The launch of the Buick LaCrosse is critical to Buick's and GM's future, but shouldn't the marque also be getting some small cars, as well?
This is what’s known as a speculative story, an effort by a long-time automotive journalist to polish the dust off the crystal ball and look into the future.
Everyone knows that crystal balls are notoriously fickle — ask any gambler — and I may look like a fool tomorrow or the next day as the New General Motors unreels various announcements, but I have been thinking about this for a couple of months, ever since GM announced it was canning Pontiac.
Of Pontiac’s 2,600 franchises in the U.S., fewer than 40 are single-point dealers handling only Pontiac. Most of the rest are dualed with other GM brands, mostly in Pontiac-Buick-GMC combinations. Pontiac has postured itself as a “sports car” brand in contrast to the boulevard Buicks and something-for-everyone Chevrolets. In the first six months of 2009, Pontiac retailed 88,794 vehicles while Buick sold 47,223. But in the first quarter, Pontiac’s sales were twice Buick’s, before the announcement of Pontiac’s imminent demise was announced — which no doubt scared some customers away, not to mention demoralizing dealers and sales forces.
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It’s true that Buick is considered by GM to be a “global” brand, especially with booming sales in China, whereas Pontiac has been relegated for some years to North America (Mexico, U.S. and Canada). This is no doubt one of the reason that if one had to go, and despite substantial investments by GM in new Pontiac models like the G3 and G8, the Pontiac brand got tossed in the trash.
But the point of this speculative story is, “Whither Buick?”