What's Wrong With This Picture: Buicking The Trends Edition

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
what s wrong with this picture buicking the trends edition

Maybe I’m showing my age here, but my definition of the term “younger” clearly doesn’t match that of The LA Times (though the age of the driver pictured is not given). And it’s not just the photo editor either…

According to the LAT’s piece:

GM is hoping the new Buick models will act as an automotive fountain of youth and attract more customers such as 48-year-old Frank Zuniga… who recently spent about $40,000 on a fully equipped LaCrosse.

Now, 48 is still technically in the fat part of the US population pyramid, and far be it from me to question the youthfulness of folks who reach this age… but the two major premises in the LAT’s headline simply aren’t that true. For one thing, JD Power weighs in on the Buick-buyer-age controversy, telling the LAT that the average three years ago was 64, and that it has since fallen to 61. That contrasts with IIHS’ recent average Buick-buyer age of 65, up from a claimed average of 63 a year ago. Moreover, as the graph after the jump proves, Buick’s sales “surge” is barely perceptible in any context wider than the first quarter of this year.

Now, decrying Buick as a “dead brand” has long been popular here at TTAC, for reasons that this graph should adequately explain. In general, the principle that any brand that’s not busy growing is busy dying, seems to be fairly reliable. But GM’s clearly making a stand with Buick, and an endless trickle of stories like the LAT’s bear witness to the resources GM is bringing to bear on its troubled brand in hopes of shedding its fuddy-duddy past. As does the prospective release of the Opel Insignia, er, Buick Regal. And the likely future release of a Cruze-based (Delta II) Buick compact sedan. To say nothing of a possible (and suspiciously xB-alike sounding) Subcompact (Gamma II) Buick MPV.

Hell, Buick is even flying select bloggers around the world on the “Buick World Tour,” from Beijing to the Nürburgring on what sounds like the mother of all press junkets… and all for the conclusion that:

The Nürburgring is the greatest track in the world. It’s everything you’ve heard and everything you’ve read. It is the world’s best adrenaline machine writ large in asphalt. And the Buick ain’t half bad, either.

And it gets worse: despite having written extensively (and occasionally, even nastily) about problems with Buick’s branding, product planning and demography, I have been invited to an official press drive event for the new Regal later this month. In the old days of TTAC-GM relations, this would have been unthinkable… and it confirms once and for all that GM isn’t half-hearting its attempt to convince the world that Buick is not what it once was. But then, that’s a given: the new Regal bucks the old Buick assumptions on its looks alone. The problem is that “old Buick” was selling four times the cars it sells now in 2003 with its “blue hair” image and average buyer age of 72. Of course that average age came down… it’s six years younger than the average life expectancy in the US. But Buick’s sales have fallen far quicker than the average age of its customers, and nothing suggests that a re-vamp targeting the 40-55 set will return it to anywhere near its 2002 volume. Meanwhile, Toyota is unabashedly attacking Buick’s former preferred demographic. With nowhere to go but the crowded entry-luxury market, Buick is gambling big-time that its reinvention will pay off… and photos like this one don’t exactly help.

[Photo HT: Twitter.com/autoconomy via Hemmings Motor News]

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  • Odomeater Odomeater on May 08, 2010

    boyphenom, too early to tell/review regarding the Regal but the LaCrosse is a fantastic product. The accord is a fine automobile as well, but has evolved into a rather boring bloated soulless car IMO. LaCrosse, on the other hand, is superior in styling and interior ergonomics and quality. LaCrosse has more std features, a better warranty too! You can also get all wheel drive in the Buick. Not available on Honda.

  • Odomeater Odomeater on May 10, 2010

    "GM lost me as a customer for good on that day..." So, the Grand Am had bubbling vinyl and the Mazda blew a transmission. And GM lost you? Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

    • Rob Finfrock Rob Finfrock on May 11, 2010

      Nice try there, meathead. The Mazda hardly "blew a transmission." It had a shifting problem that, frankly, Mazda went overboard IMO to make right. The car still got me from Amarillo to Dallas without any problems; when I wanted passing gear, I used the manumatic. And the replacement tranny has been bulletproof. In fact, the 6 is still rock-solid at over 36K. The Pontiac felt like a genuine POS within 15,000 miles. No contest, GM loses in every regard.

  • Jeff Good to read a review on a car that many readers can afford and agree on as a solid choice.
  • Ajla The V6 Accord was so popular with internet car website commenters that it turned into a meme. I don't think this current gen carries on that tradition though, many reviews make it sound like a regression. I think the Ford Maverick is the new internet sweetheart.Or the Kia Telluride, which is objectively the greatest ICE vehicle of all time.
  • Statikboy It doesn't hold up to earlier generations. It's about about a 1000 pounds overweight.Also, when did the "economy" model of a vehicle become the most expensive version? I keep expecting "economy" to be "inexpensive". I know it was before EV's and even hybrids but I'm not sure when the status flipped. Maybe it started with VW's diesel Rabbit?No longer channeling my inner Old Man. I turned 50 last month so I'm channeling my outer Old Man. Get off the lawn I would have if I could afford my own property!!
  • Danddd I'm reading on other sites that the last model was more fun to drive. Accords usually had a bit of sport fun tuned in. Has the new Accord dropped this entirely?I notice on the eighth pic down that space in the dash, seems odd.Now if there was just an Accord wagon....
  • TheEndlessEnigma $150k for GM build quality. $150k for GM parts and material quality. Yeah, that's the ticket.