Think you’ve got image issues? Try selling Buicks

The New York Times has a brutally depressing story about a failing Buick dealership in Columbus, Ohio.Buick_2
The piece is a sad, yet compelling, read because it encapsulates
so much of the pain being felt by Americans everywhere.

Buick has been in trouble for years. It’s perceived as a tired brand for an older, dying audience demographic (indeed, Buick owners average 60 years of age). That said, it took the recent gas crisis to apply the coup de grace to many dealerships like Len Immke Buick. Why? Because Buick doesn’t make any small, energy efficient automobiles.

Instead, what remains of the Immke dealership tries to peddle three different types of large, gas-guzzling boats. In their halcyon days, Len Immke sold 200 cars a month. Today, they’re lucky to sell that many in a year. Some days, no one even enters the store. The sales team was downsized a few years ago, everyone took pay cuts and the salesmen now double as janitors after hours since they can’t afford to hire an outside service.

Buick is dead. The body may still be showing a pulse. But, it’s just a matter of time before the plug is pulled. And, when it is, Len Immke Buick and hundreds of similar dealerships will close. The ripple effect will heighten the pain that already exists in towns and cities like Columbus. And, what will the salesmen, many of whom are in their 40s and 50s do for employment and health care coverage?

When senior management fails at its mission, everyone loses. And, when a brand’s image and reputation are beyond repair, it’s time to euthanize the body. It’s just too bad the men who mismanaged Buick over the years aren’t held accountable for this debacle. As one of my bosses liked to say, “Someone should take a bullet.”

5 thoughts on “Think you’ve got image issues? Try selling Buicks

  1. It is interesting that Buick paid large dollars to get Tiger Woods as their spokes-model some 8+ years ago. I guess they thought that it would score a younger demographic…I have to admit that I drink Tiger gatorade and wear Nike shirts…but I would never buy an unreliable car because Tiger was hawking it. Sorry Buick but the Golf/ Tiger connection isn’t fooling anybody.

  2. I appreciate your comments, Adam. I sincerely hope Buick isn’t dead. Not for Buick’s sake, but for the lives and livelihoods of so many who depend upon it. I also hope Buick is focused on smaller, more energy efficient models. The model may be doing well in China, but we need solutions here in the U.S. now.

  3. Buick is dead.
    That’s a pretty blanket statement there. Have you seen the new Buick Enclave? The Enclave is one of the highest selling products for GM right now. I’m a GM employee, and often have the opportunity to hear some of our designers speak. One of them recently said that the Buick design studio is where many GM designers want to be right now. That wasn’t always the case. The Buick Riviera Concept (Google it) has truly inspired Buick design, and it’s only going to get better.
    Plus, don’t discredit how well Buick does in China. I was there a few weeks ago, and it was amazing to see how many Buicks were on the road. So, to say Buick is dead is a bit of an overstatement in my opinion.
    Adam Denison
    GM Social Media Communications

  4. Where you see failure, I see opportunity.
    As you say, there is still a large group of consumers who probably trust and resonate with the Buick brand; they’re just not buying cars.
    So why not extend the brand to other product lines? What about Buick diners (I could see the Buick B.L.T being a best-seller) or Buick-branded nursing homes? I’ll bet you Buick-branded walkers would fly – or walk – off the shelves.
    There are many products and industries – beyond automobiles – that seniors citizens relate to and need. Let’s slap Buick on one or more of them and watch the brand rise from the ashes.

  5. It seems like Buick is facing a similar situation to Rover in the UK. Once a proud and prestigious brand, Rover became synonymous with the elderly driver. Rover was eventually sold lock, stock and barrel to an Indian motor company. A lot of people around the Rover factory lost their jobs. Hope the same doesn’t happen to Buick, but it difficult to see a way out.