Buick's "Mistaken Identity" Commercial Seems to Mock the Brand's Own Terribly Unpopular Cars

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
buicks mistaken identity commercial seems to mock the brands own terribly unpopular

Encore, not Regal. Regal TourX if you please, not the Cascada. No to the LaCrosse, yes to the Enclave. Regal Sportback shunned, Envision approved.

This isn’t an elementary analysis of the pro-crossover/anti-car trends of the marketplace or GM’s China-centric Buick brand. Rather, it’s the message Buick seems to be sending in its own advertising.

Of course, that’s not the official line from Buick PR. But the more you watch the six-month-old “Mistaken Identity” commercial, the more you wonder what Buick must think of its own cars.

Mistaken Identity begins with an upwardly mobile male correcting an allegedly surprised valet. “That’s my Buick,” he says to the valet, who evidently just arrived at the front door of the hotel in a red Regal only to discover that the owner’s Buick was an Encore already parked out front.

The storyline’s already a mess. When did the Encore make its way to the front of the building? Did it ever leave? Shouldn’t the valet, even if only for Buick’s sake in a Buick ad, recognize a six-year-old Buick design as a Buick?

But the bigger question remains: why are we supposed to believe the valet is more impressed by a wannabe-premium subcompact crossover than a rather dashing red sedan? Moreover, is Buick suggesting customers should be more impressed by the $23,200+ Trax sibling than the $39,070+, 310-horsepower, all-wheel-drive sports sedan?

No, according to Buick spokesperson Stuart Fowle. “The purpose of that spot was simply to demonstrate variety within the Buick lineup while staying true to the long-running message that the brand has evolved dramatically in recent years,” Fowle told TTAC. “No insults,” he says, “just a message that we have something for everyone.”

The storyline is no less confusing when it comes to the young female surfers — yoo-hoo, eyes down here — who seem to be looking for a friend’s Buick at the beach parking lot. Requiring a Buick with space for their boards, the surfers aren’t sure how the top-down Cascada’s going to work.

While they’re directed by friends to the nearby Regal TourX, you’re sitting on the couch asking the universe, “Wouldn’t they remember the car they came in? And if they’re leaving in a different car than the car they came in, how did they not notice the tri-shield on the roof-racked wagon they just walked past?”

Fortunately, it’s a lot easier to make sense of the Enclave’s people-carrying ability when a group of young lacrosse players fail to see how they’ll fit in a LaCrosse. Granted, the Roadmaster Wagon’s rear-facing bench is rolling over in its grave, but that’s a subject for another time.

Mistaken Identity concludes with a fourth stanza in which a real live Regal Sportback is overlooked, figuratively and literally, by an Envision on billboard.

By the end, eight Buicks were presented to the car-buying public. In fact, Buick’s Fowle says the broad display of the entire lineup was the “primarily goal” for the 30-second ad. And though Buick will contest our interpretation of Mistaken Identity, the company won’t challenge its own sales figures.

“Customers in the North American market are gravitating toward the SUV part of our lineup, with the Encore, Envision and Enclave representing 90 percent of our sales,” Fowle says. “With the addition of the Encore GX early next year and the end of production for the Cascada and LaCrosse, we do expect that number to only grow higher and are positioning ourselves as an SUV brand.”

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jul 27, 2019

    @highdesert cat--I was planning on giving my S-10 to my nephew when I retired, but I might end up either giving it to him when and if I buy the Lacrosse or I might in the meantime register it as a farm vehicle and keep it in his barn for both of us to use and then give it to him when I retire. I will talk it over with him. He is a certified mechanic and can work on anything.

    • See 1 previous
    • MiataReallyIsTheAnswer MiataReallyIsTheAnswer on Jul 29, 2019

      @highdesertcat Please tell us where you live that a 1990's vintage Chevy V6 engine sells for FIVE GRAND, so we can all be sure to never move there.

  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Jul 28, 2019

    Here in the green leafy burbs around NYC, there are zero Buicks. I see more Tesla than Buick. There is literally zero penetration....at the income levels and house prices, a luxury buyer can afford the Audi, BMW or Benz, even if at a low level (CLA, 320i or A3), all of which have better nameplates. The niche that they seek to fill (near lux) doesn't exist if the Cadillac the Buick competes with leases out well. The Genuine GM parts issue is the second owner's problem, but by then these cars are sold to the South or Midwest.

  • Inside Looking Out In June 1973, Leonid Brezhnev arrived in Washington for his second summit meeting with President Richard Nixon. Knowing of the Soviet leader’s fondness for luxury automobiles, Nixon gave him a shiny Lincoln Continental. Brezhnev was delighted with the present and insisted on taking a spin around Camp David, speeding through turns while the president nervously asked him to slow down. https://academic.oup.com/dh/article-abstract/42/4/548/5063004
  • Bobby D'Oppo Great sound and smooth power delivery in a heavier RWD or AWD vehicle is a nice blend, but current V8 pickup trucks deliver an unsophisticated driving experience. I think a modern full-size pickup could be very well suited to a manual transmission.In reality, old school, revvy atmo engines pair best with manual transmissions because it's so rewarding to keep them in the power band on a winding road. Modern turbo engines have flattened the torque curve and often make changing gears feel more like a chore.
  • Chuck Norton For those worried about a complex power train-What vehicle doesn't have one? I drive a twin turbo F-150 (3.5) Talk about complexity.. It seems reliability based on the number of F-150s sold is a non-issue. As with many other makes/models. I mean how many operations are handle by micro processors...in today's vehicles?
  • Ravenuer The Long Island Expressway.
  • Kwik_Shift A nice stretch of fairly remote road that would be great for test driving a car's potential, rally style, is Flinton Road off of Highway 41 in Ontario. Twists/turns/dips/rises. Just hope a deer doesn't jump out at you. Also Highway 60 through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Great scenery with lots of hills.