A Response To Buick's Concerns Regarding Yesterday's Article

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

Yesterday, your humble author went back to the proverbial old school for a heartfelt piece on why Buick must die. It gave me no pleasure to write it; I can still remember being five years old and waiting with anticipation for my father to bring home his new steel-grey 1977 LeSabre sedan. That was an American-made luxury sedan to compete heads-up with anything the world could offer, which no doubt explains why the Volvo that sat next to it in the garage found its way to the classifieds shortly afterwards.

There is nothing I would rather see than the resurrection of a revitalized Buick taking the fight to Lexus with a top-notch lineup of cars and crossovers that are built and designed — scratch that, I would probably settle for built or designed at this point! — in the United States. That’s why I handed out that tough love to the Tri-shield yesterday.

It would have been nice if Buick PR had responded by sending me some off-the-record advance notice of a new world-class luxury car or truck. I suppose it was naive of me to even think there might be such a thing in the pipeline. Rather, my boss received a list of complaints from Buick’s brand communications manager, Stu Fowle. He believes the article is incorrect on several points. In the interest of promoting further informed discussion about Buick’s current woes, I’ve listed his complaints after the jump, along with my responses.

Buick’s objections, via Fowle, are in italics, my responses are in bold.

No fresh faces like GMC has? The newest and broadest lineup we’ve ever had, about 2 years or newer

Nowhere in the text does it say Buick does not have “fresh faces” like GMC has. It states that GMC has “fresh faces and shiny grilles.” This is a reflection of GMC’s strong and customer desire-driven lineup. I’m afraid you’re reading something into the text that does not exist.

Regal sedan no one buys? Correct, we no longer sell a Regal sedan. We sell a sportback and wagon, both of which are brand new

If you’re not selling luxury sedans anymore, you might want to change the webpage for your Regal, which is http://www.buick.com/sedans/regal-gs-luxury-sedan. (Here’s an archived link in case that changes today.)

4800 pound Enclave with no market? That weight is off by 400 pounds and the Enclave in February had about 50 percent more sales than CX-9, XC90, Q7

In that case, you’ll want to change your own website which lists the FWD Enclave at 4,724 pounds. (Here’s the archive link for reference after you fix that.) As far as sales of the Enclave versus the “competition”… you’ve picked an obscure Mazda, a Volvo sold through a dealer network a fraction the size of Buick’s, and an Audi that starts ten grand above the Enclave then rockets up to nearly six figures. Wouldn’t it be more relevant to point out that the GMC Acadia outsells the Enclave by more than three to one? How about comparing it to the Chevrolet Traverse, which outsells it almost four to one? Or would it be more relevant to point out that the Enclave is third from the bottom on February’s segment sales list, taking a thorough beating from vehicles as diverse as the VW Atlas, the Nissan Murano, and the Dodge Durango?

“Removing the imports” from the lineup is nonsensical just to make a comparison work. The HR-V used as a point of comparison sells similarly to the Encore in an apples-to-apples segment compare and it should be noted that it’s also an import, built in Mexico.

I think it’s VERY relevant that Buick relies on Chinese and Korean vehicles to make its unimpressive sales numbers. I think it is VERY relevant that Buick, a brand that exists today because of the full faith and credit of the United States government, is a major importer of Chinese-built vehicles. Furthermore, if you don’t see the difference between the HR-V’s supply chain and the Encore’s, you need to study up on what your own employer does to design, engineer, and build vehicles.

There’s a claim that we’ve had “Five dismal years” but they’ve all been growth years until we took a small drop in 2017.

I think this is a reasonable objection. Buick sales are certainly up from where they were a decade ago. However, I believe if you read the article with attention you will see that the phrase is “a few dismal years,” and that it comes in the context of Buick’s fall from its previous grace. Still, insofar as the past few years were, on the average, no more dismal than the few years before it, let’s award the point to you.

Why are we comparing the price of our top trim LaCrosse Avenir to versus a base ES? A base LaCrosse costs $9,000 less than the ES (and the Avenir costs about $6,000 more, not $9,000)

The ES350 starts at $38,950. The cheapest V6 LaCrosse starts at $34,595. The Avenir starts at $45,795. Looks like neither of us have our figures quite right, but that’s not your central point. You suggest that it is unfair to compare the ES to the Avenir. My suggestion in response is that you will be lucky to match the real-world transaction prices of the base ES with your Avenir. The fact that you don’t see the prestige and perception gap between the two products does not bode well for Buick’s ability to accurately position and market its vehicles.

* * *

I appreciate Buick’s decision to reach out with concerns about the story. I can’t blame them. Let’s just hope that the folks in the product planning department have a better set of answers to give us, and that those answers arrive soon. It doesn’t seem likely. As Fowle points out, this is Buick’s freshest lineup in recent years. If there’s a change to come, it won’t be coming in the near future. Let’s cross our fingers. In the meantime, well, as they say on HBO… Now our watch begins.

[Image: General Motors]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Arthurk45 Arthurk45 on Mar 22, 2018

    All of these knocks against Buick are, quite frankly irrelevant. Talk of drivetrains especially - gas powered drivetrains are on the way out, and quickly. Buick is already designing for the Chevy Bolt platform - an upscale model priced a couple of thou higher. Their larger EVs will be spun off of GM's large EV chasis - every GM car will come, at this pont, from one of two (or perhaps three) EV chasis. Which means that, in terms of mechanicals, no GM car wil be intrinsically superior to any other. And from the results of the Bolt chasis design, Buick will inherit a lot of well received characteristics. So any arguments about the Buicks of the past are irrelevant. I have confidence, after viewing the upcoming Buick EV, that Buick will do OK. A GM with only two main vehicle models (Cadillac and Chevy) is absurd - they don't come close to covering the range of price/quality in the marketplace. Killing Buick makes no sense, although replacing their designers MAY be a wise move.So, all in all, killing Buick is a totally thoughtless, simple minded , illogical and a really dopey idea. I should warn automakers not to take any suggestions from this writer seriously. This is click bait, nothing else.

  • Frank Williams Frank Williams on Mar 24, 2018

    I see Buick hasn't changed their tactics much over the past ten years. In 2008, I wrote about the Buick Enclave's "sucky sales" and immediately received a sarcastic rebuttal from Dave Darovitz, Buick's communication manager at that time. (http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/01/buick-ttacs-truth-sucks/) Interestingly, after I shot down his remarks we never heard from him again.

  • Ajla There is inventory on the ground but as pointed out it is generally high dollar trims of high-dollar models and at least around here dealers still aren't budging off their mandatory nitrogen tires and Summer weather protection packages.You aren't paying '21-'22 prices anymore but it's still a long way to go.
  • Slavuta Every electric car must come with a film about lithium mining
  • Sobhuza Trooper Drop a good, high-strung German engine in this and you'd have American flair with German repair costs!
  • Kwik_Shift I'll just drive my Frontier into the ground as planned. Possibly find an older "fun" car to collect.
  • Lorenzo The solution is so simple: if the driver shifts into neutral without applying the parking brake, the horn sounds and lights flash until the parking brake is applied. After the third time, the driver should be insulted by a voice saying, "Shouldn't your wife be driving?", or "Where did you get your license - Dollar Store?"