The new Buick: Bringin’ em in

4 May 2011 | 2,312 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds We have a question for you. And we are betting you'll get the answer wrong. Which brand is the fastest growing in the U.S.? What do you think?  Hyundai? Kia?  Ford? Time's up. The answer is Buick. That's right. Buick. And none of the brand's competitors are laughing about it. Consider. The latest sales figure show that Buick is one of the top four luxury brands in the country in terms of sales, beating brands like Audi and Acura. And there have been a number of months when Buick outsold Lexus.  Buick achieved its 19th consecutive month of retail sales gains in April, growing 35 percent year over year with total sales up 51 percent. The brand’s sales to individual customers also have increased 45 percent and its total sales are up 43 percent, calendar year to date. "Luxury and crossover shoppers as well as our dealers have made Buick the fastest-growing major automotive brand in the United States,” said Brian Sweeney, U.S. vice president of Buick & GMC Sales and Service. “With more new models coming to our showrooms this year, we expect Buick’s momentum to continue.” Buick also is the fastest-growing brand among African-Americans, according to a recent Polk report. Buick increased annual registrations among African-American car buyers by more than 72 percent in 2010 – nearly 20 percentage points higher than its nearest competitor. Interest in Buick is on the rise among consumers in general. At Main Street in Motion,   Buick  officials say that at Main Street in Motion, a touring test-drive event that pits Buick against other brands, exit polls revealed that public opinion of Buick improved by 125 percent and purchase consideration improved by 65 percent.  Buick officials are, of course, happy with results so far. "Our sales are up 52 percent last year,and that was higher than any other automotive brand. But we also know that we did a lot of good things on the product side,and we were also competing in parts of the market that we hadn't competed in for a while," said Roger McCormack, Buick's marketing and product director. "But we are now putting our heads down and working even harder to keep the momentum going." "In 2010, we were at 42 percent of our sales being conquest sales. And what's really important is that 28 t0 30 percent of those conquest sales were imported brand conquest sales from brands like Lexus, Acura and Toyota.  That was a signal to us that we were bringing in a whole brand new type of buyer to consider Buick," Mr. McCormack said.    He said that " in terms of momentum for Buick, it really was the introduction of the Enclave that got things going.  Then in 2009 we followed that up with LaCrosse, and most recently  it was the Regal in 2010, and now we are following that up with the turbocharged version of the Regal in 2011.It's been case of Enclave getting the ball rolling and following that up with strong entries like LaCrosse and Regal.  And by year's end, he added, "we will introduce the Verano compact sedan, which we we think will bring another new type of customer into Buick showroom.  The Verano will get 31 miles per gallon on the highway and with prices starting in the low to mid 20s.  Meanwhile, a new 2012 LaCrosse with E Assist will be introduced, which turns off the car when it stops, and it comes back on when the car movesd forward. It will get 37 miles per gallon with the standard powerplant, while prices will start at about $30,000."      There's also plenty of excitement around the upcoming Buick Regal GS, which will "really point to the sporty end of Buick.  It will kick up the fun factor a notch. The turbocharged engine will put out 255 horsepower and have unique styling cues. It's a beautiful car," Mr.McCormack said.     " As a result of all this we're seeing a lot of new people considering Buick.  There's a dealer in Chicago who was telling me about a young  guy who bought a Regal Turbo and came in with a used Dodge Charger Hemi. He bought a Regal.  And he was 23 years old," Buick spokesman Nick Richards said. "There's a saying in the auto industry about putting butts in seats.  Well, people sit in our cars and driving them and experiencing them people are now taking a serious look at Buick." As for the brand's future direction, " 'Mr. McCormack said, "We want to make clear that every car and crossover we bring to the market, that they deliver on the Buick Promise.  They are beautiful, quiet cars, with relevant technology that fit customer needs better than anybody else. And if our focus on that is laser-like, everything else will take care of itself." Of course, we can also expect the Buick lineup to expand dramatically in years to come, officials added. "We will continue to look at segments that would make sense for us to expand in with new products, and we will continue to expand the portfolio of products that Buick will offer, Mr. Richards said. To meet their goals, Buick will market more often in places where "early adopters," opinion shapers and progressives gather and at events they are likely to attend. Another example: Buick is the official sponsor of the NCAA Partner for Human Acheivement program.  As part of that program,  collegiate athletes who excelled on the field and went on to establish foundations and organizations that help needy people. "Regal Remix, for instance, was done in six major metropolitan areas, including Miami, New York, Chicago and a couple on the west coast. We bring in influencers, people with younger demographics and provide live music, food and beverages in evening parties, " Mr. Richards said. "We will continue to look at new ways to introduce the brand and the vehicles to new demographics who typically don't think of Buick right now." One example of such a person is Jaclyn Yuppa of Atlanta. She considers herself an early adopter. The 31-year-old  Duke MBA and Fortune 50 marketing professional favors handbags by new, lesser-known designers, likes to try the latest niche cuisine before it goes mainstream, and prefers driving a car that isn’t commonplace. That’s why she recently traded her Mercedes for a  new 2011 Buyick Regal luxury sport sedan. “The Regal turns heads,” Yuppa said of her experiences driving around Atlanta’s uptown Buckhead district. “Complete strangers have told me what a great-looking car it is. They’re usually pleasantly surprised to find out that it’s a Buick.” Yuppa is like many new-to-Buick owners in that she cross-shopped luxury imports, but was won over by the Regal’s luxury amenities, contemporary styling, fuel efficiency, overall high quality and value. In many cases, Regal, which launched from Germany one year ago this month and is now produced in Canada, is the first domestic vehicle these buyers have considered, much less owned. By early 2011, one in three Regal buyers was trading in an import vehicle, according to Power Information Network (PIN) data. Mr. Richards added, "The challenge that we have with the brand is what we call 'false familiarity.' A lot of consumers are aware of the brand. Their grandparents had obne or their parents had Buicks,  They always refer to them as reliable cars but say,  " Yeah, it's a great car, but you don't make anything for me.' We have introduce the brand to them and to show we do make cars for all demographics."

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