Buick unveiled its Invicta concept car earlier this year. And now, GM is advertising the car in major magazines, along with its model lineup of Buick Lacrosse, Enclave and Lucerne.
We wonder. Is it good? Is it Buick? Most importantly, we are wondering why are they advertising a car they can’t sell? Will GM be around long enough to make it?
Certainly, the new Lacrosse and Lucerne are handsome, and the Lucerne and Enclave have the trademark portholes, which give the cars Buick-ness. They have good reputations for quality. But they haven’t been selling, and many people don’t even know that Buick is still in business.
The Buick Invicta is a symptom of how GM has it all wrong, at least about 90 percent of the time. Looking at the car, we can see how GM just doesn’t understand how to win. In 1982, GM was selling 751,000 Buicks. Today, it’s down to less than 200,000 a year.
But don’t misunderstand, readers. We like Buick. Buick is good. Buick is America. It’s GM management we just don’t get.
Questions on the Invicta, and Buick in general.
- Why the hoodlum look? Our sense is that the Invicta beltline is WAY too high, which gives it a look not too much more exciting than the overly gimmicky Dodge Magnum wagon. It looks mean, rather than handsome, and street, rather than establishment. We think the car is designed to satisfy the internal GM needs of some sort of cool club, and not any market considerations. This is a problem with all GM divisions. The car lines look like it was built for hoodlums.
- Why is Tiger still spokesman? Tiger Woods has been the Buick spokesman since 1999. Since then, sales have continued to tank. Down, down, down, down, down, down. Certainly, it isn’t Tiger’s fault that the Terraza and Ranier were stupid cars. And it isn’t Tiger’s fault that GM dumped generations-old names like Century, LeSabre and Park Avenue in favor of new monikers like Lacrosse and Lucerne. All things being even, Tiger seems appropriate, and dealers like him. But we have to ask… is the real reason why Tiger is still connected with GM/Buick because the GM execs like to hang out with Tiger Woods and the PGA? (See the below video, of a star-struck Rick Wagoner.) Cash starved Buick doesn’t need a spokesman. It needs ads with models. A recent Buick promotion that had Tiger Woods doing De Kooning ink blot painting with clubs was just WEIRD. No wonder dealers average less than a half dozen cars per month. If you want to make Buick hip, don’t get a golfer. Get some crazy rocker who would not be your typical Buick guy. Tiger has WASP appeal, but you could get that just as easily with WASPy models.
- Where is the station wagon? A Buick lineup needs a station wagon. For decades, Buick wagons were a staple of the American WASP household. Certainly, the Enclave is a sort of station wagon. But why not call it a station wagon? Why is it a crossover? Do 60-year-old men like to “crossover” on the way to Rotary and Lions club? Do spiffy moms taking kids to the club like to “cross over?” No, we think they would rather be driving a “station wagon” to the Metro North Kiss and Ride in Mamaroneck, thank you.
- Where are the colors? Most of the colors of Buicks hover around shades of slate, red and black. They are boring as, and about same shades, as shi*. Where are the bright blues, the spiffy coppers, the punchy reds? That’s a Buick. Those are Buick colors.
- Where’s the WASP appeal? In 2007, Buick used hip-hop music for their advertising. That was the low point. But lets get real. Buick sold millions of cars by parking Buicks in front of glamorous houses. Everyone aspires to a nice country mansion. No one but hoodlums aspires to hip hop. In your advertising, park the car in front of good looking houses.
- Why don’t they care about selling cars? In a below video, GM execs decry all the Buick sales to fleets and rentals. Huh? Sell cars to Avis, please! What GM used to do was sell more of one cheaper car (the LeSabre) for rentals, and then have the Park Avenue as the most pricey Buick, not sold to fleets as much. In addition, selling cars for fleets are a great way for automakers to promote test drives. When you are in a situation where many believe your brand to be extinct, you want all the Avis rentals you can get.
- Why aren’t they selling more models and doing more badge engineering? When the Buick brand was in its heyday, they were selling seven models. It is down to three, barely. Part of the success of GM was badge engineering, or making different cars out of the same chassis and backbone. The whole idea of GM was based on this; GM was all about economies of scale, and launching one platform and making a a number of different versions of it across all brands helped spread costs. Today, they have turned Buick into a niche luxury brand, and it won’t work.
- Cut out the lingo. If you listen to the below video in its entirety, the GM execs use phrases like the “Channel” and a “blockbuster GM channel” and a “B/P/GMC channel.” Huh? First, overuse of lingo means you are too focused on your interior bureaucracy. Secondly, teaming up Buick dealers with Pontiac and GMC (hence B/P/GMC) is stupid. People who buy Buicks, traditionally, are not people who buy GMC cars and Pontiacs. In the old days, Buick dealers would be alone, and that was good. Dealers are way too big these days, anyway.
- Don’t spend money to advertise concept cars. The last time automakers advertised concept cars was during World War II, when they were re-tooling for post war production, and had NO cars to sell. As they say in old retail, you SELL what’s on the shelves. But you don’t advertise cars you don’t have in the showrooms. It’s foolish, as it creates consumer frustration. We can see how GM is advertising the Volt. They are looking for a big, fat government handout, so we guess they would be smart to tell the U.S. government they might be making a car bureaucrats would like. In the case of advertising concept cars, it shows how little GM understands the purpose of a concept car. The whole purpose of a concept car is to release the photo of it, and have it covered by editors. You don’t waste advertising dollars to show it, because publications and blogs like to cover concept cars, and get free publicity there.
- Where are the familiar models? We still think GM is missing the boat by not calling their current lineup by any familiar names including Century, Skylark and LeSabre. Read our story on it in BrandlandUSA called Why GM Models Don’t Sell Well.