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Buick: More than a Century of Excellence

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Buick

Buick: More than a Century of Excellence

Ronnie Tanner
March 8, 2009

Founded in 1903, Buick began as an individual car manufacturer known as the Buick Motor Company. Its founder, David Dunbar Buick was a Scottish American who chose Detroit as the home base for the company. The company had a successful beginning but several months into the venture it began to flounder. It was taken over by James Whiting who decided to move the company closer to his home in Flint, Michigan.

The first Buick made for sale was the 1904 Model B. 37 of these vehicles were produced in Flint, unfortunately none have survived to the present day.

Buicks early on success was built on the valve-in-head engine developed and patented by Eugene Richard. This prototype engine along with two prototypes developed in Detroit by Walter Marr led directly to the creation and later success of what would become General Motors.

William Durant, who had been brought in originally by James Whiting to manage Buick, decided to capitalize of the early success of the 1904 Model B. He proceeded to acquire several competing car corporations and called the amalgamation General Motors. In the beginning the building block manufacturers of the behemoth General Motors were in direct completion with each other. However Durant had a different vision in mind. Instead, the individual manufacturers were reclassed as different divisions of General Motors and each had a unique assignment. The goal was for each newly renamed division to target one class of buyer and he wanted Buick at the top. Only the Cadillac brand would carry more prestige and this is the position that Buick still occupies today within the General Motors lineup.

Durant was after the upper middle class market. Buick buyers, in Durant’s vision, were in a comfortable position financially but were not interested in the ostentation of owning a Cadillac. The ideal Buick consumer was interested in understated luxury without sacrificing quality.

In recent times there has been speculation that General Motors may decide to drop the storied Buick division in order to cut costs. With the recent events surrounding the big three car manufacturers in Detroit there may be some substance to these rumors. Looking at the current Buick line up leads more credence to the story. At the present time Buick has just 3 models in its lineup, having eliminated the Le Sabre and consolidating the Regal and Park Avenue into the Lucerne. Both of its SUV’s, the Rendezvous and The Rainier, were discontinued in 2007. However their replacement, the 2008 Enclave has proven wildly successful and has stemmed the bleeding somewhat for the Buick line. With the removal of the minivan, Terraza the marquee is left with just the three models in the United States. More cause for concern came in 2008 when Buick lost more sales. On the bright side however both Edmund’s and Motor Trend have reported that Buick has plans to bring in a roadster sedan for the 2010 season. Provided that sales for this new sedan due at least as well as in the past when Buick has brought on a new roadster vehicle coupled with the continuing success of the Enclave, this should be enough to ensure that Buick continues into the next century providing excellence and luxury for 2010 and beyond.

Ronnie Tanner is a contributing writer at SWEngines. He writes about used Buick engines and choosing this as an alternative to costly car purchases.



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