Buick Now Ready To Be Phased-Out

That is, if General Motors survives Chapter 11 restructuring.

In my opinion, GM kept the Buick brand alive for mainly two reasons. First, the brand was astonishingly popular in China, where Buick was somehow synonymous with the Sino nouveau riche (although the real nouveau riche in China drive British or German automobiles). And second, Tiger Woods had a 10-year endorsement deal with Buick. While Oldsmobile was discontinued, it's virtual corporate twin was kept alive because of China and Tiger.

Tiger and GM have agreed to end the endorsement deal one year early.

GM is well-known for its ladder / caste system of brands. Your first car is a Chevy. You then graduate to a Pontiac coupe (if you are single) or Oldsmobile sedan (if you are a family man). Later you get a second of the middle brands or switch to Buick if you've got gray hairs and/or play golf. And if you one day get that corner office (or make a bundle in an illegitimate business), you can step-up to the Cadillac. It was simple - 5 brands in a soccer-like 1-3-1 formation. In a perfect world, everyone graduates high school with a Chevy and dies with a Cadillac.

Along the way, GM expanded its lineup, and built impressive operations in Europe and Australia to make it sustainable and viable for the future. It founded Opel in Germany 50 years ago. It created Holden in muscle-car crazy Australia over 70 years ago. It bought Saab in 2000. In the last 25 years, it has partnered with Suzuki, Daewoo, Toyota, and Subaru (and even flirted with buying Subaru). And at the peak of the SUV boom in the US, it bought Hummer.

And alas, there's the problem. While it made big sedans for the Australian market and small cars for the Europe market, it continued to feed the US market SUVs well into the 2000s -far past their prime. With the most fuel efficient cars in their 2008 US portfolio limited to a rebranded Daewoo, a rebranded Toyota, two generic Chevy sedans, an Opel 2-seat sports car, an Opel hatchback, and the Saab 9-3, they would soon be in trouble.

So this may be too little too late, but I think the Buick brand is ready to be discontinued. If GM wants to survive, it is one of many steps they are going to have to take between now and March. And while they are at it, they should kill Pontiac as well, since that brand's last rear-wheel-drive cars, the Solstice and the Australian-made G8 are about to disappear from showrooms.