(first posted 1/26/2016) Lucerne. Cobalt. G6. Pleasant, inoffensive names that have one thing in common: they all replaced decades-old nameplates, and they each lasted only a single generation. Let’s take a look at the names that came before and investigate why they were dumped.
Final year? 2005
How old was the name?
It first premiered in 1959, replacing the Special nameplate. Unlike the much cooler Invicta and Electra nameplates also introduced that year, the LeSabre name survived into the 21st century.
How was it looking?
You could criticize the LeSabre for its soft handling, fuddy-duddy image and mediocre interior fittings, but Buick’s full-size, front-wheel-drive sedan was immensely popular – regularly America’s best-selling full-size sedan – and was reliable, safe, fuel-efficient, spacious and comfortable. It had no illusions of being anything more than what it was; while its G-Body platform-mates were offering V8s and supercharged V6s, the LeSabre stuck with a lone Buick 3.8 V6. The last “European-inspired” LeSabre was the T-Type of 1987-89, although a Gran Touring suspension package remained an option long after. Import-intenders could shop at Oldsmobile, Saturn or Pontiac: the LeSabre was all-American.
What replaced it?
The 2006 Lucerne took the same platform and base engine, added an optional Northstar V8, and featured inoffensive styling and a more attractive interior. In theory, it retained the LeSabre’s core strengths and added a fresher wrapper. This new appearance was hardly polarizing and had subtle European touches to appeal to buyers new to the brand. The base price was even the same.
Did it make sense to scrap the name?
Something has to explain why Lucerne sales were such a disappointment. Could the name have been to blame? Consider this: the Lucerne replaced both the LeSabre and Park Avenue and sold 96,515 units in its debut year, 2006. In 2004, though, the LeSabre had sold 18k more units and the aging Park Avenue mustered another 17k on its own. The LeSabre was consistently a 100k-plus seller, while the Lucerne saw volumes drop each year. Was the Lucerne’s poor performance due to a segment on the decline? Were the LeSabre’s loyal buyers skeptical of the new name, or were they simply not buying new cars anymore due to their advancing ages?
Final year? 2005
How old was the name?
The Cavalier name first appeared in America in 1982, although it first appeared on a Vauxhall in 1975. For 1982, both the Vauxhall and Chevrolet Cavalier shared the same, ubiquitous J-Body platform. While the European Cavalier (and Opel Ascona/Vectra) evolved, shifting to a new platform for 1988, the American Cavalier retained the same basic platform although it received an extensive redesign in 1995.
How was it looking?
Given the age of the car, not so well. What started off as GM’s attempt to hit the Honda Accord head-on eventually became Chevy’s blue-light special compact. Sure, it was more reliable than a Vega or a Citation had been but it never aspired to be the best compact and sold predominantly on price. By its final season, it had received a dubious facelift and even lost the standard ABS that GM had trumpeted so loudly 13 years prior. Tired and cheap both inside and out, it still sold strongly because of the extensive Chevrolet dealer network and a base MSRP $3k below that of the Toyota Corolla.
What replaced it?
The J-Body platform was finally cast off in favor of GM’s global Delta architecture, shared with the Opel Astra. The Cavalier’s replacement was the much more substantial Cobalt which retained almost nothing from its replacement other than its base engine. It wasn’t the Civic beater GM was hoping for but it was safer and more refined. Most importantly, it didn’t outstay its welcome: the Cobalt’s final year was 2010, and in 2011 the even more competitive Cruze replaced it.
Did it make sense to scrap the name?
There were plenty of loyal Cavalier buyers who were perfectly happy with their compact Chevy. But with the Aveo catering to more price-conscious consumers and the new Cobalt making more of a concerted effort to rival the Corolla and Honda Civic, the Cavalier nameplate – long associated with heavy incentives and mediocre build quality – needed to go.
Pontiac Grand Am
Final year? 2005
How old was the name?
The Grand Am name first appeared in 1973 on a luxury touring sedan and coupe based on the mid-size LeMans; the name suggested Grand Prix luxury and Trans Am performance. It had a short run, disappearing after 1975. The name then reappeared on a LeMans derivative with a similar mission in 1978, again disappearing after just three model years. It returned in 1986 on Pontiac’s version of the new, compact N-Body. Although the ’86 N-Bodies were purportedly developed as successors to the mid-size, RWD G-Body, they assumed the role previously occupied by the GM X-Body and the Grand Am thereafter became Pontiac’s large compact (small intermediate?) offering.
How was it looking?
As the formerly compact Camry and Accord grew, domestic cars like the Grand Am occupied a curious market space as they were sized and priced between the Corolla/Civic and Camry/Accord duos. The Grand Am, like many Pontiacs, had also become more and more garishly styled culminating in an extensive 1999 redesign that added even more dramatic cladding, spoilers, fog lights and an adventurous interior. Although the Grand Am was no more powerful than the related Oldsmobile Alero, the look struck a chord with buyers and the Grand Am remained far and away Pontiac’s biggest seller and one of the best-selling cars in North America. As the 1999 generation continued its run, though, sales started to tick downwards for both the Grand Am and the entire Pontiac division.
What replaced it?
Pontiac commenced the rollout of the G6 range in 2005, starting with V6 sedans that year and continuing with a 4-cylinder engine, larger V6 engines, and coupe and convertible variants over the next couple of years. Riding a 5.3 inch-longer wheelbase, the G6 was positioned and sized much closer to the Accord and Camry and was cleanly detailed albeit still striking with its wedgy profile.
Did it make sense to scrap the name?
While sales of the G6 didn’t crack the 200k barrier like the Grand Am had accomplished throughout the 1990s and most recently in 2000, volumes stayed steady at late Grand Am levels. The loss of another actual name, in favor of an alphanumeric designation, was something many bemoaned but the G6 was so thoroughly different in appearance a name change made sense. The G6 had also become Pontiac’s core mid-size offering as the larger Grand Prix was de-emphasized somewhat. Retaining a compact’s name for an intermediate would perhaps have been unwise.
Final year? 2005, with only the crew-cab remaining as the S10’s replacement had arrived in 2004.
How old was the name?
The S10 nameplate debuted in 1982 on GM’s first American-developed compact pickup since the Corvair 95, which was axed after 1964; the compact Chevy truck role had been, for many of the intervening years, filled by the captive import LUV from Isuzu.
How was it looking?
Redesigned for 1994, the S10 was little changed in subsequent years. Inexpensive, durable and reliable, the S10 was no class-leader but it sold well.
Did it make sense to scrap the name?
The 2004 Colorado replaced the S10 and was a little larger and had a more powerful base engine and a higher price. The Toyota Tacoma left it in the weeds, sales-wise, and Chevrolet eventually exited the compact pickup market entirely in North America only to return in 2014. Arguably, the new name was not the downfall of Chevrolet’s compact pickup, with much of the blame attributable to higher prices and heavy competition.
Buick Park Avenue
Final year? 2005
How old was the name?
“Park Avenue” first appeared on a short-deck Cadillac sedan from 1962-63. An elegant, upscale name, GM eventually dusted it off in 1975 for use on an option package on their prestigious Electra line. It eventually became a permanent trim level before Buick dropped the Electra nameplate after 1990. For 1991, Park Avenue became the official name of Buick’s largest front-wheel-drive and most expensive sedan.
How was it looking?
Both the 1991-96 and 1997-2005 generations of Park Avenue were handsomely-styled sedans. But the latter generation, especially, lived in the shadow of the LeSabre which outsold it by a considerable margin. The Park Avenue was dimensionally larger and offered an available supercharged version of the Buick 3.8 V6, but the LeSabre had been redesigned for 2000 and thus was a fresher design; the smaller sedan also offered many of the luxury features of the Park Avenue. Between 2000 and 2004, sales decreased 64%. This was despite a light facelift in 2003 that brought back the old Buick VentiPorts and some more chrome.
What replaced it?
Buick consolidated its lineup over the 2005-07 period: the Enclave replaced the Rendezvous, Terraza and Rainier; the LaCrosse replaced the Century and Regal; and the Lucerne took care of the LeSabre and Park Avenue. While the rather fuel-efficient supercharged V6 in the Ultra was discontinued, the Lucerne offered V8 power – the formerly Cadillac-exclusive Northstar – and was the first V8-powered Buick sedan since the Roadmaster of ’96. The range-topping CXS V8 was priced a considerable $6k below the base ’05 Park Avenue, but added GM’s trick Magnetic Ride Control, a nicer interior and a 2-inch longer wheelbase.
Did it make sense to scrap the name?
Lucerne is a beautiful city in Switzerland and Buick was becoming more of a European division, as evidenced by half of their current lineup being sold as Opels in Europe. But the Lucerne was still very much a luxury sedan in the American vein and Park Avenue was an evocative name connoting American style and prestige. After the name was discontinued in North America, Buick China used it on their rebadged Holden WM Caprice from 2007 until 2012 which even received an attractive, unique-to-China interior.
Lucerne. Colorado. G6. Cobalt. None of these cars sold better than their predecessors that had much more established nameplates. The G6 and the Cobalt sold acceptably, the Lucerne and Colorado trailed off disappointingly. Would GM have been best to retain the heritage nameplates? Which nameplate is most missed?
Automotive Histories: When The Old Names Died (Part I)
Curbside Classic: 1963 Cadillac Park Avenue
Car Show Classic: 1960 Buick LeSabre Convertible
Curbside Classic: 1982 Chevrolet Cavalier
Currently own both a 2000 LeSabre and a 2007 Lucerne. The LeSabre gets 20 MPG easily in the city while the Lucerne struggles to get 17 MPG. On the highway, both get 30 MPG. The Lucerne is the better appointed and quieter riding car. The Lucerne is based on the Cadillac DTS platform, which explains the improvements. Looking to replace the LeSabre with a 2005 model. Love the 3800 engine and the low repair costs of the LeSabre. A big plus is the lack of touch screen controls and other high tech stuff that will be expensive to repair/replace.
Why the sales drop for Lucerne? It was introduced in 2006, when the SUV craze was starting to grow. It’s a good car, but nothing exceptional. It never received much of Buick’s ad dollars either.
In 2006, the SUV craze was more “in full swing” than “starting to grow.”
would a circa 2007 resolution touch-screen would be more expensive to replace than a regular head unit?
The Lucerne is an ugly cut off car and is plain and boring looking. The,8 was a north star. They should have kept the lesabre and park ave. Name and car too.
Cavaliers suck so good riddance to the car and name. G6 was less attractive than grand am and a stupid name. Should have called it grand am. But boring as g6 was they could have called it grand ma.
S 10 another meaningless name. Colorado or even el camino would be better names. The new trutck is much nicer to ride in but weirdly car like inside. Ugly grill and lights. Name is ok. Should have called it el Camino. At least the name doesn’t sound like a disease like Tacoma does.
Feeling a little hateful?
I think no matter what the name: Park Avenue, LeSabre, or Lucerne, Buick was in trouble in the 2000s. I saw many Buick sedan owners and potential owners switching to the now “established” Toyota Avalon.
It’s my idea, perhaps wrong, that Pontiac struck a chord with the Grand Am’s styling. Most other car brands wouldn’t start and stop and start and stop and stop and start a name. Folks managed to see the car as being a bit special and what they wanted, even if Pontiac couldn’t seem to stick with it. The G6 might have had lower sales as a Grand Am…..or maybe even a LeMans, but the G6 name sounds like it should be on a computer, or gun.
The Grand Am was the blue collar, wrong-side-of-the-tracks 3-series. Back when I had my E30 and E36, anytime I went out on a weekend evening I could count on some teen or twenty something with a Grand Am getting a bit on the aggressive side while running in traffic around me.
If anything, I’ve always felt that the Grand Am was the other side of the supposed “snotty douchebag” reputation of BMW owners. Have to put up with enough of them, and you actually start feeling like you’re something superior.
The Grand Am was also the young yuppie favorite. After all, just out of school, the money wasn’t quite there to afford the 3-series just yet! Those things were all over STL back in those days!
GrandAm, yuppie??? In what galaxy? No offense, but I think Syke’s characterization above, while perhaps profiling, is much more accurate. Unless you lived in a popular tourism area, in which case rental GrandAm’s driven by yuppies – and by grandma’s were certainly common. Of all these name changes, I can understand Chevy dropping Cavalier, as the car just didn’t have a good reputation by the end. And similarly with the S10 …. by the time it was replaced, GM’s truck names were all geographic (Tahoe, Yukon, Silverado) except Suburban (which I guess could be consider geographic as well) although the semi-alliterative nature of “Chevy Colorado” seemed like a blatant copy of “Toyota Tacoma”. I preferred GMC Sonoma, perhaps because I’m a NorCal native. And perhaps its my imagination, but the Chevy Cruze seems pretty popular here in Santa Cruz, even though we have no Chevy (or any GM) dealer in town.
I agree, the Avalon seems to be taking over Buick’s market role as big sedan for the “mature” buyer. I doubt it’s over reliability, as Buick has usually scored well here in Consumer Reports; maybe buyers have been loyal Toyota customers in the past & don’t go for Buick’s traditional American feel. The so-called “Greatest Generation,” who preferred baroque K-cars, Panthers, & B/C-bodies, is becoming extinct.
Last I checked, the Avalon has lots of rear-seat legroom, maybe rivaling the Town Car.
The Lucerne’s name did it in. When the LeSabre was cancelled, Buick introduced the Lucerne and Lacross.
Luh-Sabre. Luh-cross. Luh-cerne. Luh, luh, luh they got their clientele confused. Had the cars had names with different phonetics it would have helped tremendously.
At least part of the problem with the new Colorado (although I haven’t a clue how sales are, other than they were pleasant enough to have warranted juggling shifts and breaks at the plant in Wentzville last summer) is the size and price vs. those of the half-ton. Sorry, I’m not going to pay 75% to 90% the price of a full-size pickup for something that will only do about 65% what a full-sizer will do. Yes, I know those figures can vary wildly, but that’s part of what led to the downfall of the Ranger and S-10 was there was often little difference in price for a big difference in utility.
Killing the Grand Am name was a mercy killing by GM.
The Colorado/Canyon trucks are a big hit, selling well above projections. Buyers of these trucks, along with the Tacoma, are buying lifestyle vehicles, so that direct comparisons with the big trucks on a size/dollar basis are irrelevant.
Ford was caught off guard by not having a competitor in this hot sector, and is of course rushing to get its new Ranger back in the arena.
I knew the 2nd Generation Colorado was successful (thus the juggling of shifts) and Ford was indeed caught off guard. Sales for 2015 were around 114,000 I believe.
My comparison was more aimed at the 1st Generation Colorado and even back to the days of the S-10 and Ranger. I’ve had more than one Ford salesman tell me a loaded Ranger was a great way to sell a comparably equipped F-150 and I’ve seen other people intent on a smaller pickup get a full-sizer. It all boils down to what a person needs and expects.
With the way 1st Generation Colorado sales tapered off, I’m hopeful this new generation will be able to realize a much more consistent (and hopefully upward) trajectory.
Not at all. Ford even back in the mid-to-late-2000s when gas shot up the first time was talking about bringing over the global Ranger as the F-100. Trouble was, the global Ranger at that time was about 85% of an F-150, so there was little penalty for just going full-sized. They didn’t think there was enough of a market to dedicate North American production, and importing it would have make the price unrealistic.
Now that F-150’s grown even more (seriously, saw a 2015 parked next to a 2011 Ranger at a dealer in mid-Illinois a few weeks ago-OH MY GOD the Ranger looked like a toddler compared to the F-150!) and the market’s started to indicate interest in smaller trucks again, global Ranger makes more sense at this point.
You’ve being successfully fooled by the styling. The current F-150, compared to the ’04-’08 generation, has the same wheelbase, is exactly 2″ longer and 1″ wider. And of course the beds are the same size. Looks can be deceptive.
As a former Ford employee, I might have assumed you knew this. 🙂
It’s the same with the new Colorado/Canyon: everyone thinks they’re so big, much bigger than the old one. Not so; just a bit taller.
Not the styling. Direct from Mark Fields when he was President of the Americas.
Also, since I typed a thing and it told me I can’t edit my comment now:
Fields was absolutely right: Global ranger, at the time, was 85 percent of an F-150. My observation of the 2011 Ranger next to a 2015 F-150 was of a U.S. market Ranger. They were sat next to each other in the front of the lot at a Ford dealership in a small town along I-55 in Illinois. Trust me, the 2011 Ranger looked like a toddler next to the 2015 F-150.
At any rate, my point was that Ford, who dedicate a lot of time, energy, and research into the truck market and has successfully led that market for over three decades, was not “caught off guard” by the small truck market. They knew it was there. They talked about it being there. They talked about ways to have a Ford entrant in it. And they concluded there was not a sufficiently strong business case for Ford to offer a smaller truck, even as they had a smaller truck that was designed for pretty much every global market and could have certainly been offered in North America.
Hell, they didn’t even see enough of a market being there in 2007/2008 for them to bother with the Ranger we already had.
Your response doesn’t make any sense to me. Please re-read your prior comment, in which you say that while the Ranger was once not that much smaller than an F150Now that F-150’s grown even more (seriously, saw a 2015 parked next to a 2011 Ranger at a dealer in mid-Illinois a few weeks ago-OH MY GOD the Ranger looked like a toddler compared to the F-150!)
You’re comparing your perceptions (not Mark Fields’) of the Ranger compared to two different generations of F Series. My point is that the F Series really didn’t grow more than 2″ in length.
It’s obvious Ford didn’t see the market; but GM did. A rare case of Ford being upstaged by GM in the pickup market.
“It’s the same with the new Colorado/Canyon: everyone thinks they’re so big, much bigger than the old one. Not so; just a bit taller.”
That and the styling is overall more bloated/bulbous. Just looks pregnant to my eye. The Dakota seemed to be that ‘just right’ size truck. Trouble was that for just a few $$ more, you can upgrade to a fullsize Ram. The value per dollar just wasnt there, and in ’10 the market for trucks/suvs was pretty flat. And the Dak was an aging platform.
The new GM twins are doing well, but still Tacoma outsold the Colorado and Sonoma combined last year, even in the Taco’s “lame duck” model year with the imminent 2016 refresh well publicized. As for the perceived growth of the F150, while actual dimensions may be close to older versions, the slab-sides, taller hood and much taller bed sides do make the new trucks feel and drive bigger. Also, I don’t really understand the “bigger = better” argument that’s being used everywhere when discussing the pricing of these trucks. Is an Avalon better than a Camry, or an Outback better than a CrossTrek, just because it is bigger? If you need it to fit in a garage or driveway, or down a narrow trail, size isn’t always a virtue. And realistically, a loaded Tacoma is well under $40K while a comparable Silverado or F150 tops $50K now, retail, though full-sizers’ real transaction costs are highly discounted. Add in real-world fuel savings and the mid-sizers make sense to me. Now, let’s wait for the Ranger here in North America!
You bring up some very good points. The issue with the Big Three was that the compact trucks had to be a certain price point in order to make profit off them but that price point was so high that for a few more Ben Franklins, you could get a full size truck. Then there were the dealers, the one I worked for sent out a memo to all the sales folks that pushed them to try to up sell a Chevy 1500 to a customer coming into buy an S-10 or Colorado.
I also don’t agree with the bigger is better mantra. What good is a great deal on a full size truck if I cannot fit it in my designated parking space at my house? The deal becomes worthless.
Before I bought my 2011 Colorado, I rented a Chevy 1500 extended cab and a F150 and both stuck out of my parking space or overhung the sidewalk in front of it. Thus non were viable. I then looked at and bought a base model (vinyl floors/seats) Colorado work truck. It has plenty of room for crap from Home Depot or the dump or the junk yard or moving things and fits fine in parking spaces but it is also comfortable to use as a daily driver should I not want to drive the Deville.
I heard that “Lacrosse” means something quite nasty to French Quebecers. Not sure how true that is.
LeSabre was always a much nicer name.
I sort of feel like in the 2000s GM was throwing darts
in the dark with some of these renamings. Often the
name of a car has the most impression on customers
who are looking to trade in within the class, or to
More importantly though, did they elicit customer input
in the redesigns, particularly in the cases of the larger
Much closer to home, Lucerne is also a brand of dairy products sold by Safeway and the grocers it owned. I think more Americans (who the Buick Lucerne was aimed at) would associate the name with a grocer instead of Switzerland, thus making the Buick analogous to milk and ice cream.
That’s exactly what I was thinking! I just had some Lucerne Half and Half in my coffee this morning. Though given the bland, squishy nature of the car, perhaps a dairy product did provide a fitting name…
Horse feed, that’s what it is.
Lucerne is grown here as baleage animal feed fascinating that Buick would name a car after that.
Lucerne has been the house brand of dairy products at Safeway, a major American supermarket chain, for many years. Lucerne is also a brand of milk in Canada. Say “Lucerne!” at any random Canadian or American and the odds are much greater they’ll say “Milk” than “Buick”.
To the older generation, Buick dumping the LeSabre was like their favorite restaurant dropping their favorite dish. No reason to go back there. I know several older people who aren’t into the Internet or anything automotive,but when it came time for a new car they always knew a LeSabre or a Mercury Grand Marquis was a safe bet.
My mother has been driving GMs her whole life, and her last 3 cars were LeSabres, one of each of the last 3 generations. (Weirdly enough, my favorite is still the original boxy downsized ’89.)
Her ’04 recently needed a replacement, and without any LeSabres to buy, she is now the proud owner of a new Ford Fusion.
AMC used the Cavalier name on their 1965 concept car, but GM had apparently filed for the name previously, as AMC were not able to use it as they had hoped on the what became the Javelin, introduced in 1968.
These new names are a symptom of the decline in volume. With imports adding so much production capacity to a stagnant car market, it was inevitable. Then with smaller volumes, models like the Cavalier and the Grand Am move to available but more expensive world platforms. This hastens the decline, as there just is no way to sell a new Cobalt for 3k less than a Corolla, even if that is what the loyal Cavalier buyer expects.
With the Lucerne, the obvious thing to do was to call it a Park Avenue, so Lesabre buyers feel like they are getting a upgrade at trade in time. But with the Australian model in consideration as a flagship, not possible. Maybe Electra would have been a better choice.
Names like G6, Cobalt, Colorado and Lucerne were only going to contribute to the decline. GM was just not in a position to establish a new name. Since old names don’t die when they are doing well, Acura excluded, the tinge of defeat hangs over the new model, even Toyota with so many Tercel names. Or Infiniti with their new naming strategy. I bet Honda gives no thought whatever to changing the name of the Accord for the next generation. This even as the car developed from a subcompact to a full size.
Since the Lucerne was split between LeSabre and Park Avenue, Logic dictates that Electra would have been the best choice, plus It had not only been unused since 1990, It had been deemphasized even longer. That would give Buick a name that loyalists respected while being largely “new” to the younger set. a hybrid called “Electra” would sound better than “Volt” too.
Thinking further, an Electra might sound to younger ears too much like an Elantra, the successful Hyundai compact. Centurian? An old Buick name for a car defending the old guard.
[i] With the Lucerne, the obvious thing to do was to call it a Park Avenue, so Lesabre buyers feel like they are getting a upgrade at trade in time [/i]
That would indeed be a historical GM response, in somewhat cynically renaming the next standard model the name of the top trim version of the previous model so it would seem better….Electra to Electra 225, Electra 225 to Electra Limited, Electra Limited to Electra Limited ‘Park Avenue’, Electra Limited ‘Park Avenue’ to Electra Park Avenue, Electra Park Avenue to Park Avenue.
Maybe they should have called it the Buick Ultra, since the last Park Avenue top trim version was the Park Avenue Ultra.
As for the name “Lucerne” they were asking the most traditional GM buyers remaining to essentially start from scratch, but for no particular reason. Another reasonable (and also in the GM tradition) approach might have been to keep calling it the LeSabre with the V6, and then give it 4 Ventiports and a Park Avenue quality interior with the V8, and stick some fancy trim level name at the end…”introducing the LeSabre Grosse Pointe”
Disclaimer: I love big Buicks, and little big Buicks like the 91-06 Parkie, but I do find the name debasement tradition at GM a bit off-putting.
I can just imagine the marketing folk groaning at you referring to your Park Avenue as a Parkie!
From this list, I was most sorry to see LeSabre go. It was a good name that served the brand well. The frumpiness that later became associated with the LeSabre name actually could be applied to everything Buick was making. All their names were tarnished when applied to less-than-impressive cars… That’s why I feel Cavalier and Grand Am were also so thoroughly wrecked.
As for Park Avenue, I never liked when it replaced Electra (one of my favorites) which sounds contemporary and cool, with a stuffy street name from New York City. Trim package, yes, model name, no.
To be fair, though, it wasn’t until I was an adult I knew what an Electra was. I mean, Buick so de-emphasized the name with the H-Body versions that to this day I don’t understand why they’re referred to as an Electra in any way, shape, or form. By the time I was old enough to start paying attention to this stuff the Electras had pretty much all gone, at least where I was growing up. To this day I literally have never seen an H-Body wearing an Electra badge, yet somehow they’re Electras and not Park Avenues?
LeSabre and Park Avenue make sense to me. They both sound upscale and sophisticated. Electra sounds like a shaver to me. Grand National at least made sense as a name, even though it made no sense at all as a Buick.
Technically, the Pre 1992 FWD Electra’s were “C” bodies and FWD LeSabres were “H” bodies. If you come across any Pre 1990 Park Avenue, and it’s not a Cadillac, it’s an Electra Park Avenue.
You’re right, I misspoke about the platforms. What’s funny is that I’ve owned a LeSabre and a Bonneville. My point still stands about the ’86-’90 Electras, though. Find me one with an actual Electra badge on it and I’ll buy you a beer. They just don’t exist.
Electra Limited remained around until 1990, I’m unsure about the lesser Electra 380 through. The Park Avenue trim variant oldsold the lesser Electra lines (esp with the FWD Lesabre in production). This makes ’86-’90 Limiteds rare but they surely existed, I had a 1987 Electra Limited. (Indeed, it was my first FWD car). I also owned both, a 1977 & 1979 Electra Limiteds, Even on those RWD “C” bodies only “Limited” badges were used, But they were still Electras
I hate replying to My own reply, But In my zeal, I goofed as to the post 1986 FWDs I meant “Electra” not “Electra Limited” (My head was still on my ’70s Limiteds,LOL) But regardless of that, The “Electra” not only as an official name but as an actual metal (Ok,…plastic) badge Electra continued past 1986. I think I still have one (badge not car..) somwhere in my garage!
There was an Electra T-Type as well starting with the FWD 1985 models. I don’t recall if it made it all the way to the Electra’s last year in 1990. In any case, the T-Type sold poorly and most Electras by that time seemed to be Park Avenues, which I believe was a separate model by then (not a trim package), and though officially the Electra Park Avenue, I don’t recall any Electra identification of PAs since the 1977 downsized cars.
Didn’t GM also slap a “Type-10” badge on one or another Chevroldsmobuac around the same time as the “T-Type”?
Yes, all of the first-year Chevy Cavalier hatchbacks were Type 10s, which evidently meant a more-sloped front end with plastic rather than metal bumpers. I think later the Type 10 designation referred to sporty models of either the coupe or hatchback and no longer had a distinct front clip.
I remember seeing lots of Electra’s back in the ’70s when I was 12-13 or so. These were big, brawny, beautiful cars that had presence and were very close to Caddilac territory. Shame what they devolved into.
It strikes me that sometimes the car means something (like the 1965 Mustang or the 1949 Coupe deVille). Other times the name means something even when the car really doesn’t (like the 1978 Mustang or the 1987 Coupe deVille).
With Lucerne, you had both a name and a car that meant nothing to the prospective buyer. There was nothing familiar about the name or the car to pull in the old customers and there was nothing compelling about either to pull in conquest customers.
I never really liked the name Grand Am, but Pontiac sure sold a lot of them over the years. Also, the switch from S-10 to Colorado did what so many of us here claim we want – to go from alphanumerics to a real name. The Colorado name wasn’t bad, but I don’t think the truck was that well thought of. Maybe the new one is better.
Understood, but an alphanumeric name for a truck makes sense for their brand’s history – C-10, F-150, etc. Changing away from S-10 did make sense only because the original on through the final versions were truly craptastic compared to the Ranger and Tacoma (nee Toyota truck). S-20 to mark improvement?
Cavalier was another – the Cavalier in any form was never a competitive vehicle compared to Japanese offerings, but they were a low-ball priced vehicle. Cobalt was world’s better (ignition switch excepted).
Buick has such a rich history of names to use…Invicta, Electra (perfect for a future electric), Wildcat, LeSabre….the older crowd would recognize the name and the younger crown drawn to it if it’s a quality vehicle that speaks to them.
Grand Am could have kept going too – richer in history than starting with G6, even if the car moved up a class in size.
BTW William, great work – these are fascinating articles with great research & opinion.
Thanks Dave! Appreciate the feedback, and I’m glad people are enjoying these articles. I came up with the idea on a whim and just rolled with it.
Interesting point about all the names GM has used in the past that are ripe for re-use. That gives me an idea for another article…
Ah. My first car was a 2003 Cavalier LS Sport Coupe. Being a teenager from a rural area and not really knowing any better, I considered my 2-year-old set of wheels a blessing from the heavens above. I babied the living hell out of that thing, washing and detailing it at least every couple of weeks and performing all the maintenance myself. When I finally parted with it some 7 years and 90k miles later, some lucky person probably got the most well-cared for Cavalier in the country… well, before they probably trashed it, as was the reality for this sub-par compact. It may have been trash compared to the competition, but there is something about your first car that colors your judgement – at least for me.
“…there is something about your first car that colors your judgement – at least for me.”
Sorry, but I don’t agree that using a name orher than LeSabre would have helped the Lucerne.
I still believe that GM’s poor reputation did it no favors as owners were switching to Toyotas….or dying. After all, Buick was being seen as a car for old (er) people.
I don’t live in an area with a Safeway, and except for 3 years in the 80 when I lived in California, I have never lived anywhere else with a Safeway….is the chain’s reach really that extensive?
As for the argument that price killed the Ranger and S-10….I can’t quite agree. Ranger dominated the “light-duty” delivery fleets, due to the low price. Sure most fleets, faced with the Rangers demise, have PARTIALLY switched to small hatchbacks. But the lack of any meaningful update of the S-10 and Ranger did them no favors. Why buy a 2012 Ranger when the design is nearly 20 years old? Admittedly, the new Colorado is nearly as pricey as a full-sized Chevy, and that will probably slow sales in the future, but Chevy is also moving the SILVERADO upmarket with higher priced models.
An article about the Electra Park Avenue without a picture of the 1975 model??? Blasphemy!!
The 1975 Buick Electra Limited Park Avenue:
I only include a picture of the first car to bear the name 😉
That is a gorgeous car. Most of the 71-76 B/C-bodies got uglier as they went along. Not the big Buicks!
Soooo much classier than a Cadillac…
Agree. Cadillacs were gauche alongside Buicks.
The 1975 Electra 225 Limited was a fine automobile for its era. But Cadillac was no slouch either. You should note how this 1975 Cadillac Fleetwood SIXTY SPECIAL wraps the front bumper fully back to the wheel wells rather than ending abruptly, as with the Buick. This results in a more finished appearance, and is quality you can see. Pillow soft black and grey leather interior upholstery completes the package.
Rear view image of the 1975 Cadillac Fleetwood SIXTY SPECIAL posted above. Quality you can see, touch and feel.
General Motors should know better than to put out new names when most of their new names are associated with disaster. Corvair, Vega, Citation, etc. etc. Perhaps even their loyal customers finally figured out that new GM vehicles are potentially troublesome to say the least!
20 year old design is the best reason to buy a 2012 Ranger. Proven toughness, simple, parts are cheap, and easy to work on. Everything you need when your income relies on your truck or van.
I would hardly call the Corvair a disaster. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with it. And yes, I like them.
I like them too! What I meant was that it was a public relations disaster, to clarify. However I can’t defend Citations or Vegas…
I like them too, buuuuuut…Ernie Kovacs may disagree with your “nothing fundamentally wrong” comment. 2nd gen was a winner though…..
Model naming has always perplexed me. In 1959 the new Buick line-up of LeSabre, Invicta, Electra and Electra 225, replaced the iconic Special, Century, Super and Roadmaster. The Roadmaster in particular was high in prestige and public awareness. Many well to do professionals opted for the Roadmaster in lieu of the more ostentatious Cadillac.
I know Buick had a bad year in 1958, but everyone did and it seemed rash to change the entire model nomenclature. Many old-time Buick buyers, who tended to be quite set in their ways, were not happy. Sales tanked, Buick going from 3rd in 1956 to 7th in 1959 and 9th in 1960.
Roadmaster? I thought that’s a Wal-Mart bicycle.
During the era that Roadmaster was the top Buick model series (1936-1958), Wall Mart didn’t even exist.
+1… and if you go to Rehoboth Beach, DE, those bikes are ALL OVER THE PLACE like Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys!
Oh, and mechanics I know, that worked at a nearby Buick dealer until it got 86’d thanks to the GM reorganization, called the car a “Roadmonster”.
Roadmaster was the model name for AMF bicycles back in the fifties. And yes, they took the name because of the Buick car. When you’re not building a bike as good as a Schwinn, you have to fake it the best way you can.
And the name continues today, even though it has nothing to do with AMF, as WalMart’s cheapest line of bicycles. They weren’t that great back in the 50’s, they’re complete crap now.
I knew about the Buick Roadmaster name. What I did not know was the history of the AMF Roadmaster bike. I only had seen the Chinese made Roadmaster bikes. And you are right, junk right out of the factory. Did AMF have to pay Buick for the name?
Syke, how about J.C. Higgins bikes? That’s what I had as a kid. Much later, I owned a Schwinn Traveler in 1975 and a Traveler lll in 1979 . Those were pretty good bikes. Now? I haven’t been on a bike since my left eye went bad in 2003, and my doctor doesn’t recommend trying, either, being blind on my left side.
JC Higgins was one of two bicycle brands sold by Sears. In their case, Sears had the production contracted out to various manufacturers. The mass market bikes were made either by Huffy or Murray, which at the time were a couple of steps under Schwinn but still decently built. The high end bikes (at some times called Ted Williams) were built by Puch in Austria, and were a match for anything Peugeot, Gitane, Atala, etc. were importing. Puch made Sears bikes are fairly desirable to collectors. American made Sears head straight for the scrap bin.
Having owned both, I’d say Huffy was Chevrolet and Schwinn was Cadillac among American Bicycles. And If I recall Sears also marketed shotguns under the Higgins brand. like Radio Shack, Sears had a lot of fun house brands, Coldspot competed with Hotpoint. And admittedly Coldspot is a better name for a fridge. My mother had a Hotpoint fridge. Made me laugh.
Maybe you should not listen to your doctor. Sure, your left peripheral field of vision is reduced, but how hard can it be to turn the head a bit? Add a rear view mirror to the right temple of your glasses and you should be good.
Was it more the names or the styling though? I recall that the new names caused a stir, but Buick styling was getting increasingly polarizing at that time as well. I don’t like the ’58s at all, but I love the ’59s with their angry face and huge angled fins. The 1960 models toned it down, but they still looked like a rocket ship, at a time when the fin craze has just about run its course. I could see these designs being off-putting to conservative Buick buyers.
In addition, while better than 1958, 1959-60 weren’t great years for middle and upper middle priced cars of any of the big three (with perhaps Thunderbird being the only standout sales wise.).
Grandma had a ’58 Buick, her first car, bought used in ’60 or ’61. I remember all us grandkids piled in the huge back seat once a year for our annual lunch with Grandma, all spiffied up. The chrome was very impressive to little kids. Between her stop-and-go driving method and the soft (air?) suspension, we all lost our lunch in the back seat as well.
> Grand Prix luxury and Trans Am performance
Thanks, I’ve wondered before what a “Grand Am” was actually supposed to be.
Buick has had some of the best model names, so I would say I miss those the most. Most of the names that replaced them sound pretty inoffensive (i.e. boring), but at least they’re still names and not alphanumerics. I still think they should’ve made a Buick version of the Volt, just so they could call it Electra.
The “Cruze” name annoys me. “Cruise” seems like a lame model name, and misspelling it makes it doubly lame… like Aztek. They should’ve stuck with Cobalt. I can’t think of many other automotive examples where a name was a real word which was intentionally misspelled to try to make it “cool”.
“Expresso” was at least kinda “”klever” as it sorta implied speed to any young $tarbuck$ employee who might buy one,, Cruze and Aztek are just lazy respellings.
The main reason for spelling variations of this kind is that it makes it easier to register and protect the name as a trademark — if it’s a variant spelling or an invented word, there’s less risk of it being confused with a generic term.
Although in the case of Aztek, that was also the name of a short-lived DC Comics superhero character during the same period, so in that case maybe it was also just the ’90s.
A good point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if names like “G8” can’t be trademarked either.
Cruze was already on the books it was a rebadged Suzuki before Daewoo took up the cudgel and started stamping out GMs world cars the awful Kaleos became a Barina down here and the Aveo in the US, Holden were rebadging everything Daewoo churned out thus destroying their brand name long before the shut up shop
Not to defend the mis-spelling, but GM already had access to the name thanks to the earlier Holden Cruze, a rebadged Suzuki something-or-other.
Also badged Chevrolet Cruze we have them here with bowties.
I don’t think staying with Cobalt was a very good option either, given that the Cobalt was about as bland as bland can get (with the exception of the rare, be-winged SS model). Sure, it was better than a Cavalier, but that’s all it was.
It occurs to me that I can’t remember the last time I saw a Cobalt. I don’t know if they’ve all died premature deaths (unlikely), or if they are just so lukewarm as to blend into traffic and become perfectly invisible.
Smart people didn’t buy the Lucerne because it was missing the true Buick ride. The Lucerne and all new Buick’s ride quietly but not softly. I currently drive an ’05 Park Avenue and will never spend the cash to buy a new Buick.
No chrome except for bright window reveal and the grille – what I found in the Lucerne was basically a nice-looking car, there was hardly any flash to it screaming “Buick”.
You want to be seen in something like that.
Grand Am struck me as a name created by a committee.
“We have the Grand Prix. We have the Trans Am. For the new car, we have decided to consider combining the two. Grand Am. Howzat?”
Probably we should be thankful that the committee did not select “Trans Prix.”
“Grand Ville” was probably arrived at the same way (Grand Prix + Bonneville)
Well we did get the “Trans Sport” minivan, before it was later renamed the Montana.
“[The Grand Am name] returned in 1986 on Pontiac’s version of the new, compact N-Body. Although the ’86 N-Bodies were purportedly developed as successors to the mid-size, RWD G-Body, they assumed the role previously occupied by the GM X-Body and the Grand Am thereafter became Pontiac’s large compact (small intermediate?) offering…As the formerly compact Camry and Accord grew, domestic cars like the Grand Am occupied a curious market space as they were sized and priced between the Corolla/Civic and Camry/Accord duos.”
The Grand Am actually returned in 1985, along with the Olds and Buick N-bodies. They were only available as coupes that first year, with sedans added for ’86. The N-bodies had been conceived as replacements for the RWD A-/G-body personal luxury coupes — not the entire RWD A-/G-body lineup, just the personal luxury coupes — at the peak of gas prices in the early ’80s. At that time, it was expected that gas would be at $5 a gallon by 1985 and consumers’ expectation of what a “mid-size personal luxury coupe” should be would be something a lot smaller than a G-body. (No Chevrolet version was planned because it was expected that customers in Chevrolet’s demographic would have all migrated to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.) The reality of 1985 was very different, so these were instead repurposed as replacements for the X-body, the “compact” slot in the lineup in traditional GM/American terms. The N-bodies’ original mission explains why they were only available as 2-door coupes in 1985, and why there was no direct equivalent Chevrolet model.
You could argue that the L-body Corsica and Beretta were Chevy’s N-body (same WB and similar dimensions).
The Beretta seemed to appeal to a roughly similar demographic, but the Corsica always seemed destined for fleet use: generic, inoffensive, and cheap, with none of the Grand Am’s sporty airs.
Buick was suffering a real identity crisis in the mid-2000s. They had the oldest buyers of just about anyone. My recollection was that they were trying to do then what they’re trying to do now-redefine themselves as a brand not just for old people. I’d argue they’re doing it more successfully this time, but I think the first go at it was actually an important step if for no other reason than it was GM acknowledging there was trouble afoot over at Buick.
The 2000 Lesabre is part of the same design generation as the 97 Park Avenue. It’s shorter and cheaper
It was confusing to have top of the line Buick as Lucerne and then called LaCrosse which was a mid size.
But OTOH, buyers wouldn’t have wanted to pay a “Park Ave” price for a top trimed LeSabre?
Bob Lutz canned Grand Am for G6, saying Pontiac was going to be “American BMW”.
The original Lucerne.
Wow, Kinda like the AMC (Edsel) Pacer or the Chevrolet (Edsel) Citation! At least FoMoCo got to build a Ford (Edsel) Ranger!
Ford themselves reused the other two Edsel sedan model names on the Ranger pickup and Lincoln Corsair.
Best Buick names died long ago imo, Electra, wildcat, etc. Park Avenue was just geriatric sounding on it’s own, aside from it’s demographic. Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis were other names like that.
The re-naming of Pontiacs like GrandAm to “G6” made no sense at all. GM had ruined so many model names by then , it’s solution was always to repackage the garbage and slap a new name on it. By the time the Crapalier became the Cobalt , most buyers had caught on.
I am doubtful that calling the Park Avenue a Lucerne really made a difference. For LeSabre owners, the Lucerne’s were Park Avenue’s, with the 3.8 V6 or a V8. So LeSabre owners may not have wanted bigger, even with a V6. The 2009’s got the pushrod 3.9 V6 to replace the 3.8. The 3.6 OHC V6 would have been a move up. The 4 speed transmission is outdated. The platform in 2006 was already 10 years old. Both the DTS and the Lucerne were rapidly falling behind, so sales should have tanked.
when the second gen S10 was introduced production was expanded to Brasil where both the S10 and Blazer (S10 based) were produced until 2012 – the S10 name is still used there on the local market Colorado introduced since 2012
The 6000 could have been a Catalina. The Bonneville had been downsized to the G body that same year, and the A body wasnt really that much smaller
Catalina would’ve been perfect, then all of the versions would have started with a C: Celebrity, Century, Cutlass Ciera and then Catalina.
The 6000 was my favorite A body, followed by the Cutlass Ciera. I’d drive a decent one today if it came my way.
I recently was looking for a used car around the $2,000 cash price range, just a back and forth to work and around town 4cyl ideally. I’ve had two 4 door Chevy Cavaliers before, an 03 LS and an 04 Base, the LS was great and the Base was a used junker I only kept for 6 months. Now, come 2021, and I found a nice blue 2004 2 door Cavalier LS Coupe right at 100k on the odo, in my price range. I snatched it up and have steadily been making it a fun, reliable daily driver again. 17 years old but I own it outright and I think it looks better than all the ugly, squat, mini-SUV’s I see everywhere.
Saw that intro picture and thought someone lifted mine for a moment. The 2004 LeSabre Celebration Edition is not a very common car and I have only seen one in person which happened to be my father’s car and now mine.
These are the first red LeSabres I can remember seeing.
My dad had an ugly brown one until a large tree fell on it in a hurricane in 2018. It was a nice car for people under 6′ tall.
He would have gotten a Park Avenue (he’d had ’68, ’77, and ’87 Electras), but the step-monster demanded memory seats, which were available only with leather seats on the PA. Dad wouldn’t have leather or vinyl.
> What started off as GM’s attempt to hit the Honda Accord head-on [with the Cavalier] eventually became Chevy’s blue-light special compact.
Eventually? It didn’t even last the first year (1982) before meeting that fate. Many of the early-82 cars were sent to the dealers in top CL trim with lots of options, leading to sticker shock for buyers lured to the dealers by low advertised base prices. GM soon adjusted the mix to include mostly base models and also introduced a decontented Cavalier Cadet before the year was over. Although the CL would remain available and sporty Z24s and V6 engines were later optional, the vast majority of Cavaliers were low-end models. It never came close to being a serious Accord competitor. It did become rental-car fodder.
Grand Am is the only name here I would have kept. It was a big seller and had a decent rep. Pontiac never really gained traction with the G# alphanumerics, as the division was fast contracting by that point.
Many of the names here were perfectly good but were hampered by being attached to mediocre (or worse) cars. Other good names with long histories (like Impala) died because the market sector went south. Most everyone’s personal-luxury coupe or big sedan names are gone, along with the cars themselves
The Cobalt name change bothered me only because the Cobalt looked a whole lot like mildly restyled J-body despite its all new underpinnings, especially the coupe bodystyle. I understood why they’d kick the Cavalier name to the corner but if the new car still looks like a cavalier, what did it solve really? The type of buyers who bought Cavaliers didn’t change with the Cobalt, and to the rest of the car buying public the Cobalt had the Cavalier aura all over it. Probably why the Cobalt name too got kicked to the curb with the Cru”ze”
You are talking about disposable cars. People keep their Corvettes, Mustangs, Wranglers, Broncos, and GTOs. So those names have panache and value. Disposable cars don’t.
Electra, Le Sabre, Grand Am – disposable cars. No one is joining a Grand Am club anymore than they would be joining a Folger’s Coffee Club.
Lucerne. Horrible name for a car. You don’t change a brand name when your buyers need to take their driver’s test annually and are barely cognizant enough to drive. Buick should have named the car after cemeteries – Forest Lawn, Arlington, Oak Lawn and if they had a truck – Boot Hill.
Instead of the Cavalier, Chevrolet should have gone with their first choice, Chevy Repossessed, Delinquent and Ran When Last Parked.
Eh, might want to visit a self service junkyard sometime, Mustangs(mostly of the V6 variety) Wranglers, Broncos are/were most definitely disposed of on a regular basis. 90s era H body Lesabres I still see on a regular basis
Funny how Toyota and Honda seldom felt the need to rename their disposable cars.
Having the Lucerne take the place of the Le Sabre and Park Avenue was a misstep.
Previously, GM separated the two models with a 3 inch longer wheelbase and a different C pillar (Park Avenue). Maybe they couldn’t afford to do that anymore. In that case, they should have retained the LeSabre moniker, offering a deluxe Le Sabre (Custom?) with a
a more luxurious interior. Or, they could have renamed the car Invicta, which would have resonated with older buyers, keeping them in the fold.
I agree. Even if it was a bit odd to have two very similar “same sausage different length” cars, okay fine consolidate on a single car, but keep one of the two familiar names. Hell, call it a “Lesabre Park Avenue”
Doesn’t matter now that Buick is CUV’s only. Market for big cars dried up, even Avalon is being discontinued. Chrysler 300 is on borrowed time.
GM should have stuck with Cavalier, Grand Am, and LeSabre names. The new models were just more up to date and weren’t a quantum leap over the competition, as the 1986 Taurus/Sable were (which was one time when a new name was appropriate). Cobalt, G6, and Lucerne weren’t appealing names anyway. But Lutz seemed to always like changing names at each of the automakers where he was a leader.