Explaining Southern California's economy

LA Auto Show: The great Buick comeback

Not long ago, Buick had been basically left for dead. Bob Lutz, the legendary product czar at General Motors, infamously called Buick and its now-deceased stablemate, Pontiac, "damaged brands." Everyone though that Buick was, no offense intended, a car for the AARP set. And the demographics didn't lie: the average age of a Buick owner in the mid-2000s was 65.

A lot of carmakers would have sent Buick — which had always been a mid-luxury brand, a stepping stone on the way to lordly Cadillac in the GM hierarchy — to that big junkyard in the sky, to join Oldsmobile, a brand that GM had already taken off life support.

Problem was, Buick was big — very big — in China.

In fact, it was the cornerstone of GM's whole China strategy, both before and after the 2009 bailout and bankruptcy of the company. GM's U.S. business may have been in decline from the Golden Age 1950s, when it held half the market. But in China, business was booming.

So the decision was made to fix Buick in North American, pretty much so that the brand would still mean something in China. 

The amazing thing is that even through bankruptcy, GM pulled it off. Buick now has better cars than it's had in years, and young — or at least younger — customers are buying them.

A big story here at the LA Auto Show is the comeback of Detroit. I couldn't think of a better place to start telling that story than with Buick.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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