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With 43 million in sales and counting, Buick celebrates 110 years

April 23, 2013|By Ronald D. White
  • Buick, 110 years old this year, unveiled a new concept Riviera on Friday, on the eve of the Shanghai Auto Show.
Buick, 110 years old this year, unveiled a new concept Riviera on Friday,… (Nathan Bomey / Detroit Free…)

Buick, the General Motors nameplate, is celebrating 110 years, dating back to 1903, when the first Buick was hand-built in a small barn behind Scottish-born David Dunbar Buickā€™s Detroit home.

"Consistency, longevity, reliability. Those are the words that come to mind when you talk about Buick," Leslie Kendall, curator of the Petersen Automotive Museum, said in an interview.

That's apparently still true. In the latest J.D. Power & Associates survey on customer service, announced last month, Buick finished third, behind GMC and Mini.

PHOTOS: 110 years of Buicks

The brand also has expanded its appeal overseas.

Buick was the top seller for General Motors Co.'s Shanghai GM venture. November sales in China for the Buick brand reached 70,172 vehicles, a 17% gain from the same month a year earlier. The Regal sold 9,204 units, almost 10 times the volume sold in the U.S. during the same month.

Kendall said he didn't know exactly why Buick was popular in China, but he had a guess or two.

"A lot of nameplates do not have its longevity," Kendall said. "That is the kind of thing that appeals to people. That has certainly not gone away."

The Buick nameplate goes back to the earliest days of General Motors.

"Once General Motors was founded in 1908, Buick was the first nameplate," Kendall said.

For Americans, the brand has come to symbolize moving up in socioeconomic terms, Kendall said.

"It has become best known as GM's upper-middle class car, the steppingstone on the way to a Cadillac," Kendall said.

In 1936, the first Buick to hit 100 mph was the 1936 Buick Century. By Kendall's time, the Century had gained a much different reputation.

"My mom had one, an 1984 Buick Century. I remember it was a very reliable car. It was a pleasant car," Kendall said.


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