Big, plush sedans used to be synonymous with Buick. The 1975 Electra, most egregiously, was more than 19 feet long.
Today, Buick's best-selling nameplate is the Encore, a nimble subcompact crossover that's much more land dinghy than yacht. By the end of this year, the brand will have just one traditional sedan left in its U.S. lineup, a remarkable transformation that shows how far large cars have tumbled toward irrelevancy.
More than three-quarters of Buick's U.S. sales now come from the Encore and two larger crossovers, one of which is imported from China. The Regal sedan is being replaced this fall by a five-door hatchback and a sporty wagon.
The LaCrosse, now in its third generation, is the only remaining option for Buick buyers who want four doors and an actual trunk. Yet dealers sell fewer than one LaCrosse for every three Encores.
There's nothing still around like the Grand Nationals and Roadmasters that used to fill the lots of longtime dealers such as Bennett's Buick-Chevrolet in Wayland, N.Y.
"Those days are gone," said Jim Bennett, whose grandfather started the dealership, south of Rochester, in 1922. "It has brought in a new generation. You get people who say, 'I can't believe I'm buying a Buick.' And quality has been excellent."
The changes have helped Buick double its global sales volume since 2010. Most of its growth has been in China, but U.S. sales also have risen significantly since the brand narrowly avoided the chopping block during General Motors' 2009 bankruptcy.
The success Buick has managed with its crossovers paved the way for the change in direction with the Regal.