Sometimes I miss Bob Lutz so much it hurts. First we’re teased with rumors of a Cadillac flagship and now this: a Zeta-based Buick flagship that’s the spiritual successor to the 1996 Buick Roadmaster. The news is exciting, even if it lacks the panache of a Lutzian rear-wheel-drive screed. But you have to read a little deeper for the real punch line.
The Buick Roadmaster never had the stones to fight the Lexus LS400. But GM Inside News reports the opposite, “the logic internally is that the Buick flagship would be designed to compete directly with the Lexus LS, while the Cadillac flagship would be designed to directly target the BMW 7-Series.” Buick and Cadillac already fight each other in at the near-luxury price point, and their incentive laden, six-cylinder offerings aren’t selling in numbers that strike fear in the hearts of incentive-averse BMW and Lexus. To say it’s an uphill battle for volume-intensive General Motors is an understatement. Just look at the incentive-fueled fiasco created by overproducing the flagship Corvette ZR1!
While I am thrilled to hear of a resurgence in proper GM Iron, this reeks of the branding desperation once seen in GM’s downsized luxury sedan portfolio of the 1980s. No matter how un-beancounted they shall be, these super-luxe sedans have an identity crisis built into their price point. It’s a tough road to bring a proper Cadillac flagship back into the public conscious, but that’s where this brand belongs. But who is gonna pay $60-large for Buick aimed at the Lexus LS?
Yes, the Chinese Buick Park Avenue needs a refresh. Taking stateside advantage of that is a smart move. But until GM figures out Buick’s near luxury role and Cadillac’s top dog status, they will eat each other alive. And while they bludgeon themselves with each other’s VW Phaeton-esque rebates, BMW and Lexus breathe a collective sigh of relief. Again. Because, sort of like my 1986 Cadillac Fleetwood Seventy-Five, a true Caddy is head and shoulders above a comparable Buick: longer wheelbase, better performance and abundantly more luxury features. Most importantly, that implies a far less attainable MSRP.
I’d wager that even the legendary Buickman sees the writing on the Tri-Shield’s wall. Assuming the GM IPO brings long term cash necessary to build these super sedans, they’ll have great appeal for niche buyers and long term collectors. However, believing that this two-pronged approach is a credible threat to the Lexus LS and BMW 7-er is a tough sell. Because at the end of the day, price sells cars.