Monday, November 9, 2009

Getting Wood in a Buick

Now that Cadillac has gone all edgy on us and Lincoln is building spaceships, there's just one traditional American luxury brand left standing: Buick.

Your dentist used to buy a Buick so that he could travel to and from his office in close to the same comfort as his root canal patients might enjoy under heavy sedation ... without looking like he was living large off those procedures in some over-chromed, tail-finned Caddy.

Your grandpa used to buy a Buick when his Oldsmobile was making him feel old.

Today, the Chinese revere the brand above all other American luxury marques, period. Sales of Chinese-market Buicks probably delayed The General's recent fall by as much as six weeks.

Aside from several excursions into outright hooliganism like the GS455 Stage One, Regal Grand National, and turbo-Buick V-6s at Indy (not to mention fielding the first car to win a race at Indianapolis), Buick has always been about wafting owners along the road with little connection to ruts, potholes, and oh ... the road.

And contrary to post-yuppie-boom wisdom, wafting really works on American roads.

Somehow, once in the rhythmic no-worries float/change course/and arrive of DynaRide, all that petty EuroSnob sniping about living rooms on wheels and land barges means little. The drivers of dedicated road-carving machines may clip apexes and trailbrake themselves into the giddy delusion that they're out conquering the Nurburgring, but they still seem to wind up stopped at the same traffic lights as the lounging, happy-go-lucky pilots of America's premiere cloudmobiles.

The new Enclave and LaCrosse are easily Buick's best post-1971 cars, and they've received critical acclaim from even the harshest automotive critics. They're wafters, and proud of it.

But these modern Buicks, with their smooth powerful line-up of torquey engines and faultless body panel gaps are still hamstrung by one holdover from the era of penny-wise, brand-building foolish era of General Motors bean counters.

Fake wood.

Plastic wood.

Yards of it.

Just look at the new Enclave. How many injection molds had to die to produce just one interior?

Dear executives of Government Motors (which means, of course, you're in my house): You're going to have to shave some trees if you want to play in this league.

Real wood goes in Buicks, preferably dark walnut.

Or no wood. Leather trim makes a cabin quite nice ... or you could go with the new "Piano Black" trend that actually celebrates plastic that doesn't pretend to be anything but plastic.

But no fake wood.

(And it doesn't matter that "real wood" is really a thin shaving of wood protected by five-times-its-weight in plastic ... really).

This great nation is slowly but surely climbing out of another dark economic rut, and since The Powers Left Over have deemed America's oldest surviving car brand to be the last traditional American luxury car brand standing, it's time to walk the walk ... waft the waft.

Real wood in Buicks, ladies and Gentlemen.

I am the Car Czar, and I'm here to help.