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Owned by General Motors, Buick is one of this country's oldest brands, with a rich tradition of innovation that dates back to the turn of the century. Aimed at traditional American luxury-car buyers, Buick cars tend to place a priority on a plush ride rather than sporty performance. Although historically known for catering to retirement-age customers with its full-size sedans, the automaker's lineup now includes SUVs and minivans designed to bring younger buyers into the showrooms of Buick dealers.

The company was founded in 1903 by David Dunbar Buick, a Scottish industrialist. He built his first car in 1904; called the Model B, it had a two-cylinder engine with an advanced-for-its-time overhead-valve cylinder head design. In 1907, Buick unveiled its first four-cylinder production car, dubbed the Model D. The following year, the Flint, Michigan-based Buick Motor Company was bought by William C. Durant as part of a new company called General Motors. By 1914, all Buick cars were built with six-cylinder engines and purchased primarily by upper-class professionals, thus earning the nickname "doctor's cars."

The manufacturer proved itself a trailblazer in the early 1920s when it introduced four-wheel brakes. This technology had been seen before on custom-built cars, but Buick was the first to figure out how to successfully apply it to mass-produced vehicles. Eight-cylinder Buick cars emerged in the 1930s and became immensely popular; these advanced engines received steady improvements for several years. The '30s also saw Buick's introduction of the industry's first rear turn signal to use a flasher.

Models such as the Estate Wagon and the ever popular Roadmaster kept Buicks happily ensconced in driveways all across the nation in the 1940s. In 1948, Buick introduced Dynaflow, the first torque converter-type automatic transmission offered in U.S. passenger cars. The 1950s and 1960s witnessed Buick continuing to zoom ahead of the curve; it was among the first to offer vehicles with power brakes and steering, and 12-volt electrical systems. The marque was also behind the introduction of the first American V6 passenger car engine.

Buick made its name as a manufacturer of stately land barges, such as the Electra 225, but by the '70s and '80s, the automaker had downsized its offerings to meet changing demand. For 1977, Buick unveiled a lineup of smaller, revamped luxury and full-size sedans. In the Reagan years, compact and midsize sedans secured a firm foothold in the automaker's lineup.

Today, Buick specializes in plush sedans, SUVs and even offers a minivan. As is the case with some other GM brands, however, it is struggling to find a secure niche against increased globalization and competition. In an ideal future, it will be able to attract younger customers with new products without abandoning its rich heritage or alienating its traditionally loyal customers.
 

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