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Guest Commentary 
by David R. Hendricks

SUV
Buick’s designing woman
   May 11, 2001
WELL, I'VE NEVER WRITTEN A LETTER TO A MANUFACTURER LIKE THIS. Maybe it was just the coincidence of the lunchtime conversation with my coworkers and the NBC News story about your new 'wonderful' SUV. I'm not trying to be a jerk. I'm trying to help. I doubt that I will though. In fact, I'm most certain this little treatise will  be laughed at and thrown in the garbage, much less thoughtfully replied to, much, much less heeded. First, let me make this clear- I have always LIKED Buick, although I've never owned one. Not because of what you make, but because of what you USED to be. I love what the Buick brand used to symbolize: attainable status, elegance, power, and quality. Do you know what you represent now? Old age, stuck-in-one's-ways boredom, not to mention marginal quality and reliability. Sorry folks, but that's just the God's honest truth from some anonymous nobody who can see and hear what people's general opinions are- because I live out here in the real world each and every day.

I don't care what your surveys have told you. I don't care what your focus groups have told you. I don't care what auto and consumer magazines may say. I know I'm right, and I can prove it... look at your sales for the past 10-15-20 years.  See a pattern? Don't blame the economy, Arabs, Japanese or  whatever or whoever. It's your fault. It is the long term result of abysmally bad decisions in styling, design, cost-cutting, marketing, outsourcing, and quality control. Deal with it.

Then tonight I saw how you plan to apparently commit suicide. Let me see if I understand your  logic... our sales have been sliding downhill for two decades, so the way for us to fix this is to put someone in a key design position who has gotten the position because they are an immediate relative of a former executive.

Sure- That'll work. Putting the relative of one of the people involved in your downhill slide will fix things for sure. Does anyone there have enough education to understand how bloodline-monarchies  contribute to the downfall of the societies they lord over? HELLO???

I'm not a sexist. I couldn't care less about a key designer being a woman- that's fine. I couldn't care less about a key designer being a mother. that's fine too. But let's face it. Instead of looking for truly fresh blood who might have brought life-saving fresh air to the operation... you chose to go with the line of decision-makers that got you into this death spiral to start with.

Good plan, guys. Way to follow Oldsmobile's lead.

Now the REAL joke all of us "regular joes" (a.k.a. regular car-buying joes [and josephines]) are laughing at you for.... somehow a struggling auto giant has decided, with all of its supposed marketing and sales genius.. that the way to save itself is to put all of its eggs into yet ANOTHER boring basket- yet another SUV, of which there are already uncountable brands and versions, and expect that theirs will be SO different that it will completely turn the fate of the entire company around.

You people have truly lost your minds.

Do any of you buy gasoline? People are now starting to question SUV purchases because of the mere cost of gasoline. Minor detail. Don't get me wrong- building an economy car won't help you either, but fuel costs are going to make it even tougher for an already bad idea to pan out.

Guys, for the love of God, think about this- you are trying to turn the fortune- the future- of your company around by playing 'catch-up ball' with the likes of the Ford Explorer. You will not win.  How can you be who you are up there in those expensive offices and not understand that you will NEVER become a leader by copying the guys that are ahead of you? (BTW, stuff like putting in holes for purses and footrests into your SUV are not adequate innovation for saving a corporation)

Can you not understand that you WIN by making the OTHER GUYS follow YOU? You become the leader by being the one to innovate and take risks- by building what the other guys don't build. You WIN by building what takes people's breath away- by building what people thrill over- by building what people will line up to see when you unveil next year's model. But some how you have chosen not to win. For the life of me I cannot understand you. You have somehow concluded that you will beat everyone else, turn your company around by playing it safe- by copying the mundane.

I'd sure like to see your historical evidence that proves that plan works.

I'm sure your new SUV designer is a fine woman, and I have absolutely no doubt that she is putting in the sincerest of efforts. But they are to the wrong end.

The thing that makes the jaws of us anonymous POTENTIAL car buyers drop, is the unfathomable fact that you seem to have the essence of THE right answer right under your noses.... but still apparently invisible due to fatal short-sightedness.

You have someone in your midst with the imagination to produce a concept like the Bengal, and several other recent efforts that I can tell you make nearly EVERYONE's heart pound- cars that people confess they would find a way to get a loan for, find a way to purchase, find a way to HAVE- because the cars are NOT what they can get anywhere else.

Can someone tell me what is so incredibly difficult to understand about this equation? What is it you don't understand about desire+availability+realistic price=CAR SALES?

Don't tell me about demographics, current market trends, blah blah blah. Those trends are  based on what has ALREADY been done. The IDEA is to create NEW TRENDS- the IDEA is for YOU to SET THE STANDARD. The IDEA is to be FIRST!!!!!

If you don't understand those simple facts, then the best thing you can do for Buick is to go to work for Ford, or Honda. Anyone at Buick who doesn't hold the desire to make the trends, set the standards, to be first.... needs to be fired.

You want to be the Buick of old you need to get more people in your design studio like the designers of your recent more impressive concepts. Put enthusiastic yuks like me in there that aren't afraid to be first, to make trends and set standards.... and are willing to put in the enormous effort necessary to make those new ground-breaking designs achievable realities for the public. 

People will buy what 'wows' them, folks. They purchase cars like that faster than you can build them.

Go to your home page and take an objective look at those cars. Every single one except the run-of-the-mill SUV looks the same- B-O-R-I-N-G. For crying out loud you could make ONE car that looks like all the autos on your page for the retirees, then scrap the other 4 clones, then replace them with 4 original, exciting, attainable cars that excite the senses as does your Bengal concept. Which line up do YOU think would sell better? Duh.

If you can't get all that through your heads, then, well, I guess you deserve to go out of business.

You know I still have my first car? It's an Oldsmobile... I actually started to tear up when I heard Oldsmobile was a goner. I couldn't believe it, but at the same time I knew why- they bored their customers away- and that was really a crime- death by lack of imagination and courage.

Buick is PART of America. You have it within your power to see that it remains a part of its future, or nothing but a fixture- a relic of its past. I hope you choose the former- and I hope you realize that yet another SUV has no hope of accomplishing such a formidable task. After all, if I wanted an SUV, I could get one of those anywhere from just about anybody. Something like the Bengal, or equally imaginative however, is something I would ENTHUSIASTICALLY work out the financing  for... and I know I'm not the only one out here.- And I also know, looking at the concepts of other manufacturers, that there is nowhere else I can go to for anything equivalent. But I doubt I'll  be able to go to Buick either... not at this rate certainly.

Thanks for your time... you can throw this away now, I guess... I've said my piece, and by saying it I had no desire to be mean, to hurt feelings, or be antagonistic. I just wanted you to know that there are people out here who really care about whether or not your company survives, people who already own your cars, and people who don't. There's nothing I'd like to do more than to help American companies like yours survive, but my money goes to those who are going to build the cars my money deserves to be spent on. Boring clone type cars are not an option. It is a simple concept to understand... if you keep doing what you've done for the past 20 years, your sales are going to continue as they have for the past 20 years. So... Do you want to turn it around or not? What's it going to be? It's time to act. NOW.

Best Regards, David R. Hendricks

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