Some have questioned why General Motors keeps Buick around since it seems like it’s not the most popular brand on America’s roads. What that view fails to consider, however, is that Buick is one of GM’s strongest brands in China, and earlier this month, the company’s president confirmed a new crossover would be coming for the country.
General Motors is reportedly making OnStar standard equipment for all new Buick, Cadillac, and GMC models. However, it's also been alleged that the company will be forcing customers of those brands into a three-year subscription for the "Connected Services Premium Plan" that'll cost roughly $1,500 and represent the latest example of how automakers are leveraging subscription fees to improve their overall profitability.
On Wednesday, Buick formally committed itself toward an “all-electric portfolio” by 2030 — saying that it would be embarking on a brand transformation that would fundamentally change the company forever. This includes an entirely new horizontally oriented badge that doesn’t stray too far from Buick’s traditional tri-shield design.
“The Buick brand is committed to an all-electric future by the end of this decade,” stated Duncan Aldred, global vice president, Buick and GMC. “Buick’s new logo, use of the Electra naming series and a new design look for our future products will transform the brand.”
We return to the Turbo-Hydramatic once more today, and our third installment sees us at a critical point in the timeline of the automatic transmission. Fuel economy pressure from the government and performance demands of the consumer increased considerably in the intervening years since the THM’s debut in 1964. That meant the creation of lighter, more compact, and cheaper versions of the Turbo-Hydramatic compared to its flagship shifter, the THM400. GM branched out into the likes of the THM350, THM250, and the very problematic THM200.
In 1987, GM stepped away from the traditional THM naming scheme and switched to a new combination of letters and numbers. Number of gears, layout, and strength combined to turn the THM400 into the 3L80. But the hefty gearbox was already limited by then to heavier truck applications; passenger cars moved on to four forward gears after the dawn of the Eighties.
During the bling-and-horsepower-crazed 1960s, The General’s Buick Division took the full-size B-Body platform, added a hot engine and flashy trim, and called it the Wildcat. Not many well-heeled grandfathers felt interested in doing land-yacht burnouts in the VFW parking lot, it turned out, so Wildcat sales ended after 1970… but a yearning for the glory days of the Wildcat must have inspired some Buick dealers to create their own Wildcats during the 1990s. Here’s one of those rare special-edition cars, found in a Denver-area self-service yard.
Our Abandoned History coverage of the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission series continues today. The THM was a singular solution to two different automatic transmissions in use by Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Buick in 1963. Turbo-Hydramatic arrived at a time of modernization for the automatic, which prior to the mid-Sixties was regarded as inefficient and less than smooth.
The THM400 was the 1964 replacement for the Hydra-Matic and Buick’s Dynaflow and established itself as a smooth and reliable gearbox. It proved useful in a variety of luxury and heavy-duty applications and shrugged off weight and torque easily. In short order, it took off as the transmission of choice for various small manufacturers outside of GM. However, no matter how excellent the THM400 was, it found itself squeezed by a drive toward greater fuel efficiency. It was also a bit hefty to be of broad use in smaller or lighter passenger cars. GM needed more Turbo-Hydramatics!
A few weeks ago, we concluded Abandoned History’s two-part coverage of the Chrysler UltraDrive transmission. Within the comments was a request for more transmission coverage of an equally abandoned nature. Let it be so! Come along as we discuss the vast automatically shifted expanse that was the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission family, by General Motors.
There has been much speculation over the past week regarding General Motors’ trademark application for a new Buick logo. Likely related to a swath of new EVs on the horizon (but not yet confirmed), the news fired up the old Abandoned History thought box. Why not take a look at all of Buick’s past logos? We began yesterday in 1903, and pick up today in 1942.
According to a recently filed trademark application, Buick’s familiar tri-shield logo may be going the way of the dodo. It’s been suggested the potential logo change is in pursuit of a revised image, in preparation for the Brave New World of EVs that Buick will soon unleash upon millions of eager customers. However, given the company has been around for over 120 years this is far from the first time Buick has swapped its badge.
Remember, not many years ago, when American car shoppers could choose among dozens of new Detroit sedans? For the 2006 model year alone, General Motors offered 12 different four-door sedans, and that’s ignoring sub-models plus the sedans bearing the badges of (GM-owned) Saab and Suzuki. Today, there are three new GM sedans available here, and both of the Cadillacs are built on the same platform as the Camaro. The Buick Division got out of the US-market sedan game when the final 2020 Regal rolled off Opel’s line in Rüsselsheim, but the very last proper full-sized Buick sedan was Hamtramck’s own Lucerne. I found this Northstar-equipped first-year Lucurne in a Colorado Springs yard last month.
We return to the saga of GM’s High Technology engine today, after taking a diesel detour in our last entry. Concurrent in the High Technology engine’s timeline, the Oldsmobile diesel’s failure was quick, but certainly not painless. It put the majority of American consumers off the idea of a passenger car equipped with a diesel engine. And by the time GM pulled the diesel from its various brand lineups, there was a strategy change over in HT4100 land: Not calling the engine HT anymore.
In today’s edition of Abandoned History, we return once more to the late Seventies engines of General Motors. After the disaster which was the V8-6-4 and the subsequent release of the quite flawed HT4100 V8, we take a sidestep today into diesel. Time for a turn with the cost-cut cast iron Oldsmobile oil burner that accompanied the troubled gasoline engines at GM dealerships across the country.
Today’s Rare Ride was a single-year offering at Buick; it came and went in 1958. As General Motors reworked its large car offerings that year in response to styling changes at one of its biggest competitors, it reintroduced a historical nameplate at Buick: Limited.
General Motors is hoping to re-up the Electra name for Buick as per a December filing with the United States Trademark and Patent Office (USTPO). While many of you will recall the model as another ho-hum sedan from the 1990s with the potential to be graced with a 3800 motor, the car actually dates back to a time where tailfins were all the rage and there was no such thing as too much chrome.
Though it’s unlikely that the name would be affixed to anything burning gasoline in the modern context. Buick has already shown an all-electric concept wearing the Electra name at the 2020 Beijing auto show and it would be the mother of all twists to snub it.
Buick was one of the major sponsors of the United States Olympic Team for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles— you know, the Games that got boycotted by the Evil Empire as payback for our boycott of the 1980 event— and the centerpiece of that sponsorship came in the form of a very special car: the 1984 Buick Century Olympia. We last saw one of these rare machines back in 2014, and now the Junkyard Find series returns with another, found in the San Francisco Bay Area a couple of months back.
Today’s Rare Ride represents the only time in history Buick built a two-seat car, and the only time a Buick had pop-up headlamps. It was also the last time Buick made a factory convertible in the United States, as the Opel Cascada wasn’t built domestically and was not a real Buick.
Let’s check out the Eighties low-volume experiment that was Reatta.
Buick is on my brain.
Not only does an Envision test vehicle sit some 20-odd stories beneath my feet in my parking garage, but the brand has been running its usual ad blitz during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (and presumably, the women’s, too). The tourney is one of my favorite sports events of the year, so I’ve been tuning in.
This means I’m seeing many Buick ads. This means the brand that this here site once put on Death Watch — and earned me at least one angry phone call from Buick PR — is still soldiering on.
As we’ve arrived at another edition of Thanksgiving in this, the Most Awesome Current Year, let’s celebrate with a very American Rare Ride. Today’s big boat was the pinnacle of the Buick brand in 1980. Full of acres of ruched velour and wood-look trim, the Park Avenue took Electra to new heights before the fancy name ever became an independent model.
Come along and enjoy American Luxury, even if it’s not an Oldsmobile.
The Buick Encore GX, a larger, unrelated Encore with fewer cylinders than you’re used to, quietly appeared in the brand’s stable just as “pandemic” became every newscast’s favorite word. Like its Chevrolet Trailblazer fraternal twin, the Encore GX boasts a more spacious body than its subcompact stablemate and a brace of three-pot engines designer for power and thrift.
While the little Encore has been Buick’s sales leader for years, the brand says that’s already changed. Still, there are no immediate plans to ditch the GX’s smaller namesake.
After writing about more than 2,000 discarded vehicles during the past 13 years, I haven’t found many legitimate machines from the Golden Age of the Detroit Muscle Car. I believe this era started with John DeLorean’s brilliant marketing of the 1964 Pontiac GTO and ended at some point during the 1972-1974 period, depending on how many beers you’ve consumed before beginning the debate about the edge-case vehicles.
Today’s car meets most of the requirements: a GM A-Body coupe with spiffy graphics, a thirsty big-inch V8 engine, and school-of-hard-knocks small chrome bumpers.
The General’s Buick division went all futuristic starting in the middle 1980s, hoping to win back (younger) American buyers who were switching their loyalty to high-tech European machinery at that time. The sleek Reatta two-seater came along in the 1988 model year, but the 1986 Riviera (and, to a lesser extent, the Somerset) were the first models to get the science-fiction touch.
Here’s a maximum-options Riviera T-Type coupe, which came with 800-way power seats and a touchscreen computer interface, spotted in a Silicon Valley self-serve yard last month.
Riviera. The mere mention of the name brings to mind visions of luxury. Perhaps of a CRT that glowed brightly on a stormy night, as your grandmother drove you home from a 4:55 p.m. dinner at Old Country Buffet. Or perhaps of the GM 3800 V6, maybe in elite supercharged form.
Today’s Rare Ride predates either of those anecdotes, and is special for a very different reason: It’s a last-of moment.
Like its Chevrolet division mate, Buick plans to spend the 2020 model year filling white space in its lineup, hauling the tweener Encore GX from overseas to plug the gap between the existing subcompact Encore and the larger Envision. Beneath its hood, however, the Encore GX is anything but larger — at least when displacement is concerned.
Once the Encore GX arrives, the Ford EcoSport won’t be the only domestic crossover available with a three-cylinder engine. In fact, the Encore GX will be the only crossover offered in America with a choice of triples. No four-bangers invited to this party at all.
Around these digital pages, Buick gets a bad rap. Some have negative connotations of Buick as an old person’s car (disclaimer, my paternal grandfather was a Buick man) or hold grudges simply because the brand was continued while Oldsmobile and Pontiac were killed off during the Great Recession (disclaimer, my father was an Oldsmobile man), seems few have good things to say about the division from Flint.
Disclaimer: I hate the theme music from Buick’s TV commercials.
Let’s make a deal, then. Let’s try and ignore the badges on this 2019 Buick Envision for a few minutes. Let’s evaluate this entry-level luxury crossover against the competition, rather than against whatever demons lurk within our collective subconscious.
Long before Opel became a donor for the badge-engineered Cadillac Catera and Buick Regal, the then GM-owned company shifted its own cars on North American soil. Today’s Rare Ride is a very early example of such a North American offering: It’s a two-door Rekord sedan from 1960.
We know, we know — you just wrapped up a lengthy and animated conversation about Buick with your coworkers, and you’re all Buicked out. Well, here’s something extra to chew on.
General Motors has filed a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for use of the name “Enspire” on motor vehicles. No, this doesn’t concern Chevrolet or Cadillac or GMC, that’s for sure. It does, however, concern Buick, as Enspire is the name given to a concept vehicle revealed last spring in China. But what would a production Enspire look like?
There are many things I don’t like about Los Angeles. The traffic, the cost of doing just about anything, the traffic, the sprawl, the traffic, the oversaturation of chain fast-food restaurants and billboards, the traffic.
However, there is one thing that makes me rethink my living situation. One thing that tempts me to move to the West Coast.
It’s not the weather, or the beach, or the chance at Hollywood stardom. It’s the roads.
The Buy/Drive/Burn series has ventured into unpopular cars territory a time or two before. Most recently we discussed three large American sedans that are most unpopular indeed (two of those three are now on their way out). Today we pick a Buy amongst three lower-volume midsize offerings from second-tier luxury brands.
We’d love to create our own reality, but it’s not achievable. Not while other people exist. I’d prefer a vehicular landscape populated with vinyl-topped sedans and formal personal luxury coupes and regular cab pickups, but alas, the personal buying choices of millions of consumers have stymied those childhood dreams.
With a few rare exceptions, coupes are now the domain of ballsy muscle cars, not front-drive compacts. Sedans were vanishing even before GM’s Monday decision to cull half-a-dozen four-door models. Fiat Chrysler said goodbye to the compact and midsize field a couple of years ago. Meanwhile, Ford has no plans to populate the roadways with anything other than the Mustang and a bevy of light trucks in the near future.
Sad times for lovers of the traditional car, for sure. Still, General Motors’ decision to shutter underperforming plants in pursuit of higher-margin light trucks (and whatever EV or AV action the future holds) shouldn’t come as a surprise. One look at historical sales figures shows the writing was on the wall for General Motors’ crop of soon-to-be-discontinued sedans.
But first, some Cyber Monday deals…!
Just kidding. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of that, God willing.
It didn’t take long for the usual suspects north of the border to respond to General Motors’ looming plant closures with ridiculous “solutions” — nationalizing GM Canada, for example, no doubt with the goal of repeating the successes of British Leyland in the late 70s and early 80s. Who could doubt the profit-generating prowess of the public sector?
Elsewhere, fiery rhetoric from autoworkers’ unions greeted news of GM’s plan to shutter five plants in the U.S. and Canada. But without new product allocations, and with demand for traditional sedans sinking fast, there’s little hope of seeing these facilities return to their golden days.
Heavy-duty streamlining has reached the production level at General Motors. After last night’s bombshell (though not unexpected) report claiming Canada’s oldest auto plant would cease operations late next year, more news is trickling out about the automaker’s production future.
Add Ohio and Michigan to the list of locales expected to lose an assembly plant.
A few months ago we selected a General Motors C-body from the three on offer in the mid-1990s, right at the end of the front-drive platform’s lifespan. Today’s trio is a variation on that theme, as suggested long ago by commenter Sgeffe.
He wanted to talk about rear-drive C-platform offerings — the full-size GMs available shortly before everything started going awry for the large sedan customer. Let’s go.
Images of the refreshed 2020 Buick LaCrosse have leaked, thanks to some help from an unsecured Chinese government website used in the certification process of upcoming models. Finally, bureaucratic screw-ups are working in our favor. While we’ve seen heavily camouflaged test mules in the past, this is our first uncovered look at the third generation LaCrosse’s refreshed bodywork. Alterations are meaningful but not overbearing.
The front end has been completely worked over, making the LaCrosse more closely resemble the Chevrolet Malibu. However, the changes were no doubt made to keep it in line with modern Buick models. Headlamps are slimmer, designed around the placement of the model’s enlarged grille, just like on the Enclave, while the taillights are pure Rega l. However, the LaCrosse carries just enough chrome to differentiate itself for those who like to pretend car spotting is a legitimate pastime.
The Buick Cascada, known to Europeans as the Opel Cascada, appeared on North American shores for the 2016 model year, offering buyers (and renters) a pleasant, four-seat replacement for the discontinued Chrysler 200 drop-top.
Now wholly owned by France’s PSA Group, not General Motors, Opel plans to ditch the model once 2019 is up, meaning America stands to lose its last non-sports car convertible. It would also knock the Buick brand down to five models.
General Motors joined the vast majority of its automotive colleagues in having a crappy sales month in September, posting an 11.1 percent year-over-year volume loss. The issues facing OEMs last month were many. As interest rates rise and the market cools, automakers looking to capture more for their coffers are trending towards reduced fleet sales and lowered incentive spending. Hurricanes also played something of a role.
At GM, which graces us with sales figures just four times a year, what was likely a poor showing in September dragged down the third quarter as well as year-to-date sales, with volume since the start of the year now down 1.2 percent. That doesn’t mean several GM models didn’t have good quarters, or haven’t had good 2018s. Some 18 models can boast of YTD sales gains.
Of those 18, however, just four are passenger cars, and one member of the group already has one and a half feet in the grave.
Today’s Buy/Drive/Burn setup comes to us via commenter 87 Morgan, who suggested the trio a while ago. For consideration today: Malaise Era transportation for upper middle-class families. These gigantic wagons served as family haulers before the minivan came along and ripped the sculpted carpet from under their feet.
What will it be — the Chrysler, the Mercury, or the Buick?
Buick’s pint-sized Encore is the brand’s biggest volume generator, accounting for 44 percent of all U.S. Buick sales in the first half of 2018. While hard to imagine for those who just stepped out of the time machine from 1975 (just think if the Skylark was the model holding up the brand), it’s nonetheless a reality we have to live with. Crossovers are king, and crossovers are what’s keeping Buick alive.
The division no doubt wants to keep it that way, which is why there’s an all-new Encore coming for the 2020 model year. Here’s our first glimpse.
Buick’s “highest expression of luxury” continues for the 2019 Regal Avenir, a model we recently examined. However, all anyone seemed to care about is how much those fancy plastics and fancier wheels would elevate the base model’s MSRP.
While the long answer involves an explanation that Buick is offering more than just a handful of trim pieces on the Avenir, the short answer is: roughly ten grand. Does it make sense? That depends on what you’re interested in. If it’s improved performance and all-wheel drive, then absolutely not. However, if you just want a more handsome car with some exclusive touches and a bunch of premium features bundled together, you might be interested in the Regal Avenir.
General Motors wants an exemption from a 25 percent U.S. tariff for the Buick Envision, the Chinese-made sport utility positioned between the Encore and Enclave. On Thursday, the automaker said it filed the request on July 30th with the U.S. Trade Representative to exclude the model from the prospective Section 301 tariff on products shipped from China.
The Envision hasn’t been a strong seller in the United States. While it managed to move 41,040 units in 2017, this year is not on track to meet that number. Obviously, the model has had some troubles. Early reviews were unfavorable, often accusing the Envision of being a faux luxury vehicle with an overly ambitious price tag. However, the manufacturer has since dropped the price and updated the vehicle for the 2019 model year.
Unfortunately, enough damage was dealt in those first two years to make the new model look less appetizing to customers. It now holds the stigma of an overpriced, Chinese-made compact crossover that falls short just about everywhere. It needs time to rebuild its image after the refresh, and it won’t be able to manage that if it is taxed into oblivion.
What do buyers like? Ultra-lux trims and big-bucks window stickers, that’s what. At least, that’s the gist of General Motors’ media run-down of the new 2019 Buick Regal Avenir — the third vehicle in the Buick stable to undergo the high-zoot treatment, and a model we uncovered last week.
“Avenir” debuted on the revamped-for-2018 Enclave, then made its way to the LaCrosse sedan. It exists because Denali exists, and Buick saw what the addition of that sub-brand did for GMC sales, to say nothing of average transaction price and profits. After crunching some numbers, Buick decided the Regal Sportback was the next obvious candidate for the brand’s “highest expression of luxury.”
It’s a running joke in auto journalist and car enthusiasts circles that wagons are the ultimate body type, as well as the cure for the crossover crave that seems to bother us (myself included) in ways that aren’t necessarily logical or rational.
Wagons are better than crossovers because they perform the same utilitarian duties as a crossover while still being closer in form to a sedan. Or so the argument goes.
Whether that is or isn’t “true” is a matter of opinion, of course. But the Buick Regal TourX is an example of how simply “wagonizing” a platform isn’t enough to make a decent car great.
The second quarter of 2018 returned pleasing sales figures for General Motors, but there were no champagne corks popping over Buick’s performance. While GM’s sales rose 4.6 percent compared to Q2 2017 (and 4.2 percent year-to-date), Buick sales headed in the opposite direction — down 12 percent in the quarter, and roughly six-tenths of one percent over the first half of the year.
Swirling menacingly in the background of all of this is a threat from President Trump to levy a 25 percent tariff on all automotive imports, a move that would leave Buick especially exposed. As numbers crunched by Automotive News show, the only thing sparing the brand from an emergency overhaul, should such a scenario come to pass, is a subcompact crossover — one which may or may not be exempt from the proposed tariffs.
As you might imagine, nobody at Buick is keen for me to review their cars lately. It’s a shame, because there’s not necessarily a correlation between the quality of the cars that bear the “Buick” logo and the failure of the Buick business model in the United States (to recap, move Encore and Enclave to GMC, kill the rest of the brand with fire).
But no matter — we have access to our own Buick, thanks to the lovely Luisa and the Encore Preferred she recently leased. So I decided to put a few hundred miles behind the wheel of the [s]Opel Mokka[/s] Encore and give you guys the lowdown.
Spoiler alert: it’s not terrible. In fact, for the price, it’s downright good. Click the jump for more.
As you might have heard, Buick’s Avenir luxury sub-brand is off to a good start. Playing the same tune written by GMC’s Denali line, “Avenir” debuted on the second-generation Enclave crossover for 2018, then bestowed its luxurious trappings on the LaCrosse sedan.
According to Automotive News, Enclave sales are up 15 percent over the first half of 2018, with the Avenir trim counting for 25 percent of all units sold. That’s money in Buick’s pocket, as the Avenir badge adds roughly $14k to the model’s base MSRP. Average Enclave transaction prices are up $5,000 from a year prior.
Buick boss Duncan Aldred said last winter that the case for Avenir would be made on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis, adding that we should expect to see more models add the new trim (and price point) in the future. It now looks like the redesigned Regal will be the third Avenir model.
As we were rustling up commentary in the last edition of Buy/Drive/Burn, conversation naturally turned to other front-drive sedans available that same year. The discussion sparked the idea for another General Motors same-body showdown, like we saw previously with the luxurious C-body.
Today we’re talking H-body 3800 fun from Oldsmobile, Buick, and Pontiac.
No, that image you saw floating around on Twitter wasn’t some prankster’s idea of a joke. Buyers will be able to purchase a Buick LaCrosse bearing the ST trim designation. For 2019, Buick’s adding a new level to its LaCrosse lineup, but it won’t go as far as offering a GS version. That’s the Regal’s responsibility.
So, what does the ST (Sport Touring) trim bring to this traditional, full-size, V6-powered family sedan?
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- MelanieRichardson GOOD
- El scotto @jwee; Sir, a great many of us believe that Musk is somewhere (pretty high) on the spectrum and move on.I work on the fringes of IT. Most of my presentations get picked over extensively and intensely at meetings. I'm smart enough to know I'm not that smart and willingly take advice from the IT crew. I bring them Duck Doughnuts too. We also keep a box of Crayolas in the meeting room.At one meeting an IT guy got way into the details of my presentation, the meeting went long as we discussed my target audience. Same IT guy insisted it was a disaster and would fail miserable and that I was stupid. Yeah, F-boms get dropped at our meetings. I finally had enough and asked if he was such an expert, did he want to stand up in front of 30 senior executives and give the presentation? His response was a flat "NO". He got the box of Crayolas. For you non-military types that means shut up and color. Musk is the same as that IT guy, lots of gyrations but not much on follow-through. Someone just needs to hand him a box of Crayolas.
- FreedMike The FJ Cruiser would be a better comeback candidate. The gang back at Toyota HQ must be looking at all those Broncos flying off Ford lots and kicking themselves.
- Tassos 2015 was only 7 years ago. $58k is still a whole lot of $ to pay for a vehicle. FOrtunately one can buy a flagship vehicle with great active and passive safety for half this amount, if one does the SMART thing and buys a pre-owned luxury flagship vehicle. they have historically been SCREAMING BARGAINS. A breadvan on stilts SUV, wether the more compact Macan or the more bloated Cayenne will never pass as a Flagship Vehicle. No matter how well it drives or how reliable it suprisingly is. It still is a breadvan on stilts.
- Sean Ohsee Bring back the 100 series and its I6 diesel.