The Future of Buick

If heritage means anything in this industry, then it is surprising that Buick doesn’t make more of its history because the story of the early years of the company is nothing short of astonishing.

If heritage means anything in this industry, then it is surprising that Buick doesn’t make more of its history because the story of the early years of the company is nothing short of astonishing.

For example, consider this passage from The Automobile Age by James J. Flink: “innovations to reduce the time and cost of final assembly similar to those worked out at Ford were independently conceived by Walter P. Chrysler after he replaced Charles W. Nash as head of Buick in 1912.” Yes, that’s Chrysler as in, well, Chrysler. And Buick as in Buick.

(Nash left Buick to become president of General Motors. Which was a logical stepping stone at that time.)

And the innovations in question in that passage include the moving assembly line. Flink: “Chrysler recalled that ‘Henry Ford, after we developed our [assembly] line’—they were using a pair of wooden tracks that workers moved the chassis along as it was being built—‘went to work and figured out a chain conveyor; his was the first. Thereafter we all used them.’”

Arguably, early innovations in automotive production came from Buick.

And consider this: “By 1919 Buick was making about half the money that GM earned.”

Yes, it was that significant.

Nowadays, things aren’t quite as bullish, at least not in the U.S. market.

For example, this past June in China Buick sold 86,054 vehicles. One month.

In the U.S., it sold 104,207 vehicles. Not in June, but from January through June.

The international market is undeniably important.

That said, it is clear that Buick (1) is going to continue to focus on overseas markets and (2) is going to create something of a renaissance for the brand led by design.

As for the latter, prime examples are two of its recent concepts, the Avista, which debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2016:

Buick Avista Concept front view shown in lacquer jewel red finish

And the Avenir, which it showed at NAIAS a year earlier:

Avenir

Last week Buick announced that it is launching a sub-brand, named after that highly appealing 2015 concept: Avenir.

That’s French for future.

And the folks at Buick want to underscore that they’re set on having one.

So far the details are scant, just that Avenir Buicks (analogous to Denali GMCs) will have specific grilles, wheels and exterior trim, and tailored seats and trims on the inside.

We won’t know how this works out until the future.

But if past is prologue. . . .