GM’s Back to Its Old Tricks

Posted: January 19, 2011 in Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, General Motors, GMC, Opel
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One would hope that after GM’s massive bankruptcy, something would have shaken GM’s  infamous entrenched bureaucracy and Byzantine divisional structure to its core.  Once Saturn, Pontiac and Oldsmobile were vanquished to history’s dustbin, only Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC remained.  The old practice of taking a Chevy and cloning its products upstream to every division was supposed to be dead, right?  Not so much.

For as long as I can remember, GMC has had no unique products, but the premium GM gets for dressing up Chevy trucks is so seductive that it couldn’t give up that profit center. Okay, I get it, but I think GMC could have been jettisoned and a new sub-brand of Chevrolet could be created to sell Chevy trucks that look better and are laden with luxury.  My idea was to have the Black Tie division or sub-brand. It would be instantly recognizable as a Chevy and the Black Bow Tie on the grill would be prestigious.  That way, you didn’t have to feed a completely separate division and you could keep the profits within Chevrolet. No such luck. We are stuck with GMC.

Buick was supposed to be different. It was going to get some rebadged Opels, and that’s what you have with the LaCrosse and Regal – both based on the Opel Insignia platform. Sure the Enclave is just a Chevy Traverse or GMC Acadia, but that comes from the “old GM” where each division got a cloned Chevy.

I guess the temptation to fall back into its old ways was too much when the Chevy Cruze was introduced.  Chevy  uses the Cruze platform for the Volt and the Cruze is a world car sold in many markets outside the U.S.  The use of a world platform drives the costs down to the point were GM can build the Cruze in the US (Lordstown, OH) and still make money.

The car of no one's dreams: The Cadillac Cimmaron

A Chevy Cavalier: Looks a bit too much like that Cadillac, huh?

Enter the Buick Verano: A rebadged Chevy Cruze with some cheap-looking fake wood accents and a few more luxury appointments. What next? A modern Cadillac Cimmaron?  See if you see any family resemblances….

2012 Buick Verano: Front

2011 Chevy Cruze: Front

2012 Buick Verano: Rear

2011 Chevy Cruze: Rear

2012 Buick Verano: Cockpit

2011 Chevy Cruze: Cockpit

Sure, there are some subtle differences, but it all looks just a bit too familiar.  The Verano is better than other GM rebadged products in that the cockpit shows some different fascia and the door armrests are reshaped, but the size and look is still Chevrolet, in my humble opinion.  The exterior is also familiar in overall dimension, including the door cutouts and roof slant. The Buick gets a Buick grille and distinctive taillights. Whoop de doo.

GM is crowing about Buick’s sales renaissance; but when you start with such a low bar, it’s not hard to have double digit (55%) increases.  From my point of view in LA, Buick isn’t finding younger buyers; its finding its place in the rental fleets again. Hell, it’s hard to even find a Buick dealer in town.  The Santa Monica GM dealer now appears to share space with Santa Monica Infiniti!  This was a tiny dealership to begin with, so I don’t know how that’s going to work.  The  times I’ve gone there to  look at new models, they haven’t had any inventory.

Buick just doesn’t seem to have any traction in the LA market.  I doubt the Verano is going to help. I see a rental car fleet in its future.

  1. Tom says:

    Well, I think they did a far more credible job separating the Cruze from the Verano that the Cimmaron was crom the Cavalier. But they did it for the same reason: fuel economy standards and 2012 is the first year of the new ones.

    Expect to see a lot more “Voltage” across the line-up as well. Of course if that means we can have the Converj I don’t see it as a bad thing..

  2. Todd Bianco says:

    I guess it would be too much to hope that Chevy could just sell more Chevys when chasing CAFE standards as Buick is included in the total; but that may be too much to hope for. GM will say it’s jumping up and down with the “success” of the Cruze, but as I understand things, the internal targets haven’t been met and there is growing concern that GM’s old taint still is in customers’ minds.

    Like you, I still love the Cadillac Converj concept that was based on the Volt and wish GM would build it. My guess is that GM’s “Voltage” will go to a small SUV, rather than the Caddy, to compete with the upcoming Toyota RAV4 EV and Ford’s promise of an electric or hybrid C-Max people mover.

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