Happy Birthday, Buick! Photo by Randy Stern
What kind of birthday present do you give a 110 year old that is looking very good for its age?
Today marks the anniversary of the founding of the Buick Motor Company. In 1903, Buick began building cars for a curious nation. Except for a couple of wars, they have not stopped. From Flint, Michigan, came what became the “Doctor’s Car.” For half of the 20th Century, doctors would make house calls in bright shiny Buicks. These cars were a symbol of honest success towards becoming the key brand in the middle market amongst North American automobiles.
In recent years, Buick committed themselves towards changing the brand’s image. Once the standard brand for the Greatest Generation, even at an advanced age, Buick needed to re-position towards a new status and a new demographic. The result is the current lineup, with two revised models coming for the 2014 model year.
V&R always enjoyed the products from Buick. They hold two Vehicle of the Year Awards – 2009 for the LaCrosse and 2011 for the Regal. Our correspondence with the brand has been superb and support where the brand is going. Good thing that General Motors decided to keep Buick around to celebrate this special occasion.
Our birthday present to Buick is to look back its history through the lens of a Five Favorites. Having been familiar with its products even before driving my first one in 1979 (Dad’s 1977 Electra Limited – in a futile attempt to get it out of a very tight space at a San Francisco Financial District parking lot. Thanks, Dad…), it certainly was not hard to pick these five. Heck, you may find there are some on the list I have never driven – but admired for a very long time.
Happy Birthday, Buick! I believe you might even like this list…
Photo by Randy Stern
Victory & Reseda wants to do something for the Carmmunity.
This site is becoming more than just a look at the automotive industry and a place where vehicle reviews live. It has dipped its toes into the pool of enthusiasts and has learned what makes them tick.
Actually, V&R is still learning. There is more of that pool to explore.
Considering the stories coming up for V&R (and Randy’s work in Lavender), the bar has been raised. We are going trackside soon. We are going to more events – some, for the first time. Just being out there, representing V&R and other outlets help in making the inroads needed to bridge readers to this work.
However, V&R wants to do more. It wants to embrace a wider carmmunity. It wants to bring people and their vehicles together. But, how? There are plenty of opportunities to do that already, right?
Not your typical day at V&R HQ. Photo by Randy Stern
If you are looking for a comparison of some of the vehicles reviewed here – it would probably not be considered fair.
Since 2010, I had the chance to drive almost every mid-sized family sedan available right now. Despite the few that have not been driven, it is the core of the market had already seen time in V&R’s care in the Twin Cities or elsewhere. Looking at the sales figures from April of 2013, it would seem obvious the reasons why the segment leaders are selling the numbers they are.
To make a car in this segment, you have to ensure that everyone is comfortable, the driver is engaged and the driving experience is not offensive to anyone. Not exactly a high bar to aspire to, but understand the tasks these sedans have to accomplish every day to know that a middle ground is set to ensure some level of satisfaction.
What if someone refuses to simply settle for less? What if the “middle ground” does not completely suit a particular driver or group of occupants? What if we want sportier handling, a solid ride that rides the groove of the road, unmatched quality and comfort?
What if I want a mid-sized sedan that suits me as a daily driver for both my short commute and any long haul runs I would put it through?
As they say in ‘Sconnie: “Forward!” Photo by Randy Stern
“Madison – attitude check!”
Those are the words of a drag queen at Club Five during karaoke when she wanted to see how the crowd is doing. Our response would not be worth publishing on this site, but you only imagine what we would say every time.
This town is perhaps the most interesting place I have ever visited…and lived. My professional writing career began in Madison with a publication out of Chicago. It was there where my treks to the Chicago Auto Show yielded what you are seeing a decade or more later. Its beacon is the state capitol, located squat in the middle an isthmus between two large lakes – Mendota and Monona. The city’s design lends itself to an image that is either celebrated or derided by the rest of the state of Wisconsin.
Madison’s charms are alluring. Sometimes, they can be off-putting. Yet, the town is a refuge for anyone not conforming to society, despite its magnet as the hub of the state.
To honor the place where the craft began to take flight, it is time for another Five Favorites. As with my Five Faves survey of the Twin Cities, I looked at five categories: Dining, Arts and Culture, Recreation, People Watching/Meeting, and Driving Experiences. I am certain there are plenty of options for visitor to Mad-Town to figure out what to do. It is probably best to talk a local…make sure you pay for their next meal.
2013 Ford Fusion SE. All photos by Randy Stern
A Victory & Reseda review of the 2013 Ford Fusion
Let me get this out of the way: This is not an Aston Martin.
That was the first reaction when the newest rendition of the Ford Fusion was first introduced. Enthusiasts and pundits alike looked at everything else about the Fusion – then focused on the grille. That texture and shape just looks uncanny. Perhaps we watched out fair share of James Bond movies to simply know what an Aston Martin grille looks like.
Or, rather question whether this was a reject from time of separation between Ford and the vaunted British brand.
Once we woke up to the reality that this is indeed the replacement for Ford’s highly successful front-wheel drive mid-sized sedan in North America, another bit of news came across our desks about this swoopy, low-slung, Aston-looking car. It is part of the OneFord program – combining all products sold in a singular segment as a singular vehicle. Therefore, we are not just looking at the new Fusion, but, rather, it will be called the Mondeo when it is sold and built elsewhere on this planet.
Rest assured, it is a Ford – a new look for the brand worldwide. That blue oval badge above the grille does not lie.
All photos by Randy Stern
Failure is something that society either hates or loves.
How does a failure occur? Mismanagement is one source of the problem. Incompetency is another – perhaps notes as the biggest source of failure. Timing can be attributed to failure, if the market does not respond at the right moment. Then again, the market can play a huge factor in failure.
This all leads to the idea that failure in the automotive industry can be epic. With millions of dollars on the line, one miscalculation can spell disaster. Disasters in the auto industry are completely documented by my peers – replete with Monday morning quarterbacking.
Sometimes, a failure can go quietly into the night. Not often does this happen, but companies that lost the plot might try to save face before the wall of scrutiny converges upon them.
We often recall the failures in our industry. Even their efforts were hard fought to the end, their memories continue for us to examine what went wrong, as well as what went right.
This Five Favorites looks back at failed automotive entities that gave it try in the USA market. Let us emphasize the words “good try,” as these were brands with good intentions and execution only to find themselves on the wrong side of the balance sheet.
Here come some not so pleasant memories…
2013 Nissan Sentra SL. All photos by Randy Stern
A Victory & Reseda review of the 2013 Nissan Sentra
The Nissan Sentra…this calls for a story.
Thirty-one years ago, my father asked if I wanted a car for my high school graduation. Why, yes, of course! At first, I thought “Ford Mustang.” These were the ones on the Fox platform at the time. His reply was “No, too expensive try again.”
The then-new Nissan Sentra came up. Back then, you could get a nicely equipped new one for under $6,500. But, alas, the whole deal fell through. Thanks, dad.
The Sentra came at the right time for 1982, when the company decided to rebrand itself using the corporate name instead of the old familiar brand of Datsun. It also signified the transition to front-wheel drive for its compact cars. The past 32 years were a mix of success and questionable decisions. Through these years, the Sentra held its ground, finding homes to many compact car buyers.
The latest Sentra arrives at a time when every new compact car would raise the bar another inch. One would boast greater fuel efficiency or some new technology. Others would up the ante on design and airflow management. This is all great, but this Nissan has something a lot its competitors seem to have forgotten when redesigning their small sedans and hatchbacks – more room.
That is the key to the new Sentra. But, is that enough to even look at it?
All photos by Randy Stern
There is one disadvantage in being an automotive writer.
I get it. I am supposed to be the all-knowing person inside the automotive industry. I am supposed to know every damn product sold in North America. That is until you realize there are a few dozen brands selling in about a dozen market segments and sub-segments with varying degrees of performance, space, equipment and price points.
There are many questions asked my way from readers, friends and anyone on the street. One was visited first in this piece I wrote in August of 2006. If you read it, you probably think that my credentials as a writer in this field should be taken away.
Since then, I had an evolution of thinking. I am now exposed to as many of the three-dozen brands sold in North America as possible. The task now is to examine what is available in the mainstream and explore the outer limits of the market on occasion. When something exceptional comes in, it has to be given a level playing field when it shares space with ordinary products.
With this exposure to many different vehicles than before, I figured I would dust off that old question from seven years ago and figure out the answer.
Therefore…“Randy, what is a good car?”
2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL. All photos By Randy Stern
A Victory & Reseda review of the 2013 Nissan Altima
“I still contend that the Toyota Camry’s leadership amongst passenger cars will be challenged by one of a few different models. If I were a gambling man, I pick the Altima to lead the charge.”
Those were some pretty weighty words to have been written on this site. It was published on October 4th of 2012, moments after I left the Midwest Automotive Media Association Fall Rally in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. After two brief drives in the 2013 Nissan Altima – an all-new model now in its fifth generation – impressed me so much, it was named one of my Five Favorites for 2012.
Upon perusing the sales charts ahead of receiving the Altima for the week of deeper evaluation, I began to flip through the sales charts to make sure I had it right. In March of 2013, the Altima outsold the Toyota Camry by 100 units – 37,763 vs. 37,663. The Accord came in with 36,504 – third behind the Nissan and Toyota amongst passenger cars. A 100-unit margin is not exactly enough to hand over the crown to any vehicle. However, the marketplace may be signaling a sea change in its highest volume segment.
If this trend continues, we have a best seller that almost everyone might actually love – even the pundits.
Photo by Randy Stern
Carmmunity is just another word for enthusiasm…
Think about this for a moment. The definition of “community” is based by a form of grouping. Whether that grouping is further defined by geography, culture and activity is irrelevant at this point. What is relevant is that community is further defined by common interest.
“Carmmunity” comes into play when the common interest is defined by the automobile. A carmmunity is populated by enthusiasts – the progenitors of elevating the automotive experience. Just like any other community, enthusiasts are as diverse as their self-identity, as well as their expression of the automobile in context with their lives. To avoid the many names and sub-identities within the automotive world, one common theme is clear – the love for the automobile. It is the essential bond that brings a carmmunity together.
If it sounds like a repeat of last year’s series on this subject – it is not. There is another level that must be explored. It is one thing for me to find carmmunity for the benefit of publication. It is another to build bridges to it.