Thursday, January 8, 2009

Why bother with Buick?

As redesigned LaCrosse broke news earlier this week, it seems Detroit and the automotive press are heralding a Buick renaissance. This is not the cultural spark that should be nursed into fire. I want to see GM make a Britney Spears worthy comeback, but I also don't want to see further overlap across the lineup. Have you taken a look at what Buick has to offer recently? Heading over to their website (something I have never done), I discovered their are only three models in the Buick line-up; the LaCrosse, Lucerne (or is it LuCerne), and the Enclave. Thats three, lame duck Saab claims to have seven models! Yet, GM has handed out the lifeboat pass to Buick? Let look at the merits of the new LaCrosse.

Sure the LaCrosse looks great, has a nice interior, and a good feature set. I'm excited GM is following the trend of offering all-wheel-drive as an option to buyers. We are also finally seeing the end of the prehistoric OHV engine that essentially powered the industrial revolution and has embraced the not almost ubiquitous 3.6 liter direct injection engine. The LaCrosse will be good, and thats exactly GM's problem.

Take a look at every new model introduced by GM, it's like seeing a culinary student grow into an exquisite gourmet chef. Each new model shamefully out classes its previous incarnation. Remember the Saturn Aura, it was eclipsed by the new Malibu. RWD aside, I would say that the interior of the new LaCrosse also dethrowns the CTS. GM cars are improving, but the designers are not conscious of the placement of the models within their portfolio. The rest of Buick's lineup, all two other models, are now hopelessly outclassed. The Enclave is a first year architecture student's exercise in organic forms and the Lucerne is now the Acura RL of the Buick line-up.

What should GM do? Take a look a Lexus (or possibly Nissan/Infiniti). Toyota has been ripping off snowbirds and real estate agents for years selling them ES350s (Camrys with some chrome.) Why can't GM do the same? The new LaCrosse could be placed in the Cadillac Lineup as the perfect ES350 competitor (I like the name ELS), likely sold at a higher profit margin. Or following the Nissan model placed at the top of the chevy lineup (Have we just uncovered a Impala replacement, which could be named the Chevy Buick). This leaves Buick with the Lucerne (which also sees duty as the Cadillac DTS) and the Enclave. Rather than over-sharing or perscribing, the Lamdba platform, we can make the Enclave a Cadillac, and then send let Buick have the same fate is its customers.

GM needs to cut brands. If Hummer, Saab, Saturn, Pontiac, and GMC are all on the chopping block, why throw Buick a lifeline. Make GM a two car brand and reduce all redundancy, then we won't have to worry about our brand new, euro-style, Saturn Vue being eclipsed by the new Equinox.

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