Despite the happy talk about what the Lucerne will mean for a Buick revival, the average Buick franchise delivered just eight new units in March.
That's not a typo. That's eight, as in single digit, as in one more than seven.
It's hardly enough to keep a salesman alive.
But the (relatively) good news is that the average Buick franchise doesn't need to stand alone anymore.
With the emerging General Motors channel strategy, 60 percent of Buick franchises already have been tucked into Pontiac-GMC dealerships.
The strategy is simple: At the entry level, Chevrolet and Saturn will be exclusive sales channels. At the high end, Cadillac, Hummer and Saab will be sold by one dealer in a region.
The Buick-Pontiac-GMC brand trio is supposed to give GM strength up the middle. Some might argue that teaming Buick with Pontiac and GMC is like expecting a corpse to pull its own weight in a three-legged race.
That's way too cruel and unfair an analogy for the brand once hailed as "the doctor's car." but it is a pity Buick is no longer healthy enough to make it on its own.
Through the number-crunching wizardry of the Automotive News Data Center, we can see why the three-in-one channel was necessary.
If GM's consolidation had been completed by the end of last year -- eliminating all Buick exclusives -- there would have been about 2,600 Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealers selling an average of 484 cars and trucks for all of 2005.
By comparison, Lexus dealers led the pack last year with an average of 1,613 new-vehicle sales per dealership, nearly a grand more than the 643 cars and trucks averaged by Chevy dealers last year.
As for the other GM channels, Saturn dealers averaged 488 sales, Hummer dealers hit 337, Cadillac dealers came it at 158 and Saab managed an average of 154 sales per dealership. That seems wimpy, but it's still half again as many sales as the 102 that Buick franchises averaged for the full year.
Some dealers fear -- and some analysts hope -- that Buick or Pontiac, or both, are on their way out. The theory goes like this: Once GM combines the brands into a single channel, it can whack Buick without the grief and expense incurred when Oldsmobile was canceled.
It's plausible. But GM's stated plan to cull certain Buick and Pontiac models to reduce or eliminate overlap in the same showroom makes more sense, at least to dealers trying to eke out a profit.
Once upon a time, GM had the healthiest and wealthiest dealers and the strongest distribution channels. But with the way things are now, most Buick dealers need Pontiac-GMC.
And vice versa.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]