Buick is a marque of automobile sold in the United States, Canada, China, Taiwan, Qatar, and Israel by General Motors Corporation. Since the demise of Oldsmobile in 2004, it is GM's only North America-based entry-level luxury brand.
Buick originated as an independent motor car manufacturer, the Buick Motor Company, incorporated on May 19, 1903, by the Scottish-American David Dunbar Buick in Detroit, Michigan. Later that year, the struggling company was taken over by James H. Whiting (1842-1919) , who moved it to his hometown of Flint, Michigan, and brought in William C. Durant in 1904 to manage his new acquisition. Buick sold his stock for a small sum upon departure, and died in modest circumstances twenty-five years later.
Between 1899 and 1902 there were 2 prototype vehicles built in Detroit, Michigan by Walter Marr. Some documentation exists of the 1901 or 1902 prototype with tiller steering similar to the Oldsmobile Curved Dash.
In mid 1904 another prototype was constructed for an endurance run which convinced James H. Whiting to authorize production of the first models offered to the public. The architecture of this prototype was the basis for the Model B.
There are, however, two replicas in existence: the 1904 endurance car at the Buick Gallery & Research Center in Flint, and a Model B assembled by an enthusiast in California for the division's 100th anniversary. Both of these vehicles use various parts from Buicks of that early era as well as fabricated parts. It is important to note these vehicles were each constructed with the two 1904 engines known to exist.
The powertrain and chassis architecture introduced on the Model B was continued through the 1909 Model F. The early success of Buick is attributed in part to the valve-in-head engine patented by Eugene Richard. The creation of General Motors is attributed in part to the success of Buick, so it can be said Marr and Richard's designs directly led to GM.
The basic architecture of the 1904 Buick was optimally engineered even by today's standards. The flat-twin engine is inherently balanced, with torque presented to the chassis in a longitudinal manner - actually cancelling front end lift - rather than producing undesirable lateral motion. The engine was mounted amidships, now considered the optimal location.
Durant was a natural, and Buick soon became the largest car maker in America. Using the profits from this, Durant embarked on a series of corporate acquisitions, calling the new mega-corporation General Motors. At first, the manufacturers comprising General Motors competed against each other, but Durant ended that. He wanted each General Motors division to target one class of buyer, and in his new scheme Buick was near the top—only the Cadillac brand had more prestige.
In 1911, Buick introduced its first closed-body car, four years ahead of Ford. In 1929, Buick Motor Division launched the Marquette sister brand, designed to bridge the price gap between Buick and Oldsmobile; however, Marquette was discontinued in 1930.
Overall sales of the Buick brand peaked in the 1984 model year, when falling oil prices and the prevailing economic recovery buoyed the sales of traditional full-sized automobiles, in combination with the popularity of newer, smaller offerings and performance oriented turbocharged models. Subsequently, sales fell as downsized premium luxury coupe, full-sized and mid-sized models were poorly received by the public in the period between 1985 and 1990. The number of Buick models on offer fell over time, with the compact and performance segments being abandoned altogether.
Today Buick retains that position in the GM lineup. The ideal Buick customer was comfortably off, possibly not quite rich enough to afford a Cadillac or not desiring the ostentation of one, but definitely in the market for a car above the norm. Buick is one of the oldest marques in the world, with Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Peugeot, Cadillac, Daimler and the discontinued Oldsmobile.
Speculation existed, however, as to whether GM will eliminate the Buick brand to cut costs. This followed the temporary suspension of GM's planned Zeta project to develop new rear wheel drive cars fitting the Buick market niche GM also has started consolidating of Buick, Pontiac, and GMC trucks into single dealer franchises, which would make it simple to eliminate the Buick brand without leaving dealers devoid of product. However, with the development of the Zeta platform still ongoing (including the development of the 2006 VE Commodore and the new Chevrolet Camaro), it may be likely that Buick will survive still.
Buick began consolidating its lineup in 2005, replacing the Century and Regal with the LaCrosse (known as the Buick Allure in Canada), and the LeSabre and Park Avenue with the Lucerne in 2006. Both of its SUVs, the Rendezvous and Rainier were discontinued in 2007 to make way for the new 2008 Enclave, while the slow-selling Terraza minivan has also been dropped for '08. This leaves the marque with just three models in the United States. In 2008, Buick sales slipped from an average of four cars per dealer per month to three, in addition to two trucks. There have been rumors on Edmund's and Motor Trend that Buick will have a roadster sedan in 2010, which could mean that the marque may survive beyond 2009.
There is speculation that future Buick models will have interior and exterior designs with greatly increased influence from Buick of China. This is due to Buick's great success and high reputation in China. Motor Authority has also written that Buick will introduce the Buick Excelle in the United States in 2008 Other Chinese designed models are likely to follow either as debuts or as redesigns of existing American models.
According to a July 7, 2008 ABC News report, GM is considering selling the Buick brand as a way to get out of its current financial difficulties.
Buick's emblem consists of three shields, each bisected diagonally to the right by a straight line, the shields arranged touching each other in a left-diagonal pattern, inside a circle. If represented in color, the leftmost shield is red, the middle white, and the rightmost blue, although white is sometimes represented by light gray. This design, known as the Trishield, was adopted in 1959 for the 1960 models and represents the three models that comprised the lineup that year—LeSabre, Invicta, and Electra. The shields are adopted from the shield of the Buick family crest, which in modified form had been used on Buicks since the 1930s. A version of the traditional crest appeared on Electras through the 1980s.
A traditional Buick styling cue dating to 1949 is a series of three or four portholes or vents on the front fender behind the front wheels. The source of this design feature was a custom car (one not made by Buick, but personal car of stylist Ned Nickles), which in addition had a flashing light within each hole, each synchronized with a specific spark plug simulating the flames from the exhaust stack of a fighter airplane. Combined with the bombsight mascot (introduced in the 1940s), the ventiports put the driver at the controls of an imaginary fighter airplane. The flashing light feature was not used by Buick in production, but the portholes remained as nonfunctional ornamentation.
These were originally called "Ventiports" as they did allow air flow into the engine bay (later just "portholes"). Ventiports have appeared sporadically on several models since.
Lower cost models were equipped with three portholes, while higher cost models came with four. Often, people would denote their cars as "Four-Holers" or "Three-Holers" to assert the car's class. When the number of portholes was standardized across the entire model line, buyers of the higher cost models complained bitterly that they felt shortchanged. In 2003 they were re-introduced on the Buick Park Avenue. After the Park Avenue was discontinued, Buick salvaged the portholes to appear on the new Lucerne. In a break with tradition, the Lucerne's portholes refer directly to engine configuration: V6 models have three on each side, while V8s have four on each side.
Another styling cue from the 1940s through the 1970s was the "sweepspear", a curved line running the length of the car. In the earlier cars, this was a chrome-plated rub strip which, after it passed the front wheel, gently curved down nearly to the rocker panel just before the rear wheel, and then curved around the rear wheel in a quarter of a circle to go straight back to the tail-light. During the two-tone color craze of the 1950s, the sweepspear separated two different color areas. After that, the curved line was usually indicated either by a vinyl rub strip or simply a character line molded into the sheetmetal.
By 1970, Buick was making quiet history with more conventional V-8s that had abandoned the "nailhead" design but made much greater power. For the 1970 model year, Buick re-named its "Gran Sport" performance models (not to be confused with the Chevrolet Corvette "Grand Sport" cars) as "GS" models, and initially this was headed up by the powerful GS455 Stage 1, so named for its 455 cubic inch (7.4L) engine, with its high performance "Stage 1" package. Built on the same "A-body" platform as the Chevelle, Cutlass/442, and LeMans/GTO, the GS cars were performance based vehicles spawned from Buick's Skylark line, and shared all of the A-Body GM offering's tendency for good looks. Both hardtop and convertible "GS" models were offered.
The prototype GSX survived the show circuit, and was a fully functioning car that beat the odds to survive not only the usual showcar life of "construction-display-destruction", but also the life of an ordinary car, as it was sold from a dealership after being on display for some time. The car survives to this day, is restored to its original condition, licensed and ready to hit the road.
Since 1999, a Chinese version of the Buick Century/Regal has been produced and sold in China under Shanghai GM and has proven to be popular among upscale, professional families, establishing Buick as one of the most popular vehicle brands in China. In addition, Buick of China also sells the compact Excelle (based on the Daewoo Lacetti/Nubira), a five-door hatchback version called the HRV, and a modified version of the first generation Pontiac Montana minivan named the GL8. Chinese market Buicks are equipped with smaller engines than the same nameplate in the American market; in 2008 General Motors began importing these engines from China for use in the American Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent.
In June 2005, Buick announced that it would market the Australian Holden Statesman in China as the Buick Royaum. Buick previously marketed the subcompact Sail, sourced from GM's Asian operations and based on the Opel Corsa B, until 2005. Since then, Shanghai GM has replaced it with the Chevrolet Sail (a rebadged Opel Corsa). Buick has stated that it expects China to become its second largest market.
For the 2006 model year, Buick debuted the Chinese version of the LaCrosse sedan. The only differences are exterior design, different engine choices, and a facelifted interior. It is positioned above the Regal but below the Royaum.
In December 2004, General Motors signed a memorandum of understanding with Yulon, a firm based in Taiwan, for the licensed manufacture of Buick vehicles there. In July 2005, Yulon GM Motor Co. Ltd. (Yulon GM), a joint venture with 51 percent equity stake held by Yulon Motor and 49 percent by GM was founded.