Buick Throws in the Towel on Cars in the US

Sedans are out at Buick in the United States as it shifts to an all-SUV lineup in 2020. The final sedan in the US lineup, the Regal (main photo), will sell off what remains in stock. That also includes the well-regarded and soft-selling Buick Regal Tour X, a European-style sporty station wagon. Buick will end the year selling about 15,000 Regals, or one of every 14 Buicks sold and one of ever 70 GM vehicles sold.

This continues the transition of Buick from upper-echelon sedan from and for North America, below only Cadillac, to a brand with as much as 80 percent of sales coming from China in recent years. The Buick branding and tri-shield logo now cover a range of vehicles designed, built and/or sold in China and Europe. With the focus on so-called badge-engineering, Buick has little technology it can point to as exclusively Buick.

Buick.com’s new car lineup as of December shows 10 vehicles. The three Regals and two LaCrosses are gone or going.

In the past year, GM axed its other two sedans, the Buick LaCrosse and the short-lived Buick Cascada convertible. Its lineup going forward will be, from smaller to larger, Encore, Encore GX, Enclave, and Enclave Avenir. The Encore GX is not a trim line (model variant) but a separate model, based on the recently announced Chevrolet Trailblazer. See, more badge-engineering.

Buick beefs up the 2020 lineup with the Encore GX, derived from the Chevrolet Trailblazer.

For years, Buick was the next-to-last step up the General Motors ladder of success. A proper executive in the gray flannel suit followed this progression:

  • Chevrolet
  • Pontiac
  • Oldsmobile
  • Buick
  • Cadillac

Now, Pontiac (2009) and Oldsmobile (2004) are gone. So is Saturn (2009), GM’s attempt to think different. The GM ladder to success also didn’t include GMC, which provides upscale SUVs and pickups, and outsells Buick by almost 3-1. Buick added the Avenir sub-brand to three models and there has been talk that Avenir might one day replace Buick as the middle brand. As of 2019, the Buick nameplate has been dropped from the trunk or tailgate, although that’s not uncommon among car brands. Many just go with the car’s emblem, the model name, and sometimes a designator for all-wheel-drive or a sport version.

Sedans are selling well for some automakers. Among the top 10 sellers in 2018, there were three sedans. The Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, and Toyota Corolla each sold at least 300,000 units. And the just-shipping 2020 Hyundai Sonata is one of the leading contenders for some of the car of the year awards, even if it doesn’t have the sex appeal of the 2020 Corvette.

Buick currently is in the middle of GM sales in the US. Through three quarters of 2019, they are:

Chevrolet, 1,444,539, 68 percent of GM sales.

GMC, 418,070, 20 percent

Buick, 157,852, 7 percent

Cadillac, 115,697, 5 percent

While Cadillac has fewer sales, the brand has more upscale cachet. People still say (mostly old people still say), “That’s the Cadillac of blenders [or motor homes, or tennis rackets].” Also, it was Cadillac, not Buick, that was chosen to spearhead General Motors’ push into the premium end of vehicle electrification, while Chevrolet is the standard-bearer for the mainstream. It’s Cadillac also that has led the way with GM technologies such as capacitive touch screens and the innovative (if not well-received initially) Cadillac User Experience (CUE). The best thing Buick had going was the funky “That’s Not a Buick” campaign showing hip millennials and cute old people who couldn’t believe the fab-looking car that just pulled up was … a Buick.

Now one clue will be: If it’s a sedan pulling up, it’s not a Buick.

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