Buick's Slide

John O'Dell in the L.A. Times looks at the demise of Buick and mentions Tiger Woods a few times. Considering Tiger's 5-year, $40 million endorsement deal and Buick's sponsorship of three significant PGA Tour events, this is not good news for some in golf. (Though I'm not worried about Tiger finding a replacement uh, vehicle.)

Now as GM faces the threat of bankruptcy, Buick has emerged as an emblem of the auto giant's broader woes. GM sold nearly a million Buicks in the U.S. in 1984. By last year, sales had sputtered to 282,288, a 70% decline over two decades, the biggest of any major auto brand.

Buick has broken down in U.S. showrooms for the same reasons that Americans deserted GM brands such as Chevrolet, Pontiac and Olds in favor of Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

Buick offered bland designs and ignored consumer demand for pickups, minivans and SUVs. Buyers' shift toward snappier styling, snazzier features and — most of all — higher-quality cars left Buick vulnerable in the late 1980s when Lexus, Infiniti and other foreign luxury models invaded its home turf. Even using golf superstar Tiger Woods as pitchman hasn't helped Buick.


Since 1999, Buick has used Tiger Woods, whose name and face are known globally. But the golf tournaments that carry Woods' endorsements don't reach out to young buyers because they are largely watched by older men, some of whom might already gravitate to Buicks.

"While you can sell a hot car designed for younger buyers to an old guy, you can't sell a stodgy old car to a young guy," said Bill Porter, Buick's design chief from 1980 until 1996.

"The average Buick buyer is 69, the oldest demographic in the industry, and there aren't many new buyers coming in to replace them," said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific market research in Tustin.