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Buick (/ˈbjuːɪk/) is a division of the American automobile manufacturer General Motors (GM). Named for automotive pioneer David Dunbar Buick, it was among the first American marques of automobiles, and was the company that established General Motors in 1908.[2] Before the establishment of General Motors, GM founder William C. Durant had served as Buick's general manager and major investor.

For much of its existence in the North American market, Buick has been marketed as a premium automobile brand, selling luxury vehicles positioned above GM's mainstream brands, while below the flagship luxury Cadillac division. In addition to wealthier buyers, Buick has also had a reputation of appealing to older buyers.

In 2017, Buick sold more than 1.4 million vehicles worldwide, a record for the brand.[3] The main market is now China, where 80% of Buick-branded automobiles are sold.[4] Buicks are also sold in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

History

Early years

Valve-In-Head (OHV) engine, illustration from 1904 patent, Buick Manufacturing Company

Buick is one of the oldest automobile brands in the world and the oldest in the United States. (Autocar, founded in 1897, is the oldest motor vehicle manufacturer in the western hemisphere; while originally an automobile maker, Autocar now builds heavy trucks. Oldsmobile, also an early auto maker founded in 1897, is now defunct; Studebaker was founded in 1852, but did not begin producing automobiles until 1902; Ford produced his first car in 1896 but did not start the Ford Motor Co. until 1903, and during the period in between was involved with other automobile manufacturers such as Cadillac, founded in 1902).

North American market, Buick has been marketed as a premium automobile brand, selling luxury vehicles positioned above GM's mainstream brands, while below the flagship luxury Cadillac division. In addition to wealthier buyers, Buick has also had a reputation of appealing to older buyers.

In 2017, Buick sold more than 1.4 million vehicles worldwide, a record for the brand.[3] The main market is now China, where 80% of Buick-branded automobiles are sold.[4] Buicks are also sold in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Buick is one of the oldest automobile brands in the world and the oldest in the United States. (Autocar, founded in 1897, is the oldest motor vehicle manufacturer in the western hemisphere; while originally an automobile maker, Autocar now builds heavy trucks. Oldsmobile, also an early auto maker founded in 1897, is now defunct; Studebaker was founded in 1852, but did not begin producing automobiles until 1902; Ford produced his first car in 1896 but did not start the Ford Motor Co. until 1903, and during the period in between was involved with other automobile manufacturers such as Cadillac, founded in 1902).

The first logo of Buick (1904), with an image of the Uncle Sam and the legend "known all over the world"

The first two Buick automobiles were made in 1899 and 1900 at the "Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company" by chief-engineer Walter Marr,[2] but company owner David Dunbar Buick was reluctant to begin making automobiles, being satisfied with stationary and marine engine production, so Marr left Buick in 1901 to found his own automobile company under his own name. His replacement was Eugene Richard, who applied for a patent in 1902 for Marr's valve-in-head (overhead valve) engine, which patent, number 771,095, was awarded to Richard in the name of Buick in 1904.[2] In 1903, the third Buick automobile was made, this time by Richard, but in 1904 Buick, whose company was now called "Buick Motor Company", moved from Detroit to Flint, Michigan, and Richard stayed behind. Marr was rehired in Flint as chief engineer, to begin making automobiles in production. That year, 37 Buick automobiles were made, production increasing to 750 in 1905, 1,400 in 1906, 4,641 in 1907, and 8,800 in 1908, taking the number one spot away from close competitors Oldsmobile, Ford, and Maxwell.[2]

David Buick incorporated his company as the Buick Motor Company on May 19, 1903, in Detroit, Michigan. Buick had been financed by friend and fellow automobile enthusiast, Benjamin Briscoe, who in September, 1903 sold control of the business to James H. Whiting (1842–1919),[5] of Flint Wagon Works, in Flint, Michigan. Whiting moved Buick to Flint, to a location across the street from his factory, with the idea of adding Buick's engines to his wagons.[2] David Buick stayed on as a manager, and re-hired Walter Marr as chief engineer. The engine Buick and Marr developed for this automobile was a two-cylinder valve-in-head engine of 159 cubic inches, with each cylinder horizontal and opposed to the other by 180 degrees.

Louis Chevrolet driving a Buick Bug in the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup

Whiting built only a few automobiles in 1904, the model B, before running out of capital, causing him to bring in William C. Durant that year as controlling investor. Durant built a few more model B's in 1904, and greatly stepped up production for the model C in 1905, and spent the next four years turning Buick into the biggest-selling automobile brand in the US. During the 19th century, Durant had made his fortune as co-owner, also in Flint, with Josiah Dallas Dort, of the Durant-Dort Carriage Company, which by 1904 was the largest carriage-making company in the country and one of the largest in the world.[2] Durant moved most Buick production to the former Durant-Dort Imperial Wheel plant in Jackson, Michigan in 1905. Buick continued car production in Jackson through 1907, when Factory #1 was completed in Flint. The Jackson plant continued production with Buick trucks through 1912.[6] David Buick sold his stock upon departure in 1906, making him a wealthy man, but he died in modest circumstances 25 years later. In 1907, Durant agreed to supply motors to R. S. McLaughlin in Canada, an auto maker, and in 1908 he founded General Motors.[7]

1980s

In the 1980s, Buick's lineup saw several changes including the downsizing of various models. In 1980, Lloyd Reuss was appointed as general manager and further pushed Buick into turbocharging, racing, and performance production cars, building momentum which continued a number of years after his departure in 1984 as he headed toward a brief term as GM president. Als

In the 1980s, Buick's lineup saw several changes including the downsizing of various models. In 1980, Lloyd Reuss was appointed as general manager and further pushed Buick into turbocharging, racing, and performance production cars, building momentum which continued a number of years after his departure in 1984 as he headed toward a brief term as GM president. Also in 1980, the Diesel engine becomes available on select Buick models and Somerset is introduced as a trim/option package on the Regal Limited. In 1981, the T-Type performance trim is introduced on the Riviera. Regal was the official pace car of the Indianapolis 500 race in 1981. In 1982, the Grand National high performance package is first offered on Regal. A soft-top Riviera helped lead the return of the convertible, which had disappeared from domestic lineups in 1976. The following year, a Riviera convertible with a twin-turbo V6 paced Indy 500. Also in 1983, Buick had its best model year to date with 810,435 vehicles sold.

In 1984, Buick was the official car of the XXIII Olympiad. A reorganization split manufacturing & engineering from sales and marketing. The first pilot Buick is produced at "Buick City", a state-of-the art assembly center built inside the walls of Buick's home plan

In 1984, Buick was the official car of the XXIII Olympiad. A reorganization split manufacturing & engineering from sales and marketing. The first pilot Buick is produced at "Buick City", a state-of-the art assembly center built inside the walls of Buick's home plant at Flint. Buick had its best model year sales to date with 906,626 vehicles sold plus Buick worldwide sales topped one million for the first time. To close out 1984, Lloyd Reuss ended his tenure as general manager of the Buick Motor Division.

In 1985, the Somerset was introduced as its own model. Also, the Electra coupe and sedan were redesigned and converted to front-wheel drive and were initially powered by a carbureted 3.0 liter Buick V6 engine, a fuel injected 3.8 liter Buick V6 engine, or a 4.3 liter Oldsmobile diesel V6 engine. Each was mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission with a 0.70:1 overdrive gear. The 3.0 liter V6 and 4.3 liter diesel V6 were no longer offered after 1985. During the 1985 to 1989 model years, the Electra name also continued to be used on the rear-wheel drive B-body "Estate" station wagon. Buick-powered cars won pole and second position in qualifying for Indianapolis 500. Over the next few years, Buick engines would set a number of stock-block records and twice would power a third or more of the 33-car Indy 500 field (11 in 1990 and 12 in 1992). 1985 would be the final year for the rear-drive LeSabre before another downsizing and conversion to front-wheel-drive for 1986 (sedans and coupes only; the rear-drive LeSabre Estate Wagon would soldier on largely unchanged a few more years). The top-line LeSabre Limited became the LeSabre Limited Collectors Edition to mark the end of an era for the rear-wheel drive coupe and sedan; engine offerings included the standard 231 V6 (sedans and coupes) or optional Olds 307 V8 or Oldsmobile 350 diesel V8. 1985 saw Buick's best model year sales to date with 915,336 vehicles sold.

In 1986, the LeSabre was introduced on the new front wheel drive H platform, after departing from rear wheel drive on the GM B platform. Joining the LeSabre on the H-body included the Oldsmobile Delta 88. One of the most striking features of the new LeSabre was the hood was hinged towards the front instead of towards the back near the cowl and windshield in the same fashion as that of the Buick Electra and Chevrolet Corvette of that era. The all new styling and implementation of front wheel drive ushered in a new era for the LeSabre, being of a flush aerodynamic design. Most radical may have been the removal of Buick's long standing Ventiports from the front fenders. In 1986, a LeSabre Grand National model was built to qualify the coupe body-style for NASCAR competition. The LeSabre Grand National is among the rarest of all Buicks ever made, with production numbers of less than 120 units. It was only available in black with gray interior.[31]

Also for 1986, the E-body Riviera was converted to unibody construction and further downsized to a 108 in (2,700 mm) wheelbase similar in length to that of the Buick Regal. The V6 was now the only engine, rated initially at 142 hp (106 kW) SAE and 200 lb⋅ft (270 N⋅m) of torque. It used the Turbo-Hydramatic 440-T4 automatic with a 2.84:1 final drive ratio. This generation was noted for advanced electronic instrumentation displayed on a dash-mounted 9-inch (230 mm) CRT. The CRT controlled the vehicle's climate control system and stereo, and also supplied advanced instrumentation such as a trip computer and maintenance reminder feature. Four-wheel disc brakes were standard. With a choice of three suspension packages available, up to the performance oriented FE3 setting, handling was notably improved. The Riviera placed fourth for Motor Trend's 1986 Car of the Year contest. Fuel economy was notably improved for the 1986 Riviera, but the investment in the downsized, transverse engine front wheel drive platform resulted in a substantial price increase to $19,831 for the base model to $21,577 for the new T-Type. Downsizing also resulted in a dimensional similarity to smaller, less expensive offerings from GM. The smaller dimensions, generic styling, and lack of a V8 led to Riviera sales plummeting to 22,138 for 1986.

In 1987, the last of the turbo/intercooled Regal Grand Nationals, often called the quickest American cars, were offered as well as 547 even quicker special-edition '87 GNXs. It would also be the last year for the rear-wheel drive Regal. General manager Ed Mertz promoted the new "Premium American Motorcars" theme which focused Buick marketing on the various qualities that made the marque famous.

In 1988, Buick was the official car of the U.S. Olympic Team. The Reatta two-seater was introduced, to be followed two years later by a convertible. Also in 1988, Regal was downsized and converted to front-wheel drive. Bobby Allison won the Daytona 500 in a Regal that year and the Academy Award-winning film Rain Man prominently featured a 1949 Roadmaster convertible. 1988 also saw the debut of "The Great American Road Belongs to Buick" slogan.

In 1989, a new Electra trim level was offered called the Park Avenue Ultra. The Ultra was essentially an upgrade to the Electra Park Avenue, and featured a standard leather trimmed interior with dual 20-way power front seats (shared with Cadillac's restyled 1989 Fleetwood Sixty Special), lower-body accent exterior paint treatment, distinctive thick-padded vinyl top with limousine-style rear-window surround (available only on Ultra), simulated burled elm trim on the doors and instrument panel, unique aluminum wheels, anti-lock brakes, chromed B-pillar moldings, specific grille and tail lamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel, electronic instrumentation, padded glove-compartment door, unique interior door panel trim, and a variety of otherwise minor changes. With its long list of standard equipment, the Park Avenue Ultra carried a higher base price than Cadillac's Sedan de Ville. The Riviera was also restyled for 1989, adding 11 inches to its overall length. In the late 1980s, the Flint-built LeSabre ranked #1 in North America and #2 in the world in a major independent quality study which eventually led Buick to change its ad slogan from "The Great American Road Belongs to Buick" to "Buick: The New Symbol for Quality in America."

In 1990, the first Reatta convertible was produced. 1990 was also the last year for the Electra as Park Avenue, previously a trim level on the Electra, became its own model for the 1991 model year. In 1991, Buick led the industry in improvement in sales and market share. A new four-door Regal came to market for 1991, the first Regal sedan since 1984. Buick also introduced a supercharged 3.8-liter V6 in the Park Avenue Ultra. Supercharging became so popular at Buick that by the new millennium, Buick was the leading marketer and industry leader of supercharged cars. 1991 saw the return of the Roadmaster after a 33-year absence. The Roadmaster was first offered as a wagon only and then a sedan was added for 1992.

For 1992, the popular LeSabre was redesigned along the same lines as the previous year's Park Avenue. 1992 also saw introduction of a new, redesigned Skylark. In 1993, a special edition LeSabre was sold to commemorate B

For 1992, the popular LeSabre was redesigned along the same lines as the previous year's Park Avenue. 1992 also saw introduction of a new, redesigned Skylark. In 1993, a special edition LeSabre was sold to commemorate Buick's 90th anniversary. In addition to Custom trim level standard equipment, this model included "90th Anniversary" badging, cassette player, cruise control, rear window defogger, power driver's seat, carpeted floor mats, exterior pinstripes, and choice of wire or aluminum wheel covers.

In 1995, after a hiatus in 1994, the Riviera returned with radical styling that departed from the previous generations' more traditional image. A 205 hp (153 kW) naturally aspirated 3800 V6 was standard, with a supercharged version rated at 225 hp (168 kW) and 275 lb⋅ft (373 N⋅m) available as an option. Rivieras were now built in Lake Orion, Michigan, riding the same Cadillac-derived G platform as the 4-door Oldsmobile Aurora.

In 1996, both the Roadmaster sedan and wagon were discontinued. In 1998, after 95 years in Flint, Buick headquarters was moved to Detroit. Bob Coletta, Buick general manager, saw the first Chinese Buick roll off line at Shanghai before he turned over top Buick job to Roger Adams. Buick Gallery and Research Center opened at Flint's Sloan Museum. A reorganization at the division split sales from marketing.

In 1999, the last of nearly 16 million Buicks was built in Flint’s Buick City. The last car, a 1999 LeSabre, rolled off the assembly line on June 29 that year. In a major independent quality study, Buick ranked #2 (and top domestic) among 37 international brands and Buick City shared top world position among automotive assembly plants. With sales of all coupes declining in the North American market, GM decided to discontinue the Riviera. 1999 was the car's last model year with production ceasing on November 25, 1998. The final 200 cars had special silver paint and trim, and were denoted "Silver Arrow"[32] models, a designation which hearkened back to several Silver Arrow show cars that had been built off Riviera bodies by Bill Mitchell. The eighth-generation Rivieras received the most powerful V6 Buick engine since the Grand Nationals of the 1980s. The supercharged OHV V6 gave impressive torque and acceleration, pushing the car from 0 to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) in under 7 seconds, and turning the ​14 mile in 15.5 seconds and achieved MPG fuel efficiency ratings of 18 city/27 highway.

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