Recently while I was watching the television and commercials for Buick automobiles has been played over and over. In the commercials are several people are surprised when they find out that the vehicle they’re looking at is a Buick. There are several things in the commercial that cause me to want to share some thoughts.
First of all, General Motors used to have a large stable of vehicles for the buying public to choose from. Some of General Motors cars were designed for the average hard-working car buying public. For me that was the Chevrolet. During the time that I was growing up, middle-class America was defined by the car in the driveway. Most of the cars were made in the USA. The majority of the cars in the middle-class neighborhoods were made by Ford, General Motors and the Chrysler Corporation. Luckily for me, I became of driving age during the development of muscle cars. One of my first vehicles was in 1966 Ford Mustang convertible. Even though the 289 engine did not develop a lot of horsepower, it was a very popular car for its time. I can remember my mom and dad having in 1957 Plymouth station wagon, which had pushbutton drive. There was even a 1968 Oldsmobile convertible in the driveway at one time. It also was apparent when people in the neighborhood were doing better than others. That is when you would see an Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Cadillac or a Buick in the driveway. Even though they were all made by General Motors, it was the fact that they cost more and they had better interiors then the Chevrolet the driveway and that made them so cool. The fact that there was a Buick in your driveway was an unofficial declaration that you were a little better off than your neighbor. I can remember when my uncle Harold drove up in front of the duplex where I lived in 1956 Buick Road master convertible. I was about nine years old and even at that age I was impressed by the vehicle. My uncle Harold took all of us for a ride around the neighborhood. It was like we were in a parade as we waving and called out to all the neighbors we passed. The Buick was a large, distinctive shaped vehicle; that cruise down the roadway with style and fashion.
I am not sure what the gas mileage was for such a large vehicle, but it didn’t seem to matter during those days. Many times when a new vehicle arrives in the driveway, like the Buick, the neighborhood would quickly go and gather around the vehicle to look at it. The Buick became such a popular statement of success that many teenagers requested to use it when going to the prom. The only way to outdo the Buick was to drive a brand-new Cadillac. But sometimes the Cadillac seemed a little too much like bragging. So the Buick was the hit of the middle-class neighborhood and it was a very safe vehicle to drive. By today’s standards the old Buicks were built like a tank. I don’t even remember wearing seatbelts when riding in the old Buick. The Buick was a way for the average working family to enjoy a taste of quality and distinction.
For a number of reasons, mostly for better gas mileage, large and distinctively stylish vehicles are no longer a common sight in middle-class America. I think it is because to get better gas mileage car designers has slowly cut down the profile of any car making many of their profiles look exactly like. Maybe one of the exceptions to the one design style fits all, is today’s Jeep. I recently even owned a Hummer 3 just because I like the fact that it looked different than the rest of the cars out there.
While I was raising a family I went through many different vehicles that were made by foreign countries. When I had to drive a long way to work I even owned a Honda Civic. I also owned a Toyota and BMW. If I could afford it I would buy a Bentley just because it is big bad and beautiful. But I would not buy one of today’s Buicks.
Today Buick is a downsized midsize style vehicle whose silhouette looks like any other vehicle on the road. There is nothing big bad and distinctive about the Buick. I think because the leadership in General Motors does not want the Buick to go the way of the Pontiac or Oldsmobile. And so they are trying to use marketing tricks to make the younger average car buyer want to Buick. The interior of the Buick is a step up from the average Chevrolet. But that is the most that can be said about the car. The marketing of the Buick is a sad and deceptive technique of marketing to get the brand back to being popular.
Recently, I’ve noticed that carmakers are concentrating more on the engines of the vehicles and the number of gears in the transmission to get better mileage. I think it is time that the people at General Motors and especially the Buick people work on the engine and transmission to improve on gas mileage and return the design of the Buick into something big bad and distinctive. I would suggest that they get rid of the Asian auto designers and develop some good old USA talent and thought. Harley-Davidson would be an example of how to keep it a bad and distinctively American.
I think they will always be a demand by the government for vehicles to be more efficient and less deadly in their emissions. And it is really possible that alternate fuel vehicles will be on the road in the future. But that does not mean that they have to look like the wind tunnel version of most the cars on the road today.
Recent examples of getting back to an American vehicle can be seen in the new Camaros, Mustangs, and Chargers that are being sold today. Why can’t the American carmaker get back to a family sized sedan? Why can’t they make a vehicle that can actually carry six people at one time without feeling like you’re being squeezed into a seat like airlines use today?
Give the American public something to be proud of. Make it distinctive and something that stands out from the wind-tunnel design vehicles of today. Make it big enough for an average size family. What is called a full-size car today is really a midsized to small car. Not all families have just two children. Thank goodness there is the minivan that can answer the call of the average size middle income family.
In the commercial that I spoke about at the beginning of this blog, there are several people that are sent out to get into a Buick. Each of those people does not recognize the car that is the Buick. While the message of the commercial is to say that the Buick has an appeal, the reality is it just looks like a lot of other cars. I do appreciate the part where the elderly woman explains that,” that’s not a Buick”. That is because the Buick used to be a distinctive model of vehicle and today’s Buick is not. If the makers of the Buick want to excite a younger buyer they need to design an American vehicle. Forget the wind-tunnel design that dominates the current vehicle trend and concentrate on improving the engine and transmission while giving the driver a distinctly American vehicle.
When I say distinctly an American vehicle, I mean a big, bad and bold driving machine that cannot be mistaken for an Asian or European styled vehicle. Make it that when somebody says, go and find the Buick, there will be no mistaking where the Buick is at.
While they are at it, do something with the Cadillac. Keep it large and comfortable and stylish. Make sure that it still represents success to those owners who driving down the road. Stopped cutting it down so that it can run to the wind-tunnel. Make it interfere with the wind and work on the guts of the vehicle to comply with federal demands.
Make it so when people look at American made vehicles they know what brand they are.