Other Editorials

Bungling Buick

Jim Dollinger
Monday, August 14, 2006

It's true that Rendezvous has sold well, but only because of cheap leases. It is a Mexican made motor vehicle with a fancy French name, looks like an import, and was promoted as "The Spirit of American Style". This is far from a classic example of effective marketing. The vehicle did however bring a new class of customer to Buick. Trouble is they will now be left behind, as were previous Buick loyalists (see 4/01 when Park Avenue lease supports were pulled as the spring market began) when GM abandons this category for the more upscale and expensive Enclave. Tens of thousands of Rendezvous lessees will be left to scramble for a replacement within their budget.

Personally, I have made a lot of money selling Rendezvous. With the 7 passenger seating I have had roughly 35 of them as a demo due to my many children. Still, the example holds of the basic error in marketing. It should have been an import fighter for Olds while Buick maintained it's heritage of substantial, powerful, mature, and distinctive American automobiles.

There's nothing wrong with the name Rendezvous. In fact, I would have attempted to sign Bruce Springsteen to use his concert song of the same name to promote the vehicle. The difference is that it was a combination of errors and should not have been in the Buick lineup to begin with. LeSabre, Electra, and others in Buick history did have French names (many due to the great stylist Henry Lauve), but the vehicles themselves looked like they were "Born in the USA".

The Enclave looks dynamite and will probably fly off the lots. The trouble I foresee is that our many Rendezvous customers will switch brands and we will lose that hard earned business. I sometimes wonder why they don't continue Rendezvous while adding Enclave? The vehicles are manufactured in different plants. This scenario would give Buick stores a fighting chance with two crossovers which are steadily gaining in popularity.

Buick once sold 800,000 units in a year, now we are diminishing rapidly toward 100,000. Olds was similarly taken apart from 1,000,000 to ZERO. No one is that sequentially stupid. Wagoner and Company know exactly what they are doing, which is why he continues to have the support of the Board of Bystanders. Most Directors are also members of investment banks, including Morgan, Deutsche, Goldman Sachs, and of course the infamous Merrill Lynch. Ask yourself why these large insititutions have kept their stock as it lost $50 Billion in value, and backed "Red Ink Rick"? They have, and are, bleeding the Corporation of untold Billions in investment banking fees and shenanigans like Fiat. Meanwhile management has continued down their chosen path toward eventually owning distribution of offshore production.

Now suppose this Grand Plan of "Rickin' Little" (Blue Sky HAS fallen) had been conceived from the womb like Dell. It wouldn't be so bad having not had to lie to shareholders, dealers, customers, employees, and retirees. If communities across the land hadn't become so intimately intertwined with the prosperity of GM's American operations perhaps Wagoner's desired business model would be of benefit. Since that is not the case, and since he has LIED about his direction, goals, and purpose, it's well past time he be removed from his position and placed before a Grand Jury.


Correction: The current General Manager of Buick, Steve Shannon, is the son in law of Bill Hoglund, not John Larson as previously reported.