There was once a time when Buick was synonymous with stodginess—an aging automotive brand out of touch with contemporary luxury car buyers. Then came the Buick Enclave for 2008 model year, a premium mid-size crossover that gave birth to a more exciting, redesigned Buick, providing styling cues that today’s luxury customers demand. So has been the theme of recent Buick entries and revivals, including its latest premium compact entrant, the Buick Verano. And for 2013 model year, Buick has made notable improvements to both Verano and Enclave.
The Cadillac Escalade is the top ranked Premium SUV in AutoPacific’s 2011 Ideal Vehicle Research. As the class winner, Escalade owners identify few things they would want changed. Even the most technology-laden vehicles still have their owners wanting more. About 30% of Escalade owners want more infotainment technology. They also want better interior storage and, believe it or not, more cargo space and passenger room. They most like its size, seat comfort and wheels. Escalade wins its class over second place Land Rover LR4.
While the upcoming Buick Lacrosse failed to induce any excitement within the automotive enthusiast in me, I was more than a bit impressed by its new fuel-saving powertrain technology: eAssist. Recently, I had a chance to try out the new 2012 LaCrosse with eAssist through various terrains near San Francisco, both city and winding country roads, in order to witness eAssist in action.
We recently spent a morning with Buick LaCrosse, the star of the Buick showroom for 2010MY. You know by now that Buick is one of the four core brands that GM retained post-bankruptcy. Wildly successful in China, the brand has challenges in the States, evidenced by Chevrolet Camaro outselling the entire brand in June 2009– an atypically high month for Camaro that also speaks to the sad shape of Buick sales today.
Buick needs to connect with buyers who have not hit exit-level, and they know it. Based on our first drive, the 2010 LaCrosse has product credibility to build on the success Enclave started. As Buick navigates a renaissance inspired by Cadillac’s success, the LaCrosse is a strong, firm step forward.
A just-completed national survey shows American consumers are skeptical of the U.S. government’s involvement in the auto industry, with 81 percent of respondents agreeing that the faster the government gets out of the auto business, the better.
Following General Motors’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy announcement last week, automotive research and analysis firm AutoPacific conducted an online survey regarding government involvement in the auto industry. Highlights from this survey of more than 900 U.S. consumers include:
• Eighty-one percent of the respondents AGREE that the faster the government gets out of the auto business, the better.
General Motors’ June 1 bankruptcy declaration was quickly followed by the announced sale of HUMMER to China’s Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company (June 2) and Saturn to Roger Penske’s Penske Automotive Group (June 5). Having the futures of both of these brands out from under the General Motors umbrella can give many American dealerships and their communities cause for celebration.
President Barack Obama delivered an address to the nation this morning at 11AM where he summarized the results of review of General Motors and Chrysler by The Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry. The conclusion of the report was that neither of the plans presented to the Task Force by GM and Chrysler are viable.
Wagoner Gone – Replaced by Henderson: Immediately, General Motors’ Chairman Rick Wagoner was let go to be replaced by Fritz Henderson – a very capable and experienced senior executive. Clearly, the Task Force determined that the GM plan did not go far enough. GM now has another sixty days to rework the plan and come back with a viable approach. If they do not, the government can move the Corp into bankruptcy to get its house in order.
Our question is “What will GM’s brand and vehicle line profile look like on June 1?”
Chrysler and Fiat Agree to the Framework of a Tie-Up: Minutes after Obama’s speech, Chrysler announced the it had reached developed a framework for a tie-up with Fiat with the blessing of the Treasury Department. Fiat receives a third share of Chrysler for technology sharing allowing Chrysler to launch competitive new products based on Fiat powertrains and platforms. This is needed to keep Chrysler competitive. Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli keeps his job because he has been at the helm for a relatively short time (since August 2007) compared with Wagoner’s eight years at the helm.
Government to Guarantee Warranties (Warrantees): Obama stated that beginning today the warranties offered by GM and Chrysler are stronger than they have ever been because they would be guaranteed by the government. Also, adopting a spelling not seen for decades, the government refers to these plans as “warrantees”. This support by the government is to create confidence in purchasing a new General Motors or Chrysler vehicle today.
Other Actions – Tax Credits, Scrappage Plans, Etc: Obama also mentioned the sales tax credit for purchasing a new vehicle that has been approved by Congress. Pending are plans for incentives to scrap older, gross polluters.
Further Question: Ford: Ford Motor Company has not taken part in government loan guarantees having planned financially for tough years back in 2006. While Ford is struggling like GM and Chrysler it does not seem to be hurt as much in the market as they are. Market share is not down as much.
How will Ford be impacted by the statements of the President, The Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry, and the restructuring forced on GM and Chrysler by the government? Will Ford thrive or continue to struggle?
Another Question: Financial Company CEOs: Rick Wagoner fell on the sword for General Motors performance during his tenure but you can argue that the performance of the financial community has been much worse and much more damaging to the economy. Where can we see the heads of the banks, investment banks, and insurance company CEOs rolling down Main Street?
Green technology at the Woodward Dream Cruise? Hmmm. You could fit a whole Prius under this baby’s hood, I guess.
For years, many automotive enthusiasts have bemoaned the fact that both GM and Ford make beautifully executed vehicles for Europe, while we Yanks get cheap and plasticky land yachts with marshmallow suspensions. It killed me that – for example – we would get crusty old Ford Tauruses while Europe got the slick Mondeo – the latest generation of which Europeans genuinely consider to give the BMW 3-Series a run for the money, despite its everyman market positioning. It also annoyed that American GM owners on a budget were stuck with Cavaliers and Ions while Europeans got the stylish Opel Astra – a sporty and stylish small car with build quality that most American GM cars of the time could only dream of.
The best looking US-brand GM small car…ever?
Sometimes, GM and Ford’s American operations would bring over Americanized versions of their European cars. For the most part, however, they were simply sad shadows of what they were in Europe, with all the appealing features and finish removed for cost. Why? The rationale was that Europeans pay a lot more for their vehicles than we do, and in order to bring those costs down to levels amenable to price sensitive American customers, all the cool stuff had to come out.
Things have changed though. Gasoline’s $4.00 per gallon now, and GM is undergoing something of a product renaissance. Saturn
, as a GM brand, is undergoing a transformation as well with customers being asked to “rethink American”. The new Aura, Outlook, Sky, and Vue are clear winners (the latter two are AutoPacific’s 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction Award winners in their respective segments), and the new Astra aims to continue that success.