Reader Davefromcalgary discusses what it’s like to buy the car that everybody asks for, but nobody ever seems to actually purchase: the manual variant of a mainstream sedan.
As the calendar turned from 2013 to 2014, my trusty 2002 Oldsmobile Alero with 296,000 kms (or roughly 184,000 miles) on the clock, took what would turn out to be its last cross country trip. Returning to Calgary on a day where the average air temperature across 1350 kms (840 miles) averaged about -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit), the hydraulic clutch system gradually ceased to function. I managed to get it home, but the third gear synchro soon failed, and the first gear synchro progressively became louder until I finally delivered my trusty Olds to the local Pick n’ Pull.
Autoblog reports Volkswagen Group of America executive vice president of group communications Tony Cervone is returning to the GM fold as the automaker’s senior vice president of global communications. According to CEO Mary Barra, Cervone “brings an ideal mix of outside perspective and experience that compliments a deep background in GM and today’s global auto industry.” Prior to his return, he also served as the vice president of communications for United Airlines and Chrysler Group, where he spent 14 years before his decade-long previous service to GM. Cervone succeeds Selim Bingol — who resigned from the company in April “to pursue other interests,” and will report directly to Barra.
Autoblog reports another recall has been issued by General Motors, this time concerning 51,640 2014 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia crossovers screwed together between March 26 and August 15 of last year. The affected vehicles possess an engine control module whose software may provide an inaccurate fuel gauge reading, forcing the driver to pull to the side of the road should the tank prove empty instead of a quarter to empty. Owners have been asked to bring their affected crossover for a reflashing of the ECM to correct the issue.
In light of General Motors’ recent announcement of a $384 million investment in its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, two vehicles from Cadillac and Buick could wind up being produced alongside the next-generation Volt.
Autoblog reports 2.19 million of the same vehicles under the current General Motors ignition recall are under a new ignition-related recall, as well. The new recall warns of a problem where the key can be removed without the switch moved to the “off” position. According to GM, the automaker is aware of “several hundred” complaints and at least one roll-away accident resulting in injury, and is instructing affected consumers to place their vehicles in park or, in manuals, engage the emergency brake before removing the key from the ignition until repairs are made.
General Motors announced Tuesday that it would invest $449 million into the two plants responsible for assembling the Chevrolet Volt in preparation for the next generation of the plug-in hybrid’s arrival in 2016.
General Motors has issued a new recall for 355 vehicles, while also facing a possible lawsuit by an investor over “immorality”. GM may also face a new probe involving the automaker’s bankruptcy and its relation to the original recall that thrust GM into the headlines, just as the agency responsible for investigating the problem at GM faces an audit from the Department of Transportation.
Recently, Mark Reuss told media that he would like GM to have an American wagon. If this happens, the prime candidate is the Chevy Cruze Wagon, which already exists – and is also offered with diesel engine and manual transmission. But what if GM wanted something more upscale? What if Reuss’ dream wagon is meant to be a Buick?
Though the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado took home North American Truck/Utility of the Year at last month’s Detroit Auto Show, the large pickup and its brother, the GMC Sierra, have suffered from “the least successful large pickup launch over the last 15 years” according to Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson.
When the Opel Adam enters the Chinese auto market in 2015, it will do so with a Buick badge as General Motors’ first high-end city car.
Time: 2332, Eastern. Outside temperature: six degrees. Speed: 83 mph, climbing.
One needs to remind himself of following distance when letting the dogs run.
Thoughts appear as bullet points in the frontal cortex.
- Led Zep II makes me hammer down
- The left lane is clear, but there are some right lane travellers that could become obstacles.
One thousand one…
One thousand two…
“I should have quit you, baby, long time ago…”
One thousand three…
“down on this killing floor, break it down for me now…”
One thousand four…
- Prius just oozed into the left lane to pace, not pass, the fuel tanker putting up considerable spray.
- Headlights are dirty. Need to slow down anyway.
- Too bad.
Wait a second, I’m lamenting having to back off while driving a Buick!
“People worry I can’t keep you satisfied…”
This 2014 Regal Turbo AWD is a parts-bin car. A re-badge, and yet, it’s one hell of a highway flyer. The Regal is also surprisingly adroit in kinkier situations. It’s kind of a damn shame that this car is an automotive Palestinian. It’s sold as a Buick, but it started off as an Opel with a side of Saab, and was supposed to be a Saturn. For many, the Regal does nothing to recommend itself. That changes when you drive it, but if you think about it too much, it’ll piss you off.
In my mind, Volkswagens used to be the “Euro Buick.” Positioned one note above the mass market rabble, VW’s Passat shared parts with Audi’s A4, while the Touareg and Phaeton were luxury cars with a mass market logo on the hood. Then Volkswagen decided this was the wrong strategy for them, so they repositioned VW as the German alternative to Toyota and Chevrolet. This left a gaping hole in the market for shoppers looking to step into a European near-luxury vehicle that flew under the radar. And then Buick stepped in.Buick’s Opel-based product offensive has transformed the brand from Barcalounger wheels for the octogenarian, to a window into the soul of GM’s German brand. This transformation isn’t an easy one as Buick’s problem wasn’t just blue-haired buyers and slinky-soft springs. Buick is the penultimate middle child. Jammed between Chevrolet and Cadillac, brand B’s mission is to give Chevy buyers something to aspire to and Cadillac buyers something to graduate from.
I’ve dished out plenty of Buick love lately. The Verano beats Acura and Lexus at the entry-luxury game and the tiny Encore is an oddly attractive (albeit underpowered) crossover that is outselling the Mini Countryman and Range Rover Evoque by a wide margin. What can we attribute this sales success to? I posit that the original Buick Enclave is the impetus. Landing in 2007 as a 2008 model, it was the poster child of the “new Buick.” On the surface, the Enclave was the replacement for the Buick Rainier, the only GMT360 SUV I haven’t owned. (Just kidding, I’ve only owned 2 of the 11 varieties.) But that’s a simplistic view. In reality the Enclave was intended to elevate the brand enough to compete with three row luxury crossovers from Germany and Japan. This brings us to today’s question: six years and a mild face-lift later, does the Buick still have the goods?
When one thinks of General Motors’ relationship with China, Buick flashes into the mind like a brake light in the Beijing smog. Sometimes, Cadillac comes up, as well. However, with Volkswagen preparing to slingshot past them in a manner akin to Danica Patrick being flung toward the front of the pack with help from Tony Stewart, CEO Dan Akerson is planning to aggressively push Chevrolet through the choking air, and into as many Chinese garages as he can find.
Buick’s been on a roll this year, their sales are up and their owner demographics are younger than they have been in recent memory. The cynic in my says that’s because half their clientele died of old age, but it has more to do with their product portfolio. Say what? Yep, it’s true, the brand I wrote off for dead last decade is targeting younger buyers with designs imported from Europe and finding sales success. The Verano turbo shattered my preconceptions, but can Buick do it again? A brown Encore arrived one rainy morning to see if it was possible.
The popular wisdom among folks in the auto-biz of my generation (1970s) is that Buick only exists because of China. Why didn’t GM kill Buick in America and keep it in China? The answer is obvious: you can’t sell your brand on its “Americanness” if it isn’t also sold in America to Americans. Buick then is a brand hunting for a mission. It’s also a brand hunting for fresh customers that don’t remember the Century and Skylark, two abominations firmly burnt into my mind. In attempt to solve these problems Buick has ditched their badge-engineering mantra and is rolling out new products targeted at folks from the 80s and 90s. Forced induction and a manual transmission aren’t new to Buick, but the possibility of a desirable small sedan from the triple-shield is earth shattering. Have they managed it? GM tossed us a set of keys to find out.
What is a Buick? Having saved the brand, GM must now figure out what to do with it. Traditionally Buick occupied the middle ground between Chevrolet and Cadillac, originally closer to the latter but from the 1970s onwards dangerously close to the former, which had expanded upwards in lockstep with archrival Ford. Aesthetically, Buicks have been the yin to Cadillac’s yang, curvier, less aggressive, and potentially more appealing to women. (Or metrosexuals? Did women ever drive a significant number of Rivs and Park Avenues?) Logically, there ought to be a position within this position for a compact car. Some people want a softly styled, upscale car, but don’t need a large car. But successfully fielding a car in this position has been tricky. The Lexus HS finds only a couple hundred takers each month. Jaguar abandoned the segment a few years ago, and Volvo quit it more recently. So does the Buick Verano stand a chance?
GM’s track record has been less than stellar. First we had the Saturn Vue Green Line, a very “mild” hybrid that paled next to competitors like the Ford Escape. Next came the extraordinarily expensive 2-mode hybrid system used in GM’s pickup trucks and full-sized SUVs, which cost far too much and delivered far too little. Finally, we have the Volt – ’nuff said. No wonder GM’s latest hybrid endeavor has come to market with little fanfare, no “hybrid” logos on the vehicle and no hybrid branding from GM. Can we honestly call the 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist a hybrid?
The official reasoning behind GM failing to bring the Opel Insignia OPC, according to Buick PR staff, is that the all-wheel drive, twin-turbo V6 powered sedan with 321 horsepower “didn’t fit with the brand image”. Right. The real reason is likely that a Buick Regal GS outfitted like this would cost far more than the already expensive $35,310 that GM wants for a car. And if the market for a $35,000 manual transmission Buick is limited, well – imagine who would buy a $45,000-$50,000 AWD Regal.
Judging from the emails I receive, some of you badly want to love the new 2012 Regal GS. In my review of the Buick Regal 2.0T, I noted that its strengths are “subtle,” and therefore unlikely to inspire love at first sight. The GS adds more aggressive styling, 50 horsepower, Brembo front brakes, an upgraded suspension, and better-bolstered seats. Should you prepare to be smitten?
In a luxury market that’s always looking for the next big thing, “Compact Luxury” has become something of a hot trend. And with GM’s Buick brand saved from the bailout-era brand cull, a compact Buick is a key test of whether The General has moved past its bad habits of cynical badge engineering. Thus the 2012 Buick Verano is a hugely important car to The General, not only serving as a bellweather for the health of the Buick brand, but also proving whether or not GM “gets” the tough-to-crack entry-luxury market. So, does the Verano measure up?
Sometimes love strikes at first sight. Other times it emerges more gradually over months or even years. When I first drove the new Buick Regal nearly a year ago, I found a fair amount to like, but love didn’t instantly happen. The Regal just isn’t that kind of car. Its strengths are subtle. Perhaps if we spent a week together, and a turbo was added to the mix?
Ours being an open relationship, I also played the field, driving an Acura TSX V6, Chrysler 200 Limited, and Volvo S60 T5 to better evaluate how the Buick measured up. Those reviews will follow. First, the Regal CXL Turbo.
Even more than the Cadillac SRX reviewed last week, the 2010 Buick LaCrosse reflects Bob Lutz’s influence at GM. Soon after assuming responsibility for the corporation’s new product development in 2001, Lutz deemed the styling of the original Buick LaCrosse, recently approved for production, unfit for sale. The car was sent back to the designers for late revisions to the front end, delaying its launch by over a year. But not much could be done so late in the process. What would the LaCrosse be like if Lutz could oversee its entire development? With redesigned and re-engineered 2010 Buick LaCrosse we now have an answer.
With Pontiac and Saturn gone, Buick must assume a larger role within General Motors. It must now seek to win over enthusiasts who would have previously bought Pontiacs and the import-intenders who previously bought Saturns. The first product to follow from this expanded mission: the new 2011 Buick Regal. The Regal began life as the Opel Insignia—it will even be imported from Germany for the first year—and was to be marketed in the United States as the second-generation Saturn Aura. But it has been available in China as the Buick Regal for over a year now, so putting the tri-shield on the grille isn’t entirely an afterthought. This isn’t even the first time Opel has manufactured a car for Buick dealers—this tie goes way back. Even so, is the Regal a plausible Buick?
“The company’s survival depends on the success of this car.” Though regularly trotted out, this statement is almost always BS (not to be confused with the Bertel kind). Typically when the hyped new car fails, the company seems to somehow scrape by. But the 2010 LaCrosse might just warrant such an extreme statement, at least with regard to Buick’s survival outside China. GM has been on a brand-killing spree lately, and this car will test whether or not Buick is beyond saving in the U.S. The Enclave has proved that American car buyers are open to a Buick crossover. But a Buick sedan, with more baggage to overcome, poses a greater challenge. So, does the new Buick LaCrosse–and the brand that’s banking on it–deserve to succeed?
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