The History of Buick

June 2nd, 2023 by


A legend in the making….


The history of Buick is a rich one and one that is marked by innovations, strides both large and small, as well as bumps in the road. All of these humble beginnings led to originality and success, making a legend that remains today. Not only is Buick the oldest car brand in the United States, but in the world, a designation that the automaker proudly holds and continues to live up to. With an appeal to the masses, no matter their economic background, Buick is a name with worldwide recognition linked to quality and dependability.


Here’s more….


The start!


Humble beginnings mark the path forward for Buick, founded in 1899 and named for automotive pioneer David Buick. The first vehicle ever made that year was the brainchild of the company’s chief engineer Walter Marr, with the company’s namesake ironically reluctant to begin the path of auto making. Instead, his intention was to continue producing stationary and marine engine production.


Lucky for the brand’s future consumers, though, the path forward took root, with 37 Buick automobiles made in the first year. Financial difficulties arose in these early days, with Buick turning to William Durant, owner of Durant-Dort Carriage Co., the largest producer of horse-drawn vehicles in the country, for direction. Although reluctant to pursue the production of motorized vehicles, Durant saw their appeal, eventually assuming the role of controlling investor. He would go on to take orders for 1,000 Buicks, even before the company could build half that amount. To facilitate more growth, he moved Buick and its operations from Detroit to Flint, Mich., with the transition complete in 1905.


The growth!


The automaker’s popularity continued to grow and boom following the move to Flint, with production of cars soaring exponentially from 750 in 1905 to upwards of 8,800 just three years later. This jump put Buick on the map essentially, securing its top spot for automobiles produced against close competitors like Ford and Oldsmobile. Based on this success, Durant would go on to create a holding company that year which was called General Motors, also adding Oldsmobile, Cadillac and Pontiac to the organization.

The firsts!


Numerous firsts were realized early on, including in 1906 when Buick was the only car to complete a 1,000-mile relay race from Chicago to New York, and the first to travel across South America in 1914. Many races would be won in the next few years, including a hill-climb across the country in 1904 with one of the first Buicks ever built. This vehicle was truly becoming the car of choice for many, including kings, sultans and political leaders across the nation and world.


The continued growth!


By 1926, production reached 260,000 units, marking continued growth and success for the automaker as well as an overall acceptance by the public of a car that would be rooted in reliability. To show off this feat, the car was taken around the world and entered in such events as a tug of war with an elephant, with Buick the victor, as well as parts shipped to countries like Spain, England and Australia where assembly was then completed. To that end, Buick opened its first international sales office in Shangai, China, in 1929.

The struggles!


Buick’s production took a dive thanks to the Great Depression, with only 40,000 cars produced in 1933. New hope came a year later, though, with the launch of the Series 40 which cost about $865. This vehicle saw 78,000 units produced, putting Buick back where it was before — at the top! This followed the roll out of other models like the Special, Century and Limited, bringing overall production back into the 200,000s by 1936. A milestone soon after in 1938 was the creation of GM’s first concept car, the Buick Y-Job, developed by GM design chief Harley Earl.

Post war, the Buicks saw increased popularity due to their strong vertical-bar grilles, hardtop-convertible styling, portals, Dynaflow automatic transmissions and powerful eight-cylinder engines.

Another economic recession occurred in the late 1950s, with another plunge to less than 250,000 cars by 1959. Despite that, Buick once again returned to strength thanks to improved styling and quality, engine innovations such as the first American mass-produced V6 and leaders in the area of style such as the sleek Rivieras in the 1960s.

The switch!


Production turned to aircraft engines for Buick during World War II, as well as Hellcat tank destroyers and other military hardware. At the war’s end, Buick went on to celebrate an era rooted in great styling, engineering and sales, with a total of 745,000 cars sold in 1955, many complete with an iconic grille that came to the forefront in 1942 but continued to grow in popularity. The hardtop convertible also was introduced at this time.


The comeback!


The roll out of a compact car which appealed to those watching their pennies as well as a name change marked a comeback of sorts for Buick beginning in 1959. The names of Special, Century, Limited and Roadmaster became more appealing choices like LeSabre, Invite and Electra. The Buick Riviera was revealed in 1963, still considered a classic today, with sales continuing to rise. So much so that Buick saw record-breaking numbers in the early 1980s, with millions of cars being sold worldwide.


The top spot!


The automaker secured the number one spot in North America and number two in the world by 1989, with Buick holding proudly the moniker — “the new symbol for quality in America.” So popular that by 1991, they would lead all auto producers both domestic and foreign in the areas of market share and sales volume improvement. In the 1990s, Buick would be considered the leader in supercharged engines, with the division continuing to emphasize sedans until it began to enter new markets with the 2002 Rendezvous crossover.


The now!


In 2015, Buick sold more than 1 million cars, a company record, and while they started in the United States, today more than 80 percent of the vehicles are made in China.


Even today, despite all the competition, Buick continues to be a leader and break records, building all their automobiles around refinement and luxury. Known for performance, the latest technologies and true comfort, this car has been America’s choice for decades. The automaker continues to explore new markets with concept convertibles and crossovers as well as with the production of SUVs.


With a reputation as the largest automaker in history, one rooted in dependability and quality, Buick has much to boast about and much to be proud of. From humble beginnings to their place at top of the world as a premiere luxury automaker, a legend in the making remains so today! A strong leader that ranks among the best, Buick’s story is one worth telling.