Buick sponsors March luncheon at the Fort Lauderdale Auto Show

By: Bill Adam - Photos by Pepe Delfino

The March SAMA meeting was held at the opulent Room 229 at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center, and was attended by approximately 40 members and guests. Sponsored by Buick, this site, above the floor of the Fort Lauderdale Auto Show, was chosen as it gave everyone a chance to both see and drive a number of their new models, as well as providing a wonderful opportunity for a comprehensive tour of their new Regal.

President Paul Borden welcomed all with the news that this day represented the third anniversary for SAMA. Hard to believe that our organization has been in existence this long, but as the saying goes…..”time just flies past when you’re having fun”. Updates were given concerning future meeting sponsors requests, and it appears that our late April luncheon meeting will be sponsored by Nissan. More info will be emailed to all members as the date gets closer.

Secretary Bill Adam called for all members to be aware of the “feeding frenzy” mentality of some lawyers, regarding the alleged acceleration problems associated with the Toyota brand. The latest case in California, where, in a highly publicized case, a gentleman driving a hybrid Prius, was unable to reign in the power, yet had time to call 911 ! This type of sensationalizing by the media can only have a negative effect on the industry as a whole, and we must strive for honesty and accuracy in our various media outlets, to dissuade people looking for a “free lunch”.

After a delicious lunch, Alex Vitale introduced the first of three speakers from Buick, Mr. Brad Flaaen, Buick-GMC Sales & Marketing Manager for the South East region. In a very interesting talk along with slides, Mr. Flaaen spoke of the dramatic increase in sales for the Buick brand, in the last year. Of particular interest to both Buick and our members, was the fact that south east Florida has become a remarkably strong market for them, with some models showing increased sales of more than 400%.

Christopher Ayotte, Buick Marketing Manager, then started his “two part” presentation on the brand new Buick Regal – the first part as a discussion about developing this new car, and the second part later, down on the floor of the convention center where we could actually get inside the car. Mr. Mayotte spoke of how the new Regal is a dramatic departure from the Regal of the past, from both a styling AND performance standpoint. The intent was not only to create a more fuel efficient vehicle, but also to create a FUN vehicle by giving it dynamic handling abilities – something never before associated with the name Buick. So different is the new Regal, that it will be available with…………get ready………….a manual gearbox!

An extremely good looking car, the new Regal seems to be about the size of a “3” series BMW, and indeed, were the name badges removed, one may be tempted to think it WAS a new BMW! Both inside and out, it seems to have the makings of a winner, and a good number of members were overheard talking about looking forward to seeing the good people from Prestige dropping one off for a test.

For a company like Buick to make such a dramatic change in their lineup, they first have to have people with foresight at the top. Admiration, along with some amazement, came from both the previous speakers, along with Greg Ross, Buick-GMC Sales and Marketing Manager for Florida, as they talked of GM Chairman Ed Whitacre as being a real “hands on” boss. Mr. Ross told a story of being on vacation with his wife ( for one of the two days off he takes each year), where he rigidly avoids answering his cell phone. Except on this day, he noticed a new number from the Detroit area, and thought that maybe he should answer. Yes, it was Ed Whitacre, asking if he might “hang out” with him for a few days to see what was happening in the real world down here.

It almost goes hand in hand, that Mr. Whitacre is currently working “under” one of our automotive favorites, Bob Lutz, and when Mr. Lutz retires in two months, he appears to be leaving the company in good hands.

Our sincere thanks to all of the good people from Buick who took the time to come down to our meeting, and based on whet we saw at this meeting, we certainly look forward to hearing more about those future projects that they “wanted to talk about , but couldn’t”.

As always, should any members have suggestions for improving our organization, please bring them up to one of our executive officers at our next meeting, as we all want to continue this organizational growth.

 

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