Buick Death Watch 1: Buick Must Die

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

“When The Donald calls aspiring apprentices into the boardroom to determine which one to fire, I’m always hoping for a miracle. I want him to can ALL of them.” Thus spake Robert Farago nearly thirteen years ago when he started the General Motors Death Watch. Just fifty-one months later, General Motors filed for Chapter 11. Our august founder got his wish. Or most of it, anyway. The weak-sister brands were sold off — although, looking at the stunning resale value of Hummer H2s on the West Coast, one wonders if perhaps that nameplate should have been retained; it would certainly play well in an era where $100,000 is the new normal for a loaded full-size SUV. (One also has to admire Farago’s Muad’Dib-style prescience regarding Donald Trump’s relevance in the future, but that’s slightly besides the point.)

Robert was wrong about one thing: while General Motors did die in the the legal sense, most of what normies consider “GM” is still very much present and accounted for. I recently sat down with a senior “New GM” person who told me, “We used the bankruptcy to keep the good people and make some much-needed changes,” by which he meant “cutting the dead wood.” I think that much of the current product line reflects that rejuvenation. The Corvette is the world’s finest sporting automobile, at least on the value-for-money scale. The Equinox has been a bright spot for more than half a decade now. The Denali line is a license to print money, and justifiably so. I’m no longer much of a skeptic when it comes to the General. Last year, I did something I’d never done before: I spent nearly 60,000 of my favorite dollars on a brand new GM product. While there are certainly criticisms to be made regarding America’s largest-by-a-whisker automaker, I believe it is now safe to say that the company is on solid footing everywhere from 755-horsepower supercars to electric-dreams city commuters.

Except, of course, for Buick. That’s got to go, and nobody’s going to miss it.

Before any of the business-school dropouts get too excited, I should note that I am not suggesting the death of “Buick,” the Chinese brand that sells Chinese cars to Chinese people. That seems to be doing pretty well, and it’s a big part of the reason why China is now a bigger market for GM than the United States. No, I’m talking about the walking-dead nameplate currently limping zombie-like through hundreds of rural showrooms.

To begin with, Buick is now clearly the dumping ground of GM product. If you look at GMC, for example, you’ll see fresh faces and shiny grilles and waiting lists for products like the four-cylinder Terrain. Buick? Well, they have

* A Korean blob (Encore)

* A Chinese blob (Envision)

* A Polish blob with a folding roof (Cascada)

* A sedan that nobody buys (Regal)

* Another sedan that nobody buys (LaCrosse)

* A monstrous CUV that weighs 4,800 pounds in its cheapest FWD variant and which has no visible market whatsoever (Enclave)

In January of this year, Buick sold under 14,000 vehicles. Half of those sales went to the Far East Encore/Envision duo. This is considered “good news” by the servile lapdogs of the automotive press, who will turn around and tell you in the same breath that the 2018 Honda Accord is a “slow seller.” A quick look at the numbers tells the truth: The Accord, by itself, outsells Buick by about 30 percent. The CR-V sells more than double the volume of the entire Buick brand. The Honda product that most closely matches Buick’s overall sales? The Pilot, by itself. That’s amazing, because the Pilot isn’t that popular. Once you remove the imported cars from Buick’s sales totals, the brand trails the Odyssey… and finds itself in a dead-heat race with the Honda HR-V.

Imagine a Honda dealership where all you could get was the HR-V. That’s pretty much your Buick showroom, plus a few ringers from the Chinese crowd.

This disaster didn’t happen overnight, but it’s worth noting that Buick was often the fourth-best-selling brand in the country during the Seventies. It’s been all downhill from there, but these last few years have been particularly dismal, no doubt in part because the marketing and advertising that supports the brand has gone from bad to worse. It’s at the point where all but the most committed journosaurs are stepping off the Buick bus; despite some very expensive West Coast luxury travel and accommodations tossed their way during the past few months, I can’t find anything but the most lackluster copy-and-paste faux enthusiasm among the shrimp-and-Rascal-scooter set. One of my little sources in this business tells me that Buick PR is being very generous to people and getting nothing in return. What could be more pathetic than trying to cosplay Geoff Day at his prime only to have people treat you like the people who stand in the aisle at Costco asking you to try a new DirecTV package you don’t want?

I could go on, perhaps by talking about the LaCrosse Avenir that costs nine thousand dollars more than a Lexus ES despite possessing a nearly identical silhouette to the ex-rental Impala that your local CarMax is selling for $17,995, but this is probably an outstanding opportunity for me to honor Mr. Farago’s historical 800-word limitation. Buick should be shuttered here in the United States. The resources should be devoted to Chevrolet and GMC. It’s time to cut down the last stand of that old dead wood. Pick up the axe and start swinging.

[Image: General Motors]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

More by Jack Baruth

Join the conversation
2 of 238 comments
  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Mar 23, 2018

    Do you guys make things up as you go along. The base price of a V6 Lexus ES is $39945 for 2018. The 300H is base priced at 42815. The 2018 Lacrosse starts at 30490 for the eAssist version and ends at 45795 for the FWD Avenir or 47995 with AWD that Lexus doesn't even offer on the glorified Camry chassis. None of these figures add up to the Buick costing 9K more than the Lexus and your comparing a base trim car with no options to a top spec Buick is just ludicrous.

  • NoID NoID on Mar 26, 2018

    On a side note, in 5-10 years when we're discussing the failure of Alfa in the US, I look forward to the next Deathwatch chapter: (Alfa) Romeo Must Die. Not that I relish the thought of Alfa dying here...I just don't anticipate the brand receiving nearly as much traction as it needs in order to survive here, barring platform sharing and/or a heavy emphasis on utility vehicles.

  • TheEndlessEnigma Couple of questions: 1) who will be the service partner for these when Rivian goes Tits Up? 2) What happens with software/operating system support when Rivia goes Tits Up? 3) What happens to the lease when Rivian goes Tits up?
  • Richard I loved these cars, I was blessed to own three. My first a red beauty 86. My second was an 87, 2+2, with digital everything. My third an 87, it had been ridden pretty hard when I got it but it served me well for several years. The first two I loved so much. Unfortunately they had fuel injection issue causing them to basically burst into flames. My son was with me at 10 years old when first one went up. I'm holding no grudges. Nissan gave me 1600$ for first one after jumping thru hoops for 3 years. I didn't bother trying with the second. Just wondering if anyone else had similar experience. I still love those cars.
  • TheEndlessEnigma A '95 in Iowa, I'm thinking significant frame and underbody rust issues.
  • Sobhuza Trooper "...the latest and greatest Forester is just 0.6 inches longer and 0.5 inches wider."This is especially useful because everybody, everywhere had memorized the dimensions of the previous model and can quickly do the math.TTAC is far from the only car source who writes like this, but damn, would it kill you to include the actual dimensions?
  • Crown Alabama assembling Mercedes.That explains a lot.