22 March 2007
Buick, Saab, and Cadillac- Why Can't GM Make A Real Luxury Car?
When you're a huge multinational corporation with multiple brands like GM, it enables you to really break things down into bite sized niches. Companies like BMW, which will live and die by its 'driver' mantra, or even Toyota, which has one brand name and depends on quality perceptions, either need to undertake huge marketing efforts to crash into a niche they weren't in before, or introduce/acquire new nameplates to achieve the same goal. Either way generally results in a lot of money spent, oftentimes with very little to show for it.
GM on the other hand, has a plethora of brands to choose from. Most with some sort of niche already attached. When you drive a Chevy, you're driving dependable American steel with a good value quotient. When you drive a Pontiac, you're driving dependable American steel with a good value quotient... and VERVE! When you drive a Hummer, you're driving a badass American icon with no respect for the sanctity of oil.
But when you drive a Buick, Saab or Cadillac, what are you driving?
Well, Buick is easy. You're driving a bad car. A bad car targeted at 75 year old blue haired individuals with a fondness for the past, but not enough wallet to shell out for a Cadillac DTS. And while Buick professes to be changing, 3800 Series engines mated to FWD 4 speed automatic flagships belies their true intentions. Quick, what's more laughable- Buick saying they're going to challenge Lexus, or a post by Admiral Viscen? Tough call. Even the appointed saviour of the brand, the effervescent and tangy Buick Enclave, is simply a rebadged Acadia/Outlook that looks like a Rendezvous if you squint hard enough.
The second on the list, Saab, is a bit harder to pin down. When you're driving a Saab, you're apparently driving-
a)a Pontiac G6/Saturn Aura/Cadillac BLS
b)a Subaru Impreza
c)a Chevrolet Trailblazer
d)a piece of dung
At least you get a turbo or two thrown into the mix. But somehow, Saab is even worse off than Buick. At least Buick has an image of some sort, even if it's laughable. Saab has settled nicely into the 'pretentious guy who can't afford a real European marque but still wants to look like he can because he lives in San Francisco' niche. Congrats on that Saab!
Last but not least, you've got the big grandpappy of the crew- Cadillac. What a revival huh? 6 years ago, left for dead, with a smoldering carcass of a Catera being presided over by the ghostly ashes of an Allante. And then Art & Science came around and everything was perfect again. Or was it? Your honour, I present to you Exhibit A, as portrayed in the picture leading off this column. Dear idiots- shut up, I know that interior has either a)been replaced or b)been phased out as of next year. But I'll go even one step further and colour myself unimpressed with the new CTS in almost every facet except for the new mug. Everything rear of the A-pillar is an uninspired mess. Everything inside is derivative of Infiniti/Lexus/Mercedes. Minus the nuance and subtlety one expects of those brands. Oh, I'm sure it will have soft touch materials and everything will click with a gentle softness. But hey Cadillac, why would I buy a fat pig CTS when I can get an Infiniti/Lexus/BMW/MB/Audi/et al that does everything it can do, but better? As if I'm supposed to be impressed by a 300 HP V6 engine. Or a lack of luxury features common in entry level Nissans. Don't even get me started on the abomination that is the STS (when not in V trim). Or the XLR with it's boy racer aspirations not befitting a luxury car. Or the hideous Escalade which somehow manages to mess up features that Hyundais were offering 5 years ago. The only Caddy of note is the SRX, and recent news indicates that's the one that's on the chopping block. Go figure. The problem with Caddy is, they're putting the cart in front of the horse- talk of the 'standard of the world' isn't just premature- it's a twinkle in the eye of a glory hole patron. When Cadillac figures out how NOT to follow everyone else, then perhaps they'll be the standard of the world again. Until then, they'll just be a 3rd rate Mercedes/BMW/Infiniti/Lexus/Audi knockoff.
No Virginia, GM can't make a luxury car... but the TOYOTA TUNDRA IS STILL TEH SUXXORS!