Car companies drop brands and models that do not sell well, although the decisions are rare. Ford recently stopped selling most of its car models in the United States because demand has shifted to sport utility vehicles, crossovers and pickups. Among those it discontinued was the Taurus, which had been part of the Ford family since 1985. General Motors made a more drastic decision to kill Pontiac in 2009, as overall company sales cratered during the Great Recession. The brand was 83 years old.
Among the oldest car brands sold in America are those built by manufacturers based overseas. Mercedes was founded in 1901 and built by Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft. It was for decades and remains among the best-selling luxury cars in America.
The oldest car brand that originated in America and remains active is Buick. It was founded on May 19, 1903, as the Buick Motor Company. Auto mogul William Durant took over Buick in 1904. It became the cornerstone of a larger company he founded, General Motors, in 1908. As Greg Wallace, manager and historian of the GM Heritage Center commented: “[Buick] actually spurred the creation of General Motors and the purchase of Oldsmobile, Cadillac and Oakland, which later became Pontiac.”
For decades, Buick was a luxury brand, but Cadillac eventually replaced in that spot in the GM lineup. Today, Buick is one of the four major GM brands. The others are Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC.
Buick is currently only a small portion of GM’s sales. In the first quarter, its unit deliveries were 45,784, but this was up an impressive 35.2%. GM’s overall sales for the period were 642,250, up 3.9%.
Buick has four models: the Enclave, Encore, Encore GX and Envision. Each is a crossover or SUV. Buick no longer has sedans in its lineup, another sign of the vehicle purchase tastes of American buyers. Buicks have a broad price range from $24,600 for the Encore to $58,000 for the highest-end Enclave.
Buick appears to be successful enough to remain part of the GM lineup for years to come. However, the past shows that car companies can be fickle.