

    From what I have heard the Astra has been the slowest selling compact in GM’s North American history. The Astra is being outsold by the CTS by nearly a two to one ratio.

  • avatar
    amadorgmowner

    WTF?!!! Come on GM! This car as a Buick? What are they smoking at GM? Why don’t they make the Astra as a Chevrolet? Get rid of the damned lousy management at GM that keeps doing these stupid things! The stupidity of these people just continues to amaze me.

  • avatar
    RMCN

    Astra was a flop because Saturn forgot that you can’t sell a mainstream car without cup holders for the front passengers. At least I couldn’t find one in the Astra I sat in yesterday. There was one at the back of the armrest for someone sitting in the back seat.

    It’s a shame as the interior materials and finish were top notch relative to its competitors. Not the usual Tonka plastic.

    The Saturn dealership only had Astras – what a sad place.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    This 20-something (26) owns and enjoys Buicks. Maybe I’m just an exception to the rule, but I know there’s got be at least a few people my age that are smart enough to purchase a car on it’s merits instead of what the car is perceived as being.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I’ve never seen anyone even close to my age (20s) driving a late model Buick, let alone a new one.

    While it is known as an old people car, and I have deep reservations that they should have been saved as opposed to Pontiac, the numerous Enclaves I see in the tony Tanglewood area of Houston are in fact MILFs. Late 30s-early 40s.

    Remember the Buick-Opel Kadett? Skyhawk?

  • avatar
    Robb C

    It must be that the same people are running GM that were 40+ years ago. They brought Opels in under the Buick nameplate back then. My neighbors had one of the little 2 door wagons, and a spare one for parts it always needed.

  • avatar
    akear

    How bad are Astra sales. Look below..

    1987 Trofeo 17,000
    2008 Astra 15,000

    This flop is one for the history books.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    If GM is really determined to keep Buick around, it seems like the brand’s lineup is a little short. The Lacrosse, the Lucerne and the Enclave. That’s all they’ve got.

    I’m trying to figure out what kind of car Buick needs. A wagon maybe? A smaller sedan? A convertible?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m trying to figure out what kind of car Buick needs. A wagon maybe? A smaller sedan? A convertible?

    Something like the Camry Solara would be a good start. The Monte Carlo would probably make sense as a Buick, too.

    Other than that, no, the lineup is fine as it is.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    The Astra’s sales are pathetic in part b/c of bad timing. It was released just as the car industry and the economy began to tank. New car purchases across the board have been terrible for over a year, and the ones that are purchased tend to be those that people are already comfortable with – The Accamrys etc.

    I think the G8 suffered the same fate regarding timing.

    I drive 300-400 miles a week, mostly highway and I’ve seen maybe 1 or 2 G8′s on the road total, same with the Astra.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    Yes, an affordable (35k) near-luxury, convertibe with a back seat comfortable for 2 adults wouldn’t be a bad idea for Buick. The Lacrosse convertible. With Pontiac dead, GM needs something to repace the G6 convertible.

  • avatar

    I’m glad I am not the only person that noticed something wrong with that idea.

  • avatar
    Jahmmy

    This is funny!!! How are you going to recreate a failure… WOW!!!! They are really pulling them out of their butts now!!!!

    I appreciate GM’s failure!!!!!


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India