Buick

Buick is a marque of automobile sold in the United States, Canada, Mexico, China, Taiwan, Qatar, Kuwait, and Israel by General Motors Company. It is GM’s North America-based entry-level luxury brand.

Buick originated as an independent motor car manufacturer, the Buick Motor Company, incorporated on May 19, 1903, by David Dunbar Buick in Detroit, Michigan. Later that year, the struggling company was taken over by James H. Whiting (1842-1919) , who moved it to his hometown of Flint, Michigan, and brought in William C. Durant in 1904 to manage his new acquisition. Buick sold his stock for a small sum upon departure, and died in modest circumstances twenty-five years later.

Between 1899 and 1902 two prototype vehicles were built in Detroit, Michigan by Walter Lorenzo Marr. Some documentation exists of the 1901 or 1902 prototype with tiller steering similar to the Oldsmobile Curved Dash.

In mid-1904 another prototype was constructed for an endurance run, which convinced James H. Whiting to authorize production of the first models offered to the public. The architecture of this prototype was the basis for the Model B.

The first Buick made for sale, the 1904 Model B, was built in Flint, Michigan. There were 37 Buicks made that year, none of which survive. There are, however, two replicas in existence the 1904 endurance car at the Buick Gallery & Research Center in Flint, and a Model B assembled by an enthusiast in California for the division’s 100th anniversary. Both of these vehicles use various parts from Buicks of that early era, as well as fabricated parts. These vehicles were each constructed with the two known surviving 1904 engines.

The power train and chassis architecture introduced on the Model B was continued through the 1909 Model F. The early success of Buick is attributed in part to the valve-in-head engine patented by Eugene Richard. The creation of General Motors is attributed in part to the success of Buick, so it can be said Marr and Richard’s designs directly led to GM.

The basic design of the 1904 Buick was optimally engineered even by today’s standards. The flat-twin engine is inherently balanced, with torque presented to the chassis in a longitudinal manner, actually cancelling front end lift, rather than producing undesirable lateral motion. The engine was mounted amidships, now considered the optimal location.

Durant was a natural promoter, and Buick soon became the largest car maker in America. Using the profits from this, Durant embarked on a series of corporate acquisitions, calling the new mega-corporation General Motors. At first, the manufacturers comprising General Motors competed against each other, but Durant ended that. He wanted each General Motors division to target one class of buyer, and in his new scheme Buick was near the top only the Cadillac brand had more prestige. This is the position Buick occupies to this day in the General Motors lineup.

At first, Buick followed the likes of Napier in automobile racing, winning the first-ever race held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In 1911, Buick introduced its first closed-body car, four years ahead of Ford. In 1929, Buick Motor Division launched the Marquette sister brand, designed to bridge the price gap between Buick and Oldsmobile; however, Marquette was discontinued in 1930.

The model name Century came about when Buick was designing its first production automobile capable of reaching a speed of 100mph. The division needed to come up with a name. One of the Buick executives had returned from a recent trip to the British isles and told the other executives that the British referred to going 100mph as "doing the century". The executives liked the Century name and it stuck.

Overall sales of the Buick brand peaked in the 1984 model year, when falling oil prices and the prevailing economic recovery buoyed the sales of traditional full-sized automobiles, in combination with the popularity of newer, smaller offerings and performance oriented turbocharged models. Subsequently, sales fell as downsized premium luxury coupe, full-sized and mid-sized models were poorly received by the public in the period between 1985 and 1990. The number of Buick models on offer fell over time, with the compact and performance segments being abandoned altogether.

The ideal Buick customer is comfortably well off, possibly not quite rich enough to afford a Cadillac, nor desiring the ostentation of one, but definitely in the market for a car above the norm. Over time Buick has become a traditional luxury brand in the GM group whereas Cadillac has focused more on cutting edge products.

Buick began consolidating its lineup in 2005, replacing the Century and Regal with the LaCrosse (known as the Buick Allure in Canada), and the LeSabre and Park Avenue with the Lucerne in 2006. Both of its SUVs, the Rendezvous and Rainier were discontinued in 2007 to make way for the new and highly successful 2008 Enclave, while the slow-selling Terraza minivan was also dropped for 2008. This left the marque with just three models in the United States. In 2008, Buick sales slipped from an average of four cars per dealer per month to three, in addition to two trucks.

Speculation existed, however, as to whether GM would eliminate the Buick brand to cut costs. This followed the temporary suspension of GM’s planned Zeta project to develop new rear wheel drive cars fitting the Buick market niche . GM also has started consolidating of Buick, Pontiac, and GMC trucks into single dealer franchises, which would make it simple to eliminate the Buick brand without leaving dealers devoid of product. However, with the development of the Zeta platform still ongoing (including the development of the 2006 VE Commodore and the new Chevrolet Camaro), it may be likely that Buick will survive. In January 2009, Buick unveiled the new 2010 LaCrosse sedan, a radical departure from the model it will replace in mid-2009 and from Buicks of the recent past. So far, the car has drawn praise from critics and auto journalists and adds another bright spot to Buick’s stable. There have been rumors on Edmund’s and Motor Trend that Buick will have a roadster sedan in 2010.

In the 2009 J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study, Buick tied with Jaguar as the most dependable brand in the United States