By on April 25, 2008

x08bu_lc065.jpgThere’s an often-repeated statistic: U.S. Buick dealers sell just four cars per dealer per month. It’s true, but c’mon; that was last year’s totals. In March, Buick sales slipped to three cars per dealer. Thanks to TTAC’s Frank Williams, I’ve had a chance to examine the exact dealer and sales stats for the Beyond Precision people. Having deconstructed the data, I can declare that this seemingly absurd three cars a month number, while strictly true, isn’t the whole story. The “whole story” is much worse.   

First, to be strictly accurate, the 36 cars per Buick dealer per year stat doesn’t include trucks. Add-in Enclave sales and you’re up to 60 sales per dealer per year. (Only Ferrari, Isuzu and Rolls have lower averages.) You may wonder how any car dealer could survive on such meager portions. The short answer is, they don’t. GM’s 90 “exclusive” Buick dealers sell quite a bit more than a car per week. The problem isn’t these Buick stores; it’s the “dualed” and “tripled” Buick franchises; 29 of them for every solo dealer.   

To help you wrap you mind around those numbers, there are over 2700 places where you could, if pressed, buy a Buick. That “coverage” includes as many franchises as Toyota, Lexus, Honda and Acura. Combined. All to support numbers slightly larger than sales of Honda’s Odyssey. The scariest part ISN’T that the average Buick dealer sells a car a week (probably less). The bigger problem is that these franchises can survive selling so few.   

One of the less-mentioned side effects of The Big 2.8’s massive brand spread and bloated dealer networks: “franchise bloat.” GM, Ford, Chrysler have about 6500, 4000 and 3500 “dealerships” (i.e. buildings) respectively. Toyota/Lexus and Honda/Acura have about 1100 stores each; Nissan/Infiniti 1000. Now, let's talk franchises. Detroit automakers have 13,000, 6800 and 8300 franchises. Toyota clock in at about 1500; Honda and Nissan have about 1200 franchisees.    

Franchise glut means dealers are frequently bidding against each other on price, and fighting for product allocation. But there’s an even bigger downside for Detroit: multiple franchises give dealers greater leverage. A dealer receiving cars from two or more streams can concentrate their efforts where it’s most profitable (e.g. on whichever line is getting a marketing boost at the moment). The languishing brands can be milked for limited-allocation cars until a particular model catches fire. Or, in Buick’s case, not.

While it's been argued that single-line dealers lead to too many models spread across too many price points, at least a single-line car dealer can’t play Peter off against Paul at similar price points. In other words, they’re not hurting one brand by helping another.

But the single biggest problem caused by franchise bloat down Detroit way is that it’s made killing brands more difficult, rather than easier.

In theory, bringing in additional lines reduces the damages dealers can claim when you kill a given brand (Chrysler did this when axing Eagle). Yes, but– lopping off brands does nothing to trim the bloated number of dealers. A two or three-headed dealer may not be a money machine, but there is no real way to “starve” it.  

So, when you get right down to it, the real obstacle to killing Buick isn’t those 90 stand-alone dealers. They can be bought. It’s the 2600 other guys who will still be selling GM cars when the smoke clears.

Having to pay off 2700 dealers to reduce the “footprint” by less than 100 wouldn’t work even when GM was flush. Ford is in better shape; they at least only have effectively two brands (Mercury does not exist away from Lincoln or Ford). Of course, that makes terminating Mercury completely useless from the “reducing dealers” standpoint. And pity poor Chrysler/Cerberus. It really is a three-headed dog; some 75 percent of their dealerships are multi-branded, often offering all three marques.

Hang on. If franchise glut is such an enormous problem for Detroit, why is GM consolidating their dealer networks (Buick/ Pontiac/GMC; Cadillac/Saab/Hummer)? Hell if I know. The new multi-franchise system leaves GM with the same dealer glut as before. And now, if they really want to cut Buick dealers, they’ll have to kill Buick AND Pontiac AND GMC together.

In the meantime GM will have four competing “mainstream” distribution channels (including Chevy and Saturn). Well, at least sending one or two of these mega-franchises into that long good night is [theoretically] doable. Ford and Chrysler lack even that option.

And so three-cars-per-dealer Buick is, at the end of the day, a zombie. And now that GM (and Chrysler) doesn’t have the multiple billions needed to make these problems go away, there’s only way out of this entire over-dealered, over-franchised mess. But will anyone buy a car from a bankrupt automaker? From Buick NA’s perspective, it doesn’t really matter anymore. Now that’s scary.

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64 Comments on “Buick and the Detroit Zombies...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    At least at Ford you don’t have the same car competing against itself in the same showroom. Yes Ford and Mercury overlap on price, but you’d surprised at how few customers are willing to cross shop them. And the Lincolns, despite sharing the same chassis and most mechanicals, are differentiated enough style and content-wise and price wise to make up or downselling very hard. Try to put an MKZ buyer into a Fusion to meet a payment – ain’t happening.

    Over at GM, you have the Malibu, Aura, G6, and LaCrosse all competing for the same market, with lower end G8s and Lucernes thrown in for good measure.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I think GM realizes that they simply can’t get rid of dealers. Not right now. But the combined sales channels at least offer the opportunity to eliminate the model overlap between divisions. Well, sort of.

    I can’t see shutting down GMC, at least as long as there is a sales channel separate from Chevy. The B/P/G dealers must be very dependant on GMC for their survival. And for that matter, GM could use those half million a year high margin sales. GMC accounts for about 13% of GM’s total sales (at least if we go by ’07 numbers)

    My question about closing GMC is this – where do the sales go?
    Are we sure they go the Chevy truck? I’m sceptical because there is a Chevy dealer within a stones throw of most GMC dealers so if people wanted a Chevy truck, wouldn’t they already be driving one? I think it’s time for us TTAC branding experts to admit that sometimes badge engineering really does result in increased sales.

    Getting back to dealerships – while I agree that some trimming of the ranks is necessary, I wonder how far it should be taken. Surely one reason GM still sells more vehicles in the US than Toyota and Honda combined is that some of its dealers are so far away from a Toyohon dealer that they don’t have to compete.

    But then, this was an editorial about Buick wasn’t it. Sorry.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Don’t think this is just a US problem. In 2007 Cadillac sold just 4508 cars across 181 dealers across europe (this included 17 “experience centres” whatever they are). That works out to be just under 25 cars per dealer PER YEAR!

    Also, Cadillac aims to sell 20000 units per year by (you guessed it) 2010. What’s the betting that’ll miss that target?

    The funny thing is, GM had SAAB in Europe which was an established (pseudo) luxury brand. It could have been GM’s luxury brand for Europe and concentrated on ORGANIC growth.

    Cadillac is a pointless marque for Europe. Although, technologically, the cars are good, styling wise, they are hideous! The CTS is the only one which I manage to look at without hurling! I just don’t see this brand having a meaningful future in Europe. Especially, when SAAB had some brand value to work in Europe. I think GM would have been better off using Buick over here. The cars are more curvy, rather than the straight edges of Cadillac.

    The other thing I don’t get is that GM lashed out loads (and I mean LOADS) of money to set up a dealers infrastructure across Europe. Why didn’t they just allocate some space across the Vauxhall/Opel dealerships across Europe? It would have been cheaper, plus they could have a bigger flow of potential customers seeing the Cadillac range, since Vauxhall/Opel are their mainstream brands. At least this would have put the feelers out to see whether using the Cadillac maruqe in Europe would bear some growth.

    Same old story, same old GM…

  • avatar
    Jonathon

    I wonder if this same pattern—that standalone dealers sell more cars than ones grouped into sales channels—holds true for GM’s other divisions, too.

    And I’m still trying to wrap my head around those franchise numbers. How on earth are the Detroit 3 not losing MORE money?

  • avatar
    morbo

    I don’t see the problem as being too many brands for GM. The problem is too much overlap between brands due to badge engineering.

    Take B-P-G. Buick’s lineup can be replicated in one division or another throughout GM. Pontiac’s lineup sans G8 and Vibe is the same thing (and the Vibe can be bought in uglier trim at the local ToMoCo dealer.

    Now, instead of having all this cross compete, if Pontiac were only ‘true’ sports cars: G8, hot-rodded Solstice, maybe a blown G6 Convertible trim only, Pontiac could be a draw for consumers. Similarly, bring over some of them Chinese Buicks or bring back the ‘good’ old days of a Roadmaster, LeSabre, and Riviera (hardtop and convertible), all plush luxury + electronic goodies for the sensible doctor/lawyer, and Buick lives strong. Make GMC either pure commercial, or move all commercial, low-trim level product to Chevy and make GMC the upscale truck division, and it’s good to go.

    The problem is such thinking would have to be GM wide. All Chevy’s are the value leaders, meaning no luxury Chevy’s, no Chevy (including SUV’s and Corvettes) over $30K. You want leather in your Impala, go down to the BPG store and look at a G8. You want something fancier than a 4-banger cloth interior, manual window Cobalt, go look at a Vibe at the Pontiac store. STS too expensive, the LeSabre is 80% Cadillac at 50% cost.

    Saturn, I got nothing. Sell the dealer franchise to someone that wants it.

    Cadillac is in pretty good shape, although alpha-numerics and FWD do not befit a Cadillac. Saab is a dead man walking, let it rot. Hummer will either become the new Jeep (complete with ripping off every Jeep design that has withstood the test of time) or Hummer will wither and rot.

    Is there any reason GM can’t re-align there car production to 2-3 models per brand, and just the let the dealers that can’t live on that die?

  • avatar

    morbo, with eight brands and so many dealerships how can GM afford to provide unique vehicles to each one? How in the world can they not badge engineer cars? It’s about the only thing they can do to afford to feed all these hungry franchisees.

    If one brand gets a crossover, franchisees who have other brands will want a crossover they can sell too. That’s the crux of GM’s problem.

    The point of combining sales channels was to trim each brand down to a couple of vehicles except for Chevrolet and Saturn while still providing dealers a “full line” to sell. Small cars, midsize cars, fullsize cars, trucks, SUVs and crossovers.

  • avatar
    CarShark

    @KatiePuckrik

    Cadillacs ugly? Not a chance! The CTS is the best-looking car in its sector, by far. I think you’re right in saying that the bold razor-edged American styling may be too much for the less adventurous Europeans. Also, since Europe holds more pretentious badge snobs per square inch than anywhere else in the world, they may like the styling but shy away because their BBC News-watching, Guardian-reading friends disapprove.

  • avatar
    tms1999

    Spot on Analysis. I bought my Mazda from a Pontiac, Buick, GMC, Mazda, Toyota/Scion, Nissan, Subaru dealership, in one convenient location.

    They offer high pressure sales techniques for walk-ins, and friendly 15% under invoice no BS if you contact them through the Interwebs. ($23,000 Mazdaspeed3. No, not a Touring, a GT)

    If they don’t sell you a Buick, they’ll sell you something else. And no dealer go without a service department. Cars for razors, services are their blades. Sales of car help feed the salespeople, but the beef is in the service.

    GM does not have “too many brands” They have “Too many undifferenciated brands”. Pontiac/Chevy/Saturn fight in the same price range, with cars built from the same platforms, with the same engines, same transmission and same feel.

    Even as an armchair CEO, I don’t see how I would get GM turned around. And as a witness, I don’t see GM’s management stopping digging in their hole.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Katie,

    Right on about Cadillac styling! It’s the reason I bought a G35X instead of a CTS – well, that and the dealer experience.

    -ted

  • avatar
    rtz

    Just stop building Buick’s? Nothing official and no press release, just cease building them. You can’t buy what’s no longer available.

  • avatar

    rtz:

    Just stop building Buick’s? Nothing official and no press release, just cease building them. You can’t buy what’s no longer available.

    Who’d know?

  • avatar
    AGR

    Most of those Buick dealers long ago acquired a Toyota or Honda or Nissan or Mazda franchise or a combination of a few.

    Its possible that many of these Buick dealers own the real estate that houses the Buick dealership and its probably paid for…until the franchise makes enough to pay all the expenses…the real estate is the real upside…

    Its an extra horse in the stable not a thoroughbred today but also costs little to maintain and upkeep with a few Japanese horses that are bringing in the bacon.

    There’s a reason manufacturers want mega dealers they have the resources to put up glass palaces and to tolerate underperforming franchises.

    By bringing Pontiac-Buick-GMC under one roof, one mega dealer might dispose of his Buick horse to the Pontiac GMC dealer and this guy might put up a renovated building to house the 3 horses.

    Franchise laws made sense when every dealer was owned by an individual with limited clout against a manufacturer…in most instances that is no longer the case.

    Dealers and franchises are sold / transferred on a regular and ongoing basis, in every instance the manufacturer must approuve the flip/sale.

    Keep in mind that the manufacturer owns the franchise not the dealer…a franchise is not sold by a dealer…its transferred with the approuval of the manufacturer…usually the approuval includes conditions.

  • avatar
    ctoan

    Regarding badge engineering:
    Why does GM have to listen to franchisees who want a full lineup of cars in each brand? Do the protections for franchises extend so far that GM can’t just say “too bad”?

    If too many dealers is a problem, p***ing off a few of them can’t be a horrible thing.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    I know what you guys are saying is true, but here in this small midwestern town the streets are filled with Buicks. The dealer is doing great. We would have to drive 50 miles to buy a ( furrin ) car. Small town dealers also treat the customers very well.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Robert Farago :
    April 25th, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    rtz:

    Just stop building Buick’s? Nothing official and no press release, just cease building them. You can’t buy what’s no longer available.

    Who’d know?

    Roughly the same number of people who’d notice if Caddy was shut down. Buick does just a bit less than 5% of the General’s business. Caddy, about 5.5%.

    Granted Buick is down 23% from 2006 to 2007, and if it continues to fall at that rate we won’t have to wonder about how to kill it off. Still, for the time being, stopping Buick production would be as noticed, or unnoticed, as stopping Caddy production.

    To put it in slightly different perspective, the number of people who’d notice Buick is no longer making cars would be about the same number who’d notice if Infinity, Jaguar, and MINI all suddenly disappeared.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Poor Buick. Like Rodney Dangerfield, it gets no respect. Except from people who remember what Buick used to be.

    I’ll play devil’s advocate. Consider these arguments:
    — GM doesn’t mind having so many Buick dealers because GM’s cost per dealer is small. Oh, Buick dealers would like to make more money from selling new Buicks, but retail auto sales has always been a cutthroat business with small, or even negative, profit margins for dealers. The money is made with service, parts, and even warranty work. And the latter is generated by having a brand franchise.
    — GM likes having lots of dealers for the same reason Coke wants soda pop sold everywhere: to make it very easy for customers to choose (or be persuaded into buying) the product. The more hungry salesmen, the more brothers-in-law get pressured to buy a car.
    — These benefits to GM from having lots of dealers exceed the costs to GM from having a number of desperate dealers that hurt the brand image by operating rundown stores or by swindling customers.

  • avatar
    p00ch

    CarShark :

    Cadillacs ugly? Not a chance! The CTS is the best-looking car in its sector, by far. I think you’re right in saying that the bold razor-edged American styling may be too much for the less adventurous Europeans. Also, since Europe holds more pretentious badge snobs per square inch than anywhere else in the world, they may like the styling but shy away because their BBC News-watching, Guardian-reading friends disapprove.

    Less adventurous Europeans? Um, have you ever visited Europe? Have you ever seen a recent Alfa? Or a Fiat, for that matter? If you think Caddies are adventurous, take a look at a Renault or Citroen.

    Since Euro marques are for BBC/Guardian fans, I suppose that makes the Caddy the top choice for the CNN/Fox News faithful.

  • avatar

    I bet you someone is making a lot of money equipping all those dealerships with their store specific materials, exterior/interior/marketing.
    Hmmm – I wonder who has a stake in those companies? I wonder, I wonder where those persons work …
    Jes’ speculatin’ here, mind, but it could be that reducing the number of stores would cut seriously into someone’s profit.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    “The B/P/G dealers must be very dependent on GMC for their survival.”

    I’m sure the ones in Silicon Valley are. All of the GM dealers other than the poor suckers flogging Saturns and Saabs around here stock more than 50% trucks. Take away GMC and the B/P/G dealers would shrivel up and die. Not that it would be such a bad thing ….

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    Agree 100% on Cadillac’s looks being crude as hell. The facia looks like a metal crate someone left there by mistake. Awful.

    Buick has much better looking shapes than Caddy. If only Buicks were RWD and handled a bit better.

  • avatar
    menno

    I don’t want anybody who knows me to faint, so you’d better sit down. I’m actually going to pass a complement to GM…

    A friend had a Buick Skylark with the 3.3 Buick V6 (based on the venerable 3.8, which itself dates from 1962). On a vacation, he and his Mrs. had a wreck and so many weeks later, once their car was repaired, he needed a drive down to Ohio to pick it up from the body shop. I had a ’99 Dodge Neon (POS).

    He paid my gas there & back, and on the way back, we did the convoy thing… stopped for gas and he managed a phenomenal 40 MPG with his V6 Buick, which was significantly larger and more comfortable than my Neon. The Neon did 30 MPG. Obviously, we were travelling the same roads, the same speeds and at the same time. Needless to say, I was shocked and P!SSED at the Neon for not only being the POS that it was, but using 33% more gas than a bigger car!

    I’ve heard you can get high 30’s in real world highway mileage with the 3.8 even in the latest Buicks. So, if you want a 3.8 Buick, you’d best hurry because the motor (and factory in which it is built) is due for the chop I believe at the end of this year.

    Warning, however, as most of us know, buying a Buick (in the states) sends other folks a signal that a) you’re retired b) you probably don’t really care about cars much and c) you probably don’t live on the coasts.

  • avatar

    They still make Buicks??

    –chuck
    http://chuck.goolsbee.org

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Are Cadillacs ugly?

    A couple months ago, or so, I pointed to the TV during a Cadillac CTS commercial and asked my wife, who is so not into cars, “Isn’t that the lady doctor from ‘Gray’s Anatomy’?” And her answer was, exactly, this:

    “Yes. Isn’t that a hideous car?”

  • avatar

    I take it as a good sign that the looks of Cadillac are polarizing. Better to elicit a strong positive or negative reaction rather than no reaction.

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    So you believe in the Pontiac Aztec school of design?

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Out of all the GM used cars that I see in my travels, the Buicks are usually the best overall values.

    The owners tend to have a conservative driving style, and the vehicles tend to be well maintained and garage kept. The J.D. Power durability ratings have also been consistently high for a while now. I recently bought a gold 2000 Buick LeSabre for $2500 which had 142k, leather, and was in immaculate shape. I sold it for $3500 and wouldn’t be surprised at all if both the engine and transmission in that model lasted to the 250k mark.

    For those looking for a midsized commuter car, a late model Regal, Century or LeSabre offers an awful lot of bang for the buck. They’re not enthusiast cars by any stretch of the imagination. But they are among the least abused and better kept vehicles in the marketplace… and that makes them a very good economic proposition for a lot of commuters out there.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Our BPG dealers are also the biggest used car dealers in the area.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    The CTS is the best-looking car in its sector, by far

    What sector is that? Snowplows?

  • avatar
    taxman100

    Full sized Buicks and Mercury’s are the best used cars around. The difference is whether you want to give up some durability and less maintenance in the Mercury in order to get a little better fuel economy in the Buick.

    Alas, Buick no longer makes a full sized car.

  • avatar

    CarShark :
    @KatiePuckrik
    Cadillacs ugly? Not a chance! The CTS is the best-looking car in its sector, by far. I think you’re right in saying that the bold razor-edged American styling may be too much for the less adventurous Europeans. Also, since Europe holds more pretentious badge snobs per square inch than anywhere else in the world, they may like the styling but shy away because their BBC News-watching, Guardian-reading friends disapprove.

    I totally agree with Katie Puckrik on this. MOMA will never consider exhibiting current Cadillacs. They may be bold, but they don’t work as pieces of styling, though I’m not sure exactly why. Yeah, they’re bold, but they do nothing to make me want to look at them.

  • avatar
    Skooter

    You have to admit, the CTS is sharp. Not like the G35. Which has all the excitement of a warm glass of milk.

  • avatar
    Skooter

    “Less adventurous Europeans? Um, have you ever visited Europe? Have you ever seen a recent Alfa? Or a Fiat, for that matter? If you think Caddies are adventurous, take a look at a Renault or Citroen.

    They still make that stuff somewhere?

    Does anybody buy?

  • avatar
    p00ch

    There’s nothing wrong with building cars for an older demographic, especially now that boomers represent such a large chunk of the population. The problem is, more and more boomers/retirees seem to be choosing Camrys, Accords, Corollas, etc. So, instead of chasing the younger, stylish crowd (Enclave), perhaps GM should devote more resources to making Buick a perfect retiree car.

  • avatar
    Theodore

    p00ch :
    April 26th, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    The problem is, more and more boomers/retirees seem to be choosing Camrys, Accords, Corollas, etc.

    You mean GM can’t even get boring right???

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Since Euro marques are for BBC/Guardian fans, I suppose that makes the Caddy the top choice for the CNN/Fox News faithful.

    I know of no CNN viewer that would even consider watching Fox.

    All joking aside, I think that today’s Buicks are far better than most would give them credit for. Problem is, nobody bothers to look. Who’s fault is that? Why the General himself, that’s who. At the last car show, the Buick display was nearly vacant while Avalons were in demand. The high end Lucerne was every much an equal to the Avalon, at least in appearance and interior materials. They may not be mechanically equal, but the point here is that potential buyers never even got far enough to consider that issue, because they never looked in the first place.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Compare Avalon and Lucerne resale values and you will find one really good reason for a new car buyer to ignore the Lucerne.

    Also, part of Buick’s considering problem is that they got rid of all their traditional names. That sent a signal to any remaining loyal Buick owners that they were no longer wanted.

    Someone ready to trade in their five year old LeSabre on a new one quickly learns that the LeSabre was apparently such a bad car that Buick doesn’t make them anymore. This renaming rookie mistake has become standard practice with the 2.8 and like big mergers, it rarely works as planned.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Sorry jt, but I will have to respectfully disagree with you here.

    The Lucerne has a far better reliability rating according to Consumer Reports, J.D. Power, and even among my own auctioneering brethren. The 2005 model of the Avalon is a particularly dreadful example and unlike the Lucerne, rattles are aplenty in that model. The Avalon more or less represents decontenting gone awry for Toyota, as does their V6 Camry.

    Your comment on the LeSabre contradicts everything I’ve read and experienced. These models are among the few full sized vehicles that can give you 30 highway miles per gallon and 200,000+ miles with proper care. In fact GM highlighted the LeSabre for it’s quality and the plant that it’s built in has been among the best in the world. Along with the Bonneville, they are among the most purchased road cars in my business due to their simple maintenance, comfortable ride, and low ownership costs.

    GM may not be much for small cars in the North American market. But their full-sized models are among the best in the industry. I wouldn’t think twice about buying, selling or driving one given the right prior owner.

  • avatar
    Scottie

    Would anyone even notice if Buick Pontiac and GMC were wiped away. I mean i’m sure all those Canyon, and G5 buyers wouldn’t want to be seen in a Chevy.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Would anyone even notice if Buick Pontiac and GMC were wiped away.

    IMO, yes, lots of people would notice. B/P/G together accounted for over one million sales in ’07. That was about 27% of GM’s total sales.

    So, the question is, where would these customers go if they couldn’t buy Buicks, Pontiacs, and GMCs? I freely admit I don’t know, but then I’m not sure anyone else does either. I’m not at all sure they’d go to other GM divisions.

    I think many of us here, including me, have been advocating killing off some GM brands. I’m having second thoughts, becuase I don’t know where the customers would go. Even if GM could retain say 2/3s of these customers, that would still be a 9% sales drop. Can GM afford this?

  • avatar
    AGR

    Dynamic88,

    You make a valid point, where would these people go?

    Steven Lang,

    They are good cars and exceptional value for the money. Its fascinating to watch people pay for imports even Hyundai these days, compared to domestic brands that have fallen off the radar screen like Buick or Mercury.

    jthorner,

    The individual that drives an Avalon conveys the same message as the individual that drives a Buick. With the exception that the Buick has more history than the Avalon.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    “Your comment on the LeSabre contradicts everything I’ve read and experienced.”

    You missed the point completely. I’m saying that by killing off the LeSabre name GM implicitly tells those who previously bought them that it was a car so bad GM was embarrassed of the name. What other reason could there be for killing the LeSabre name and cooking up the name Lucerne (also famous as Safeway’s house brand of dairy products!)? I agree that the LeSabre was actually a decent product. My point is that killing the name communicates otherwise. The Lucerne should have simply been the next generation LeSabre. The same is true of the Century to LaCrosse name change. Just stupid, and sales trends confirm my point.

    As to resale values, the published data is clear that Avalon kicks Buick’s butt in retained values. Avalon is fact gets the highest rating for retained value of ANY full sized car on intellichoice.com. Published data trumps feelings gotten at the auction. Hence my point that once reason an Avalon buyer is there is because they expect much higher resale values than if the bought a Buick. Having had the pleasure of buying new and trading in three different GM products over the past 16 years I know firsthand what it is like to get kicked in the pants by rapid depreciation. I finally learned my lesson and I haven’t made that mistake again.

    Retained values on Buicks are horrible, in part because of constant dumping in the fleets. A one or two year old Lucerne might in fact be a brilliant purchase, but buying new costs you dearly. If Buick is only averaging 3 cars per dealer, how many Lucernes per dealer are they selling, 1? That low number isn’t because the potential customers are all idiots.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    A two or three year old Buick, if that is you type of car, is indeed one of the best values there is. Yes the Avalon spanks it in resale value, but that really has little to do with reality, it has to do with perception. GM’s checkered past and plus dubious sales techniques with fleet dumping has depressed the values of these cars. If overnight the Buicks were actually Toyotas underneath, they would still be shunned by the perception that they simply “can’t be as good” as a Toyota. Sadly it will take years for the inertia of this perception to change, much as it has taken years for Mercedes deteriorating quality to become accepted as fact. I don’t think the General has that much time…

  • avatar
    ian6466

    Katie

    I agree with you 100% …!!!!!! Saab was a damn good car (still got a 1998 9-3 tid with 180k miles) until GM filled it full of rubbish standard bin parts.

    As for “Car Shark” ‘s comments

    Your view is WHY your car industry is going down the pan. Are you a GM executive??? Looking at your top 10 selling cars for Jan 08.

    1. Toyota Camry: 31,601
    2. Honda Accord: 23,957
    3. Nissan Altima: 21,635
    4. Honda Civic: 20,993
    5. Toyota Corolla: 20,736
    6. Chevrolet Impala: 17,544
    7. Chevrolet Cobalt: 17,310
    8. Chevrolet Malibu: 14,105
    9. Pontiac G6: 13,942
    10. Ford Focus: 11,600

    US produced/designed cars come in at no6.. but what if we took out the rental company fleets… ?? You produce cars no one wants to buy! The Japanese build clones of what GM and Ford should be building for your market..

    So ” Car Shark” your comment “bold razor-edged American styling may be too much for the less adventurous Europeans” Not even your own countrymen are buying them!! And why is there no European cars in that list? Could be the import ttarifs? Most likely we don’t have an inane desire to only own something which has a V6 or V8 engine..!!! And its not only to do with fuel prices. Why would you want to drag all that weight around when a suitably designed 1.8 – 2 litre can produce all the HP you’ll ever need. You only drive in straight lines at 70mph for heavens sake.!!

    As a Brit who has worked, lived and vacationed in the US since the mid 90’s i have driven a fair few GM and Ford vehicles.

    Chevy Lumina – 2 weeks work driving in Arizona
    Chevy Malibu – long weekend in Texas
    Oldsmobile Intrigue – 4 weeks work driving Arizona
    Oldsmobile Achieva – Long weekend drive Phoenix to Sante Fe.
    Pontiac Grand-am Long weekend vacation
    Ford Taurus- 2 weeks in Texas
    Chevy Blazer – 2 weeks in Arizona
    Dodge Caravan – 4 weeks vacation Florida
    Jeep Cherokee – 2 years own car in Belize
    Chrysler Grand Voyager – Currently 1 of 3 cars i own in UK

    With exception of the Dodge/Chrysler Caravan the rest can only be described as hideous looking and having the driving dynamics of a Fridge…. The caravan does exactly “what it says on the tin”

    Unfortunately here in Uk and Europe we have the need to drive on roads which have bends. That therefore requires something other than the good old American big V6 or V8 engine..

    Embrace change.. Get rid of the Buick, Mercury, Caddilac and Pontiac…. Stop thinking all cars must have a big engine.. GM and Ford Europe produce some excellent cars and both the petrol and diesel engines are fantastic…

    I’ll go back to my normal day car of and Audi A4 2.0 TDI safe in the knowledge that i am driving an inferior designed product and one day …if I’m really good…..just maybe… i can own a sort of aerodynamic trash skip with a big V8………Yeah Right!!!

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Again, sell the Buick name logo etc. to the Chinese. They seem to like it.
    If they will pay enough for it uswe the bucks to buy off the dealers.

    Might work.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    essen

    Regardless of what you think about the CTS styling, from the prices I’ve seen, it seems like you can lease a 5 series for about the same $. I’d be afraid to buy a Caddy because of low trade-in.

  • avatar
    Axel

    Am I the only person who thinks “Beyond Precision” sounds an awful lot like “The Power of Intelligent Engineering?”

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    Steven Lang : Out of all the GM used cars that I see in my travels, the Buicks are usually the best overall values. For those looking for a midsized commuter car, a late model Regal, Century or LeSabre offers an awful lot of bang for the buck.

    Well, I don’t know about those Buicks being good buys – my grandmother drives by Braille. All four corners are marked with yellow caution paint and there is a scrape down the passenger side from a guard rail… VBG!

    Seriously she has about a 2003 Buick Century and while it is boring as hell to look at and sleep-inducing to drive it has been a darn good car with low 30’s mileage on the highway. Aside from a weeping intake manifold gasket and a low coolant light that won’t go off it has been trouble free. My sister put 100K miles on her’s with no troubles. That isn’t saying much to my troublefree VWs and Hondas until you consider who drove it… VBG!

    My VWs and Hondas would be perfect if they were as quiet as the Buick.

  • avatar

    Buick has 3 models right now. 2 sedans and a crossover. All 3 can be had dressed up by the other GM brands. So what is Buick’s essential message? There isnt much except this car will get you to the golf course. Big deal. Folks at the country club know a Lexus has more going for it anyway, so if you are buying to impress those dudes, you arent buying Buick.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    “You missed the point completely. I’m saying that by killing off the LeSabre name GM implicitly tells those who previously bought them that it was a car so bad GM was embarrassed of the name. What other reason could there be for killing the LeSabre name and cooking up the name Lucerne (also famous as Safeway’s house brand of dairy products!)?”

    Hmmm… if that’s the case then the Toyota Supra, Celica, MR2, Cressida, Paseo, Tercel and Previa were ‘so bad Toyota was embarrassed of the name’.

    Not to mention the Honda CRX, Del Sol, Insight and the Acura Legend and Integra.

    That thread of logic simply doesn’t work.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    Steven Lang-Actually, the logic is sound.

    The Toyota Corolla has existed since 1968.
    The Honda Civic has existed since 1972.
    The Honda Accord has existed since 1976.
    The Toyota Camry has existed since 1980.
    The Toyota Avalon has existed since 1995.

    Compare that to the track records of the wide variety of cars sold by the Detroit 3 over the years. Heck, the only Detroit cars that have kept the same names for as long as the youngest car on my list above are the Ford Mustang, the Chevy Corvette, and the three Ford Panther platform cars, none of which are mainstream sedans like the Honda and Toyota models above.

    Honda and Toyota sell a very large number of vehicles to people who never actually shop around for cars-they just buy a new Accord or Camry every three to five years. Buick used to have a similar number of repeat customers, until they changed all the names. That turned an automatic sale into a “maybe”. A repeat LeSabre customer, seeing that there was no such car by that name any more, would likely shop around a bit instead of just buying some other Buick, and quite likely end up in a Toyota Avalon.

    As for the models that were discontinued by Toyota and Honda, they were all poor sellers, many without direct replacements.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    US produced/designed cars come in at no6.. but what if we took out the rental company fleets……

    Fleet sales have been curbed substantially; removing them would not have as large an effect that you so hope to see.

    As a Brit who has worked, lived and vacationed in the US since the mid 90’s i have driven a fair few GM and Ford vehicles…

    Judging from the car names, sounds like much of your experience is ancient history in car-years. “Handle like a fridge” is a pretty inflammatory statement. It seems to me the British auto industry set the pattern that GM chose to follow, except they forgot the oil leaks, Prince of darkness electrical failures…I guess “British Industry Lite” might be more appropriate. If anybody is a poster child for “inferior engineering” it would be pretty much all of the British auto industry, which is why it is mostly non existent. Thanks for the canary in the coal mine warning for GM.

    Honda and Toyota sell a very large number of vehicles to people who never actually shop around for cars-they just buy a new Accord or Camry every three to five years.

    How true. Yes the product is excellent, but talk about boring. I can’t imagine buying the same car over and over again. I also have to add that if you aways dump your car in three to five years, you really have no ability to talk long term reliability.

  • avatar
    ian6466

    golden2husky

    My appologies.. The remark was a tad inflamatory.

    As for the British car industry.. You are so right… Died a long time ago… And for the last few years it did produce real garbage products.

    From my list, some cars where from a few years ago.. true. But have things improved?

    A group of 10 of us will be driving Route 66 next year in 5 cars.. Hence me reading about all things US on the car front..

    Other than the obvious Mustang and Charger we are struggling to find anything desireable and available from a rental company… Only rules are it has to be American.. Not driving it in a Very well engineered, hugely reliable, excellent re-saleability but souless Japanese car.

    Looked at Lucerne, Impala, Sebring, Equinox, Trailmaster etc

    Any Thoughts?????????

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    I wouldn’t suggest the Chryslers or Equinox. I’m guessing you’re renting from Avis?

    I’d go with Hertz and some of their Ford offerings. Stay away from the Chryslers, you’ll not only hate the car but won’t want to be seen in it. Maybe a few Mustang convertibles for good measure. And a Taurus or Fusion for comfort.

    I think you mean Trailblazer, not Trailmaster? Consider the higher price in fuel when driving an SUV that averages, at most, 21 mpg, at cruising speeds.

    Enjoy the drive, be sure to write up a story for TTAC.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    ian6466

    You’re on track with the Charger/Mustang. Get the biggest V8 you can. What a big V8 lacks in sophistication it makes up for in brawn. We won’t have them much longer with gas going up, but for you our petrol prices will be a bargain. Experience them while they last. (Maybe you have already)

    If you want to get the American perspective on motoring, try to rent a Crown Vic. Most of us learned to drive in cars this size, and it’s still what a lot of us (admittedly older) Yanks think of as full size.

    I’ve never rented a car, so I don’t know if Corvettes are available. If so, get one. You have to bear in mind that it’s a working class Ferrari. Granted the interior is a bit chintzy, and it will have the American tendency to understeer, but don’t let it fool you – it’s cornering ability is right up there with some of Europe’s best, at a fraction of the cost. It’s not a cheap car, but it’s somethig a lot of very ordinary people could buy, once the mortgage is paid and the kids are grown.

    It’s too bad you can’t get a full sized convertible. There is no more “American” way to experience route 66. A mid ’50s Caddy drop top would be your best bet, but any full sized (e.g. huge) rag top will do.

    Beyond that, I don’t know. I think you’ll find most American cars are every bit as soulless as Toyotas (just not as reliable).

  • avatar
    p00ch

    Looked at Lucerne, Impala, Sebring, Equinox, Trailmaster etc

    Any Thoughts?????????

    Perhaps the G8 will be available by then. Not 100% American but close, and it has the RWD/V8 combination. And if you decide to consider a Corvette, perhaps a Viper for a few dollars more?

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Well, I certainly will admit there are plenty of soulless American cars, though I will suggest that they are more reliable than many seen to think they are. My real point was that there really are SOME world class cars made in this country (yeah most of those are not in rental fleets, though Hertz offers a lot of cool cars -from all over the world- in the “fun” class). America is still over-reliant on displacement when it comes to engines but that will now change as American fuel prices begin to align with the rest of the world.

    So I would argue that yes, things have improved. If you want to rent something exciting you will have to avoid the typical airport rental lot. Performance, try to rent a Vette or if available the new Camaro or Challenger. Sedan choices could include the CTS, STS, full size Chrysler products, G8. A Malibu, as respectable as it is, would fall into the blandmobile category. Perhaps a Saturn Sky or Pontiac Solstice? Of course, as previously mentioned, a Mustang. Try to get a Shelby GT-H. See, it is not all bad in Detroitland. Perhaps one vehicle could be an SUV, just to be different…Enjoy your trip. I wish I was doing the same…will we see a write-up here at TTAC?

  • avatar
    nino

    Your comment on the LeSabre contradicts everything I’ve read and experienced. These models are among the few full sized vehicles that can give you 30 highway miles per gallon and 200,000+ miles with proper care. In fact GM highlighted the LeSabre for it’s quality and the plant that it’s built in has been among the best in the world. Along with the Bonneville, they are among the most purchased road cars in my business due to their simple maintenance, comfortable ride, and low ownership costs.

    GM may not be much for small cars in the North American market. But their full-sized models are among the best in the industry. I wouldn’t think twice about buying, selling or driving one given the right prior owner.

    Makes you wonder why GM would give up all that brand equity?

    I think one of the problems with GM is highlighted by the Buick Lucerne; While the car is very stylish and has a decent interior, they produced this car with an antique base powertrain (the 200HP 3.8 pushrod V6 and 4 speed automatic) that put it immediately behind the 8-ball, and offered a mediocre 275HP V8 upgrade for a much steeper price.

    In my opinion, had the Lucerne been introduced with the direct injection 306HP 3.6 liter DOHC V6 and six speed automatic only, the car would have been better received. Later on, a turbo option for the 3.6 motor (developed from the turbo 2.8 V6 from the same engine family) could revive the good ole Buick “Grand National”, “GNX” days. And it goes without saying that Buick would’ve been capitalizing on its V6 performance image in the process.

  • avatar
    nino

    Hmmm… if that’s the case then the Toyota Supra, Celica, MR2, Cressida, Paseo, Tercel and Previa were ’so bad Toyota was embarrassed of the name’.

    Not to mention the Honda CRX, Del Sol, Insight and the Acura Legend and Integra.

    That thread of logic simply doesn’t work

    I beg to differ.

    The Supra name WILL grace any future Toyota luxury sports car as will the Celica name if and when Toyota gets back into the two door sporty coupe segment. One of the reasons that Toyota uses the “Solara” name for its Camry two door is that it isn’t sporty enough to carry the Celica badge and there was a faction at Toyota that wanted the Solara to be called the Celica instead.

    The Previa was a BAD product in the US and hence the name change.

    The Paseo and Cressida names in the US were seen as marketing hinderances that didn’t go over well with customers.

    You have a better point with regards to Acura abbandoning their Legend and Integra monikers as both those names carry much brand value. But I’ve been told that by Acura going to letter names, it was able to better distinguish itself from its stablemate Honda vehicles that kept regular names.

  • avatar
    nino

    A first hand experience on Buick name changing:

    A client of mine in her late 40s, always aspired to own a Buick Electra/Park Avenue (OK, she’s a little touched). She finally fulfilled her desire by buying a 1993 Park Avenue brand new. She has upgraded twice by buying Park Avenues without ever shopping any other car. When Buick came out with the Lucerne, she was devestated as she wouldn’t have her beloved Park Avenue anymore to upgrade to.

    She was recently involved in a major accident that wiped out her car. Having no more Park Avenues to buy, she went out and bought…….a Toyota Avalon based on the advice of a friend (not me).

    Knowing her pretty well, had Buick kept the Park Avenue name in SOME form (even as a trim level that it once was), she would not have hesitated and bought it.

  • avatar
    ian6466

    TEXN3
    golden2husky
    p00ch
    Dynamic88

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    Having looked at ALL the available Rental companies i was suprised at how much the “One Way Drop Fees” vary.

    Dollar $800 + Tax
    Budget $500 + Tax
    Hertz $1200
    Avis $800 + Tax
    Alamo $500 + Tax
    National $199 + Tax

    So at the moment National is winning… However the range of cars is not the best by a long way!!
    G6, Impala, Lucerne, DTS, Equinox, TrailBlazer..

    So Impala or Lucerne it is then…..

    Even if we are prepared to pay the higher “Drop Fees” the range of cars available at Chicago O’Hare is limited according to the websites.

    Any Ideas??

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    You can always fly into Midway instead. Airtran is super cheap, and a lot of my friends from overseas will fly regular into Atlanta and then do a 2nd run with them via or Spirit Airlines due to the savings.

    nino, Toyota will change the name of a given product if it has bad sales. Period. In this way at least, they are no different than the domestics.

    Honda has a unique tradition. They always have niche products (Element, Ridgeline, CRX, DelSol, S2000, NSX) that simply stick with the model. Once the model ends they won’t re-use the name… even if the new release is comparable to some degree. I’ve always thought this is the right way of doing it.

    Unfortunately they do the exact opposite with Acura. People were buying an Integra and Legend specifically because of that model’s recognition with the public. It had a great name while the ‘Acura’ brand wasn’t as immediately recognizable to many folks. Honda foolishly thought that people should buy an ‘Acura’ instead of a specific model. They were concerned of Acura’s lack of cache in the NA market as opposed to Lexus, and they therefore decided to squelch both names.

    If you want a brand that indeed follows the name continuity in the market place, it would be VW. The Golf, Passat and Jetta have been named the same throughout the world and their history stretches for a very long time as well. The only variance that existed with VW is with the Rabbit/Golf name cross, and a bit of variance with the Vanagon/Transporter. Again, not really that much.

  • avatar
    SAAB95JD

    “”If you want a brand that indeed follows the name continuity in the market place, it would be VW. The Golf, Passat and Jetta have been named the same throughout the world and their history stretches for a very long time as well. The only variance that existed with VW is with the Rabbit/Golf name cross, and a bit of variance with the Vanagon/Transporter. Again, not really that much.””

    Actually, not true. The VW Quantum in the US was actually a Passat in other markets, and the Jetta was called the Vento (Mk3) and Bora (MK4) in EU and other markets while always being called a Jetta in the US.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    SAAB95JD

  • avatar
    adonasetb

    Personally I think it’s pretty sad – first the Olds disappears and now Buick, Pontiac, and GMC are on the chopping block. I can remember as a kid when seeing any one of those brands parked in a driveway represented a “well-to-do” family. It appears that every domestic auto manufacturer is on the brink of elimination which is another sad fact of life – soon we’ll be as totally dependent on imported vehicles as we are on imported petro. I’m struggling to find the silver lining.

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