How Buick Saved Itself from the Brink

Buick might not be the first name you imagine when you think about cars manufactured in the USA, but it’s certainly one of the oldest. Scottish-David Buick is the person that made Buick using car prototypes and engines back in 1899. Buick’s skill in the realm of engine development would prove to be a necessary cog in the future success of the company. Mr. Buick owned a number of companies and one of them was the Buick Motor company, which was based in Detroit, Michigan.

Since David didn’t have enough money to proceed with his company alone, he sold it in 1903 to James Whiting of Flint, Michigan, who incorporated it to create the Buick Motor Co. of Flint. The first Buick was made in Flint around mid 1904. Walter Marr a well-respected engineer became the lead engineer for Buick. Marr had coincidentally bought “The Buick Automobile”, a horseless carriage, from Mr. Buick back in 1901, for about $200.

After an extremely auspicious test run, manufacturing of Model B went into overdrive and thirty seven cars were made by the end of the early 1900s. The Buick 1904 Model B had a tiny 83-inch wheelbase. For historical perspective, the 2013 Encore with its 100.6 inch wheelbase is the smallest since the Buick of 1912.

The Buick Company started having money problems again in 1904 and the company sought to bring Billy Durant, the biggest producer of horse drawn cars inside the U.S. into Buick.  Billy sold orders for 1,000 Buick cars when he went on a trip to the 1905 New York Automobile Show. Not an easy thing to do for a company that had the production of only 40 cars to its credit at the time. Charles Mott was convinced to relocate his axle company from Utica, NY, Flint. There he would produce the axles for Buick’s line of cars.

Buick now led the U.S.  In car sales and Durant formed a holding company, calling it General Motors. With Durant as the boss numerous big-name companies were brought in to what would be an all-star cast beneath the GM umbrella: Buick, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Oakland (now Pontiac), and a spark plug maker named AC Spark Plug, owned by Albert Champion.

A lot more companies were added to GM until the number was more than 30 in 1910. In 1910, the rapid growth of the holding company made Durant lose control to another group. Without skipping a beat, Durant partnered with Louis Chevrolet and began the company known as Chevrolet. Making use of the Chevrolet Company, they re-established their control over General Motors in 1915 to 1916.

Business increased throughout the roaring ‘20s and manufacturing improved to 260,000 in the year 1926, but success came at a cost. The Great Depression slapped Buick down. In 1933, another great business move saved the Buick Company, when Harlow Curtice from AC Spark Plugs was hired. Curtice had an idea to enhance the power and speed of the Buick automobiles. The production of the series 40 began in the year 1934 and it’s never before seen power was genius. Selling for $865, production exceeded 78,000 that year for that Buick model alone. Even today, sales for Buick luxury have been very good, and a great source of income for dealers like Sheboygan GM of Wisconsin.

Buick’s history of making great business decisions when faced with financial adversity and hiring the proper individuals haven’t only saved it from going under numerous times, but has allowed it to continue to be a contender in the American car market. Given its 110 year run, no one can argue otherwise.