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!


AdmiralViscen said...

Why headline with an interior from 2002 that won't be in manufacture 6 months from now?

Anonymous said...

Saab has settled nicely into the 'pretentious asshole 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!

Good one Mags!

Buick61 said...

I dunno. Cadillac needs more help then GM will ever admit. The SRX and '08 CTS (probably) are the only two vehicles that seem to be on the same level as the class standard. The Escalade is close, but is a fold-flat third-row and IRS setup away from being pretty good.

HoeyHimself said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HoeyHimself said...

Maybe you can cut GM a check so they can afford to do everything you expect. Things are not perfect with the General..but it takes time..they are showing progress..and shit just doesnt happen over night. Yeah, you summed up Buick, Saab, and Cadillac well..but look how long it takes to get something from idea to design to production. GM's lack is unexcusable, but it is alot easier to accept when you consider who much their attention has changed in the past ten years. I hope for the sake of GM we can look back at this article one day and laugh, but until then, yeah your right..I just hope these issues wont be standing in the future.

Ghrankenstein said...

Here's a concept I've been working on: Posting actual driving impressions on the vehicles you rip.

Start with the 9-3.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I expected something closer to hate than indifference. You got me to break character and turn prick; touche'.

G6=Saab 9-3 is a comparison that tweaks me something awful. You're using it as hyperbole to make a point, but it's weak. The 9-3 and G6 drive so dissimilarly that I fret over why the G6 couldn't be more like the Saab. The 2007 is way better than the 2006, but comparing the G6 and 9-3 is like comparing the Corvette and XLR.

9-7X=Trailblazer is a broken record that GM and Saab are going to have to hear. I write it off because dealers made this bed, just as they did with the GMC Canyon and Pontiac G5. The 9-7 has its merits, but it's too country for the Euro sophisticates and Ma and Pa Kettle don't drive Saabs. I'd rather Mark Laneve decide what my customers drive than Dealer Principal Larry.


Shady said...

The 9-7x shouldn't have came out. Instead they should have put that money into making the TB and Envoy look better along with killing the other 360 models. To me now Buick is a lost brand. They're trying to find themselves but don't know where to go.

Mags said...

Ghranky, on the 9-3:

Nice engines, absolutely pathetic interior, weak steering feel, nicely sorted out suspension, FWD in a vehicle like this stinks as the torque steer can get severe.

The differences between the 9-3 and its brethren seem to be more cosmetic and engine related than anything else.

Oh, and a little birdie told me that linking to my site on GMI is verboten?

Anonymous said...

The Torque Steer on the 9-3 Aero is a BITCH, I can easily lose the car in 1st gear.

The suspension is SIGNIFICANTLY better than the platform mates, and distinctly more European. Remember I drove a Malibu before the 9-3 and I can tell a difference in cornering.

- DuSpinnst

Anonymous said...

GM is junk. Cheap junk. Period.