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.
The first Buick made for sale, the 1904 Model B, was built in Flint, Michigan. There were 37 Buicks made that year, none of which survive.
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 toponly the Cadillac brand had more prestige.
At first, Buick followed the likes of Napier in automobile racing, winning the first ever race held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
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.