As the numbers continue to roll in, Buick remains the shining light in the General Motors family. Therein lies the story of a rather amazing turnaround.
It wasn't all that long ago that Buick was up to its windshield wipers in production problems. Buicks were not cars most people would rather have. Something needed to be done. But what?The people who count sat down together - GM executives, union officials and the assembly-line workers. Each had his say. The bottom line was rather basic: Fix the problems or face unemployment.
Everyone pitched in. The main Buick plant in Flint, Mich. - called Buick City - was reorganized from top to bottom. Heading up the rescue effort was J.T. Battenberg III. Battenberg was a vice president and group executive at BOC, the Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac division of GM.
Under Battenberg's leadership, the turnaround has become a wonder of the industry. The Buick LeSabre has become the best-built American car model sold in the United States for the second year in a row.
That rating comes from the independent survey company J.D. Power and Associates. Power constantly surveys American car buyers to find out which companies are doing the best job building and servicing their products.
When it comes to service, Buick comes in second behind Cadillac. In virtually every category Buick is bettered only by cars that cost thousands of dollars more.
Buick quality has shown up in the cash register. During this past year, when most car lines were recording reductions in sales, the Buick LeSabre sales more than doubled.
Buick is getting ready to launch a completely restyled Park Avenue model. The advertising will make sure you know about Buick quality. The new Park Avenue will not be confused with any other GM car.
Buick, with the Park Avenue, has re-established its individuality. Auto writers are predicting this car will enjoy strong sales.
Another new Buick for 1990 is the Reatta convertible, a two-seat, sporty car produced in limited quantities. The addition also is expected to bring additional business to Buick showrooms.
Battenberg, the man who helped Buick quality turn around, was a man with a nuts and bolts engineering background. But he has now retired.
The new man in charge at Buick is Edward Mertz., who also has an engineering background and has come up through the manufacturing ranks of the company. Robert Stemple, the new chairman of the GM board, also is a graduate engineer.
With more and more engineers running General Motors more and more success stories may follow the one from Buick City.