“I just don’t understand why General Motors kept Buick and killed Pontiac,” suggested the gentleman sitting next to me on the flight back from Los Angeles, yesterday. There are a lot of folks who echo that sentiment, though they might substitute Saturn or even long-gone Oldsmobile as the brand that should have survived GM’s bankruptcy.
Until recently, there was really just one reason why thye long-troubled Buick brand remained part of the automaker’s shrinking line-up. In a word, said GM design czar Ed Welburn, “China.” While Buick has shrunk to little more than an asterisk on the sales charts in the U.S., it is one of the top sellers in what is now the world’s largest and fastest-growing auto market.
But those who’ve written off the Buick brand for dead, at least here in the States may be in for a surprise. Indeed, the once-grand nameplate is not just treading water but looking to grow, with three new models on tap.
Signs of a turnaround began to appear, several years ago, with the launch of the big Buick Enclave crossover. Last year brought the launch of an all-new LaCrosse, and the midsize sedan has been exceeding even Buick’s optimistic expectations, LaCrosse sales climbing steadily for seven months and hitting their highest retail mark in April – sales for the year up 214%.
“We are starting to gain traction in sales,” proclaimed Buick’s marketing chief, John Schwegman, during an “immersion” meeting, this week. “But we’re not declaring victory yet.”