By on April 8, 2009

According to Reuters, GM “is in intense and earnest preparations for a possible bankruptcy filing.” Meanwhile, GM’s joint venture partner in China, SAIC, is making preparations of its own. They might just buy Buick before it goes to hell in the GM hand basket. The matter has received added urgency by a note from Moody’s Investor Service that the agency reckons there’s a 70 percent risk of bankruptcy for Detroit’s three automakers given the difficulty of restructuring out of court.

According to the Shanghai Securities News via Gasgoo, GM’s Chinese joint venture partner SAIC is planning to buy the Buick brand from GM, or, at the very least, take over the rights to use the Buick brand in China. The Chinese have a weary, wary eye on the Presidential Task Force on Automobiles (PTFOA) which may just order GM to reduce the number of its brands to three. Given the dismal sales record of Buick in the U.S., the Chinese are rightly worried that Buick may not be amongst the chosen few. A government-to-government wink lies well within the realm of the possible.

In China, Buick is enjoying healthy sales, although Buick has seen better times there as well. Worldwide, China is the biggest market for Buick, a market SAIC doesn’t want to lose. It is unlikely that there are any other serious bidders for Buick, so SAIC could pick up Buick for bupkis.

GM’s first-quarter sales in its Chinese passenger car venture slid 9 percent from a year earlier. This is especially embarrassing as Hyundai’s Kia boosted its sales by 39.9 percent during the same period in China. Sales of Shanghai GM fell 7 percent last year, while China’s overall vehicle sales gained 6.7 percent, the slowest pace in a decade.

Putting a positive spin on the shocking news, Shanghai GM said its first-quarter sales grew 12.9 percent from the fourth quarter last year, benefiting from new Buicks. It launched a remodeled Buick Regal and the new Buick Enclave sport utility vehicle at the end of last year as part of its efforts to restructure a product line-up that’s long in the tooth and losing market share.

Shanghai GM said its business had not been affected despite the Obama administration’s rejection of GM’s bailout plan and the possible dire consequences. In a way, it might be true. SAIC’s bargaining position has vastly improved.

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26 Comments on “China’s SAIC To Buy Buick For Bupkis...”


  • avatar
    441Zuke

    i’d rather there be no buick at all or they just funnel chevy’s there

  • avatar
    derm81

    i’d rather there be no buick at all or they just funnel chevy’s there

    Explain why

  • avatar

    HA!

    And I quote myself from my comment posted on TTAC on March 21st, 2009:

    Bah. Who are we kidding. Our upcoming new Chinese autos will be called “Buick”.

    While part of me gloats over my prescience, as a former Wildcat, Riviera and Electra 225 owner, another part of me is quite sad at the prospect. Simply pathetic.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    China OWNS most of the USA anyway. Sell/give them another tiny piece. I don’t see the problem.

  • avatar
    TVC15

    I look forward to the 2011 GNX.

  • avatar
    John Williams

    And the vultures continue circling the corpse.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Hope they get enough to close out the dealers…Oh, BK will cover that anyway.

    I’ve calling for this for about a year. They should have marketed to Shanghai when they had more leverage.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    wgmleslie

    So the PRC wants Buick. I can only suppose they have a rapidly growing elderly segment on the prowl for farmer’s markets.

  • avatar
    Gforce

    This really pisses me off, GMNA screws up and the rest of the world loses out. Seems it’s only in N. America where GM has had its toxic effect. It’s not that the cars are not competitive, they’re just marketed to the wrong nations IMHO.

    The Opel Astra is an example here. That car mixes it with the VW Golfs of this world, but somehow the N.American versions have to be heavily discounted to contest. I don’t thick the Honda Civic sells more units than the Opel Astra (world-wide). Methinks somebody needs to set fire on W.Street, seems every corporate executive has their eyes firmly fixed on the stocks.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    The Chinese really like Buick, they have a passion for the brand. Thats more than can be said for most Americans. It would be interesting to see what they could do with a liberated Buick. Buick and Cadillac were around before GM and I hope they are around after it. It is time to set the divisions free — Before they end up like Oldsmobile.

  • avatar
    Colinpolyps

    I tell ya that Buick got legs!

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    Why not keep Buick? It’s strong in China, and if they did it right it could be strong here, too. There’s no reason why GM can’t make 3 brands work without redundancies. It would take restructuring (C11) to get it done, but Buick could be a strong brand if they’d focus the effort on the one brand that they’ve been putting into 3 (Saturn, Buick, Pontiac).

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I think I just discovered a hidden job market. It’s called “translating Buick nameplates in Chinese.”

    “Duece and a Quarter”
    “Riviera”
    “Regal”

    Oh boy.

  • avatar
    50merc

    I’d rather Buick survive only in China than to be killed off. The Chinese understand what a Buick is supposed to be.

    If Buick is to be given a last chance in the US market, I think there’s a place for it between Chevy and Cadillac, especially if the DTS is dropped. The question is basically one of the marginal cost of keeping the Buick brand alive. That marginal cost (mainly marketing expenses) may be not very much, if China provides upscale sedan(s) and Chevy builds the crossover. A slimmed-down network of Buick and GMC dealers might be effective, especially in small and medium-sized cities.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    This is sort of like moving the Brooklyn Dodgers to L.A. Are they really still the same team?

    Does Buick really have a “soul” or is it just a name?

    I’d like to think that there IS an essence that defines a Buick, and that the Chinese understand that.

    Perhaps one argument in that -despite how hard GM has worked to kill the concept of “Buickness” over the last 3 decades (Ever had the joy of renting a “Skylark”?) that all of US still know what Buick means.

    Here’s hoping that the transplant to foreign soil takes.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    ” Sales of Shanghai GM fell 7 percent last year, while China’s overall vehicle sales gained 6.7 percent, the slowest pace in a decade.”

    Which again proves that GM management is the root cause of the company’s problems, not the UAW.

  • avatar
    BDB

    I’d rather Buick survive only in China than to be killed off. The Chinese understand what a Buick is supposed to be.

    A’int that the truth? The Buicks in China look like Buicks, not boring golfing grandpa mobiles. Strange day when the Chinese get the American-ness of an American brand better than Americans do!

  • avatar
    npbheights

    Strange day when the Chinese get the American-ness of an American brand better than Americans do!

    Not that strange, when you consider that the Chinese produce just about everything that we buy here in America :-)

  • avatar

    I don’t see why discontinuing Buick in the US would have anything to do with keeping it going in China as an Asia-market only brand.

    The Riviera concept also looks extremely Chinese, not really anything American or what Buicks looked like in the brand’s heyday.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    w3tp?

    Does that car have 28-inch wheels on it and is the model six feet tall? Or just dubs, and she’s 88-pounds skinny? One or the other, or it’s a photochop.

    As for the essence of Buick, so many Buicks over the last two or three generations have been the last car the old people had before they died that it’s no wonder most of us see that as Buick’s thing, GNX’s, T-type Rivieras, and finned 1959 and 1960 convertibles notwithstanding. Maybe the Chinese can have another go at the essence of Buick, and there will be interesting Buicks in other places than at Buick Club summer picnics.

  • avatar
    Jared

    “Does that car have 28-inch wheels on it and is the model six feet tall? Or just dubs, and she’s 88-pounds skinny? One or the other, or it’s a photochop.”

    If she’s like most models, the answer is “yes.” She’s 6’+ and 110 lbs.

    Also, the picture is taken from a relatively low point of view. That makes the model look even taller than she probably is.

  • avatar
    scicarb

    If SAIC sells that car in the US. I’m a future Buick owner !!!

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Rod Panhard :
    April 8th, 2009 at 9:01 am said:

    “… hidden job market: translating Buick nameplates in Chinese.”

    I say:

    “Duece and a Quarter” = Twenty-Two Five
    “Riviera” = Liviera
    “Regal” = Legal

    Am I hired?

  • avatar
    wsn

    BDB :
    April 8th, 2009 at 10:12 am

    A’int that the truth? The Buicks in China look like Buicks, not boring golfing grandpa mobiles. Strange day when the Chinese get the American-ness of an American brand better than Americans do!

    ————————————————

    Very interesting.

    The majority of Chinese don’t own a car (cannot afford one), let alone a Buick. Their fascination with the Buick brand comes from old movies depicting early Chinese industrialists driving Buicks in the 1930s. So Buick was associated with rich people of last century. The new rich class knows that and thus want to be seen as the same (whether or not it’s the same, is another story).

    Essentially, it comes down to this:

    Chinese want Buick, because it represents the American lifestyle that they aspire to. Just a couple years back, a lot of Chinese started to fascinate about Hummer the same way. Once Americans stop buying that brand, so will the Chinese.

    It’s like your 5-year old wanting whatever that’s in your hand at the moment and throwing away whatever you gave him. Or, like a girl trying to seduce the current boyfriend of her best friend…

  • avatar
    50merc

    “like a girl trying to seduce the current boyfriend of her best friend …”

    Trying to seduce? A pretty easy task for the female gender, I’d say.

  • avatar
    brush

    There goes Holden! Once the Chinese buy Buick, the name or company, doesn’t matter, they will then export the Holden Statesman/Caprice back to Oz. The next logical step will be then to transfer the Commodore manufacturing line to China to export those back to Oz (Australia’s own, be damned!). Leaving Holden to build(?)the saviour 4 cylinder car and dealers to sell a complete imported line, Daewoo’s, Opels and Chinese Buicks :(


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