Buick's Unlikely Resurgence

Buicklacrosse
While piloting the California hills in a new 2011 Buick Regal a few weeks ago, I had a lot of time to talk to some of the brand’s best and brightest. It was an illuminating trip with some surprisingly straight — and very optimistic — talk from folks in marketing, communications and even design.

The one thing that stuck out — besides the straight talk and the new, trendy, black Buick jackets they were all wearing — was that the numbers don’t lie.

The California drive happened before the release of May’s sales figures, which were simply outstanding for Buick. Overall, the brand's sales were up 37.4%, which bested crosstown premium brands Mercury and Lincoln, whose sales dipped 10.7% and 9.5%, respectively. Buick also edged out General Motors' other premium brand, besting Cadillac’s May sales by a few hundred units.

The news that Ford is folding Mercury to refocus on Lincoln seems like a good idea, as that lineup is hit-and-miss with above-average products like the Lincoln MKS and MKT not setting the world ablaze.

But what’s Buick doing so right? Well, it has dropped all pretenses of catering to its former audience, namely seniors. It’s now looking for the younger, post-boomer market. Products like the Enclave SUV and LaCrosse sedan have attracted new buyers, lowering the average age of a Buick owner from 72 to 61. That's a huge drop in the industry but still behind Lexus and Acura, whose average ages are in the 50s.

The new LaCrosse sedan looks remarkably like the Lexus ES 350, one of the best-selling entry-level luxury cars for years. In May, Buick sold 5,452 LaCrosses. Lexus sold 5,115 ES 350s. Over at Acura, the once-fearsome TL sedan sold just 2,925 units. That model hasn’t recovered its sales since undergoing a radical and polarizing redesign in 2009.

Buickenclave
But all of Buick’s success started with a rebadged Enclave three-row crossover in 2008. While the automotive press generally frowns on the art of rebadging — taking one vehicle, slapping another brand’s grille on it and calling it something else — Buick took the time to alter the Enclave significantly from the GMC Acadia and Chevy Traverse it shares a platform with. That formula was, and remains, a sales success. In May, the gracefully aging Enclave, at 4,715 units, topped both the similarly priced Acura MDX at 4,064 units and the more expensive, just-redesigned Lexus GX at 1,413 units.

Now the Regal arrives, and Christopher Ayotte, the man in charge of the Regal’s marketing, says they can’t deliver them fast enough to dealers. We tend to believe him, as the LaCrosse took just 26 days to sell in April against an industry average of 46 days. The ES 350 took 30 days, and the TL took 56 days. Lincoln’s MKZ took 58 days.

Buickregal
Continuing this success will be tricky. The premium segment is shaky, with Acura and Lexus seeing healthy upticks in May while Lincoln and Volvo decline. Ford’s euthanizing of Mercury takes out one competitor and gives Buick a bit more breathing room.

The biggest question for Buick is how it will get the word out there. The brand has halted all golf marketing, including the Buick Open tournament. It ended its Tiger Woods endorsement last year, before the icon’s recent fall from grace. The company sees golf as the Buick image of old.

It hasn’t replaced that media presence with anything else to date, and it's unlikely we’ll see a Buick sponsorship of Lollapalooza anytime soon, either. That lack of brand identity in the marketplace sure hasn’t stopped shoppers from buying Buicks, but the nameplate can’t achieve lasting success by just producing new products that people want to buy. Can it?

Comments 

Tony

"...the automotive press generally frowns on the art of rebadging — taking one vehicle, slapping another brand’s grille on it ... Buick took the time to alter the Enclave significantly ..."

And made just a fast rebadging of Opel to create Regal and Lacrosse.

"...[Buiick]bested crosstown premium brands Mercury and Lincoln..."

After all, Fords siblings were too rebadged and Buick was "All New" while really, rebadged.

ES350 is also rebadge. TL has interesting beak and nice price.

And what? Enclave vs MDX? Are you kidding? A bus vs a BMW. Also, where is the starting price of Enclave? 36K and MDX 43K. And it doesn't matter if the Enclave with AWD will be higher. The point is, less expensive the car, the more of them are sold. I am sure that many people, who drives Enclave would buy MDX if they could afford it. And I know one of them here.

the Regal is a rebadge but it's a vehicle that isn't on sale in the U.S. as well.

As far as the rest of the numbers, yes you could rationalize all you want, but there's still an uptick in sales, few incentives, high demand etc.

Not sure anyone has contradicted the Enclave's success before. But if you want to...

kj

I feel that for Buick to survive with so much competition out there they must come up with an small, affordable, and well built car. Right now it seems as if Buick is competiting too much with Caddy, it's sister company, and not competing enough with Hyundai, Honda, and Toyota.

Ste (Original SG)

Is there any good possibility that GM will bring a RWD Buick on the market sometime in the near future?

Ste
I don't think they want to go RWD and will leave that for Cadillac. Which answers the other question about competing with Cadillac.
One's FWD, less expensive, less power.

Ziggy

Did the black jackets say "members only" on them?

sheth

Acura had a pretty decent month (in terms of sales increase, not numbers) in MAy but its not been doing well overall for several years. cars like the TL and TSX are not selling nearly as well as their predecessors. Buick outsold Acura last month and has been doing so all year as far as I know. Buick only has 3 porducts and Acura has 6 so that is pretty impressive. Lacrosse has been whipping TL all year. The ES got closer based on generous lease deals that Lexus launched recently. Before that, the gap was larger and the Lacrosse is up for the year. You really have to combine Buick and Caddy sales to compare to Lexus because niether brand covers Lexus totally. Combined they sold about 25k last month vs 22k+ for Lexus.

sheth

Kj:

A compact is on the way, probably in 2011 or early 2012. This has been confirmed. Buick is not really aiming for Toyota or Honda anyway. Most Hondas sell for under $30k. Buick is looking to compete in the $30k-$45k range like Acura and lower end lexus models. Basically they want to compete with the FWD Lexus models.

Thomas Mac

Average age is 61!? It'll be a tough up hill battle even with Cars.com penning articles on Buick's behalf. I'm looking forward to the next Cars.com pronouncement: Buick sold 1 car in 2009 and 2 in 2010..."BUICK SALES INCREASE 100%".

I know Cars.com is not Car & Driver or even Edmunds.com but come on. You fly all the way out to CA to hob-knob with Buick and this is what you write!? How about some real journalism like reporting what percentage of sales are to fleets today vs this time last year. Jeez!

Happymantis

So after decades, GM figured out the simple secret of selling cars...

make great cars...

But anyway, better late than never.

cody

why do you call it rebadging when the only thing shared is the platform and powertrain? the majority of the body panels and interior parts are unique. this is platform sharing, and everyone else does it. what ford has been doing for years with ford/lincoln/mercury and what chysler did between dodge and plymouth was rebadging.

if you do consider platform sharing to be rebadging, then are the odyssey, pilot, and ridgeline all examples of rebadging, since they share similar underpinning and powertrains? how about the hyundai and kia line-ups, as they share platforms between the two brands? Toyota and Lexus? VW, Porche, and Audi???

sheth

thomas:

Not sure what planet you live on but all the major websites go to these manufactuer events. Its not just for a new Buick either. C&D, MT, Edmunds, etc. all attended the event in California. Buick sales are up and thats a fact. Period. Cars.com is just stating facts here.

The lacrosse is about 90% retail sales. I doubt many Enclaves are sold to enterprise so I'm not sure why you are suggesting fleet sales are a big part of this success.

Thomas Mac

I didn't imply that fleet sales are a "big part" of Buick's success. You only assumed I did because you cannot read.

Ray

"May The Best Car Win"
In the most recent C&D comparison test the Buick LaCrosse scored lower than both the Lexus ES and Hyundai Genesis. GM's new ad slogan should be, "Buick - Same As It Always Was".

sheth

Good one Ray! That must explain the huge sales increases. When does C&D ever rank any American car #1? Never. The Buick finished just where expected. I guess you missed the Edmunds and MT comparos that ranked the Lacrosse over the ES350. Do a little bit more research before going on the attack.

I'm curious to test drive the turbo Regal due out later this year. Prolly can't afford it, having had to suddenly replace one car with a new Camry. But still...

Carmen Parpalberg

It's obvious Buick sales are up because of fleet sales. I am seeing literally dozens and dozens of new Buick's at Avis in Cleveland, Miami, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh. One of the Avis employees said they got extra incentives to use Buick's to replace the Pontiac's they are phasing out. They're decent cars even if the interior is on the cheap side.

Belly

"The Buick finished just where expected. I guess you missed the Edmunds and MT comparos that ranked the Lacrosse over the ES350. Do a little bit more research before going on the attack."
-How about this review that picked the Lexus over the Buick?

http://www.autoguide.com/manufacturer/buick/2010-buick-lacrosse-vs-2010-lexus-es350-1327.html

I mean autoguide must also be biased right of the bat though?

550i

Car and Driver is the gold standard in the industry so if they report the Lexus and Hyundai are better then they are.

sheth

carmen:

there is no evidence that Buick is relying on fleet sales. Lacrosse just had best retail month ever and the sales were 90% retail. I've never seen a rental enclave. HAve you?

"I mean autoguide must also be biased right of the bat though?"

Ah yes, Autoguide. Everyone reads that. Certainly better known than Motor Trend. Good point!

550i:

C&D is hardly a gold standard. They are famously inconsistent and they typically don't even like Lexus models. When the ES was compared to two American cars suddenly they couldn't find any faults. Anyone who reads the magazine knows they have never been Lexus fans. On top of that they didnt even get the Lacrosse with the touring package which is only $800. This in spite of the fact that their ES350 was already 6k more than the Buick. If you actually read the comparo you will find that they really liked the Lacrosse and basically ranked the Lexus higher based on its name and curb weight. The sales charts show that Buick got the car right. Its been outselling the ES consistently. Sorry to disappoint.

e

I Hate how they sit and compare, they say oh this "insert american car here" is a rebadge of this. But NEVER is it said, well this lexus is just a toyota camry thats 3 times as much.....

sheth

belly:

I checked out that review. Basically the ES won because it handles better (seriously?) and the Lacrosse's interior doesn't impress. Both observations fly in the face of every other review/comparo involving the Lacrosse. EVERY other review I've seen has praised the Lacrosse for interior quality. Every other comparison has said the ES is lacking in handling and feel. I would give it more credibility if they actually knew that the Lacrosse has a back up camera just like the lexus. They listed that as an "advantage" for the Lexus. It was clear from the first paragraph that they had the winner picked before they started.

Ben S.

Comparing a Buick to a Lexus is downright hilarious as Buicks are made for the rental car market. That's why only poor people buy GM cars. They can't afford quality.

Chessem

I saw in one of the car magazines the LaCrosse came in last place for family cars. I thought the new Buicks were supposed to better.

Belly

They listed that as an "advantage" for the Lexus. It was clear from the first paragraph that they had the winner picked before they started.
-Its just like you, you can accept defeat. You look so dumb.

And seriously what is e? Your lower class personality?

ron

Whats funny is an American car maker makes a great car and for some reason it hurts peoples feeling as some of the above post, Its a great car..how can you whine about something YOU dont drive? its ok to drive something other than what everyone else drives "Toyota"..geez

Belly

Hah! A bigot name as a title and a Lexus that had 35 problems but yet was kept by the owner for 3 years, sure we believe you.

Thanks for all the folks responding to Thomas mac for me. Yes, we do go on manufacturer trips but do pay our own way. We simply think the access is worth it to attend. Both to the cars and executives we don't get to talk with when we get a car in our local fleet.

I did produce a blog post on the turbo, the full regal review and this post though so it's not like I was twiddling my thumbs.

Buick sales hitting near Pontiac levels is extremely important and significant. Many wondered why GM would keep Buick and shed Pontiac. Well, so far it seems like the wise move. Buick has a lot of international funding and R&D due to Chinese demand and they're using that globally and American consumers get some of the benefit.

Government Motors built my lemon

Buick sales have nowhere to go but up.

http://images.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/Picture-40.png

yes we saw that chart the first time.

It has pretty much zero relevance to what we're talking about here of course.

Michael

While I find many of the posts here ignorant some are insightful. I for one do agree with the person who asked for the rental-fleet stats. My family owns two Buick's and a Toyota and all have been very good cars. With all of the new marketing I see of Buick I wonder if the retail sales are actually increasing. I say this because I haven't seen any new Buick models out on the street and I travel fairly extensively. I'm not sure why the stats would have been excluded to begin with when writing about a resurgence. It just seams like common sense.

sheth

michael:

Automakers dont always separat retail sales increases from fleet increases although GM often does make a distinction. The Lacrosse just had its best retail month and its sales were 90% retail.

http://media.gm.com/content/media/us/en/news/news_detail.brand_buick.html/content/Pages/news/us/en/2010/Jun/0602_buicksales

Buick retail sales were up 46% so those trying to pin this surge on rental sales are just wrong. Chevy is GM's main fleet brand, not Buick. You say you dont see many "new" Buick models around but the only model they have debuted in the last 2 years is the Lacrosse. I've seen at least 25 of them on the road and I see Enclaves all the time.


"I saw in one of the car magazines the LaCrosse came in last place for family cars. I thought the new Buicks were supposed to better."

Which magazine? It wanst MT because they ranked the Lacrosse over the ES350.

"-Its just like you, you can accept defeat. You look so dumb."

Should I accept the fact that they claim the Lexus has an "exclusive" back up camera even though their navigation equipped lacrosse has one as well? should I accept their comments about the interior being cheap when my own experience and other reviews say otherwise? HAve you actually been in the Lacrosse? didnt think so. At the end of the day the sales speak for themselves. With virtually no incentives the Lacrosse is outselling the ES350 and TL. Enough said.

Belly

Oh wait, so the Lacrosse does have incentives - they're just "virtually" not there... Enough said.

And you yourself have got back on what you said about the Malibu's interior, so why should we believe you are any judge? Enough said.

Why does it matter if I have been in a Lacrosse? Really why? "Did you read the immigration bill..." sorry I just love that one. Because if not I can't comment how Buick hasn't won all the major reviews? Or how it my still come up short to a Lexus that you just hate so much because it isn't "American" made?

"I've seen at least 25 of them on the road"
-You are the biggest loser on this site. You count the cars you see so you can post about it on a blog. I have seen a Lacrosse maybe once, when I drove past the Buick dealership. Other than that none.

Sorry Shet, I'll go take a seat in one sometime this week. And when I come back are you going to accept it if I say is not that good? Most assuredly no. Enough said.

Michael

Sheth,
The numbers in the article do not add up to indicate that "90% of Buick sales were retail" as you are stating. As much as I want to believe sales are increasing I think they are actually decreasing as I never see new Buicks on the road. I think people don't like the fact that a lot of the engine parts are made in China by the Yulan-GM partnership.

Michael,
I doubt anyone knows how much of the engine is made up of chinese sourced parts. Like they don't care iPhones are made entirely in China.

The 2.4-liter is still assembled at Spring Hill I believe.

sheth

michael:

Please go back and read what I wrote. I said 90% of LACROSSE sales were retail. 5432 lacrosses were sold TOTAL last month and 5060 were RETAIL. The release also says retail sales were up by more than overall sales which means they increased retail sales far more than fleet sales. If you have data proving that Buick's sales increases are based on fleet sales provide it please. The engines used in US Buicks are made in the US. Buick does not import any cars or engines from China. The fact that you dont see Buicks on the road means nothing really. You may not be looking for them or you may live in a rural area where new cars are rare. I see Lacrosses frequently.

"Why does it matter if I have been in a Lacrosse? Really why?"

It matters because you are quoting a review that contradicts every other professional review on the product. Since you are sticking with that review I wanted to know if your experiences supported what autoguide said. Unsurprisingly you havent been in the car so you can't even say if you agree or disagree.

"I have seen a Lacrosse maybe once, when I drove past the Buick dealership. Other than that none. "

where do you live? I live in a major city. I see most new models within weeks of them being released. I see a few Lacrosse's every week. Do you live in a rural area? Not that I believe you are telling the truth about the Lacrosse.

"And you yourself have got back on what you said about the Malibu's interior, so why should we believe you are any judge? Enough said."

I didnt take back anything on the Malibu. I said there are a few cars with nicer interiors for the money since its 3 years old. Show me where I said the Malibu's interior was low quality? I never contradicted anything I said about the car. Even in 2010 its more than competitive with the interiors of the newer Accord and Mazda6. In fact, I still think it has a better design and more interesting color schemes than either of them.

Belly

It matters because you are quoting a review that contradicts every other professional review on the product.
-That is a blatant lie. You yourself admit that other reviews chose the Lexus over the Buick. You just try and call them biased. Same with Consumer reports... and other review that doesn't pick GM as the top.

Unsurprisingly you havent been in the car so you can't even say if you agree or disagree.
-Again why does it matter? Your dumb-Shet statement:

I guess you missed the Edmunds and MT comparos that ranked the Lacrosse over the ES350. Do a little bit more research before going on the attack."
-You missed the Autoblog one. Don't call out others when you don't read up yourself, fool.

where do you live? I live in a major city.
-I live in a major city as well. Don't worry about it. You are always trying to get personal information from me but yet you won't give any. You are definitely a scared little fella.

Not that I believe you are telling the truth about the Lacrosse.
-Don't worry, no one, and I stress no one, believes a word you say.

Show me where I said the Malibu's interior was low quality?
-If you are going to insult the Camry for its low rent interior and then call the Malibu comparable - well guess what? You made the comparison!

Even in 2010 its more than competitive with the interiors of the newer Accord and Mazda6. In fact, I still think it has a better design and more interesting color schemes than either of them.
-Yes, yes. Everyone agrees with you here... oh wait, no! No one does! Hah! All those reviews that question the Malibu interior and all you can say "I think it has a better design" - no one cares about your opinion! Hah! You are low class just like the Malibu interior.

Belly

The Lacrosse just had its best retail month and its sales were 90% retail.
-This is wrong. Shet you can't read press releases either... or Motor Trend articles... or other peoples blog posts.

The press release says:
The LaCrosse had its best retail sales month since its launch last summer, with a 191 percent increase, selling 5,060 vehicles in May... Buick LaCrosse retail sales rose 191 percent and are up 162 percent for the year;
-See that number - an increase of 191% of retail sales? Sounds astonishing no? But does it really mean 90% of all sales are fleet? Not a chance.

(Guess what Shet - we are going to some Math on this one so just hold on...)

GM's sales numbers for the lacrosse in May 2009 were 1,748 (from this link - http://phx.corporate-ir.net/External.File?item=UGFyZW50SUQ9NDg1Mjh8Q2hpbGRJRD0tMXxUeXBlPTM=&t=1). Even if these were all retail an increase of 191% is (drumroll...) 3338. But yet the sales figures from the link show there were 5,452 (not sure why this is different from 5060, but either way it is way more than 3338) Lacrosses sold in May.

But how can this be!! Shet is a moron yet again (no surprise there). It is also no surprise that GM doesn't actually list the actual retail v. fleet sales numbers. Percentages always sound so much better.

Dave T

Uh Belly...you did the math wrong. You'd add the the 3338 to the 1748 because it's an increase of 191%. At least that's how I read it. Then you're right at that few hundred unit difference which appears to be the fleet number.

Btw no manufacturer lists the actual number of fleet sales. It's not just a GM thing.

sheth

Thanks Dave T, its good that someone can do basic math around here.

"You yourself admit that other reviews chose the Lexus over the Buick. "

No, I said MT and edmunds picked the Lacrosse over the Buick. Where have you been?
"-You missed the Autoblog one. Don't call out others when you don't read up yourself, fool."

I'm surprised that name calling is allowed. I'm not sure what you are talking about in ref to autoblog. When did they compare Lacrosse and ES350?

"You are low class just like the Malibu interior. "

Good one.

http://media.gm.com/content/Pages/news/us/en/2010/Jun/0602_gmsales/_jcr_content/rightpar/sectioncontainer/par/download_0/file.res/Deliveries_May_2010.pdf

Lacrosse sales were up 211% in May 2010. The number mentioned in the other press release (that is from GM,not Belly) states that 5060 sales (of 5452) were retail which is 93%. What are you talking about? If sales are up 100% that means they DOUBLED from 2009. If they are up 191% that means they almost tripled from 2009. Your math is as flawed as the rest of your argument. A 191% increase from 1748 is 5086.


Wrong again. The entire premise that Buick's sales increases are based on rental cars is totally inaccurate.

Belly

Wow, those ARE some bad numbers. I apologize to everyone who read that - yes even you Shet.

I'm surprised that name calling is allowed.
-Please, as if you are not one of the most insulting people on this board.

No, I said MT and edmunds picked the Lacrosse over the Buick. Where have you been?
-It was autoguide, sorry got the car blog mixed up. And when C&D picked the Lexus over the Lacrosse your only comeback was that they are biased. But I posted the link to the autoguide comparison above, I am pretty sure you knew what I was talking about.

It was clear from the first paragraph that they had the winner picked before they started.
-But they're just biased as well... yeah they're the biased party here.

sheth

"-Please, as if you are not one of the most insulting people on this board."

Uh, I havent called you any names.

"And when C&D picked the Lexus over the Lacrosse your only comeback was that they are biased."

They are. C&D doesnt even like Lexus models and they never win comparisons. Only when compared to a Ford and Buick did they suddenly find so much to praise. There was no real reason for the ES to finish higher. It was slightly faster, much more expensive, smaller and had worse handling and steering feel and yet it won. MAke sense to you? They said in the article that the fact that its a Lexus counts for a lot since its a "better" brand than the other cars in the test. Can you tell me the reasons for the Buick finishing 3rd? They explained away the $6k price disadvantage by saying "its a Lexus and they can charge more". Thats an excuse.

"-But they're just biased as well... yeah they're the biased party here."

that ridiculous comparison you provided (who even reads Autoguide?) totally contradicted everything else that has been written about the lacrosse. They can't be taken seriously and at the end of the day the sales speak volumes. Advantage: Lacrosse. Sorry to disappoint.

Vincent

The LaCrosse is a fine, fine rental car. I've had three on my trips to FL and haven't been disappointed yet. Too bad it's a grandpa Buick.

Belly

Uh, I havent called you any names.
-Yes, in first grade that did matter. But really sowwy for offending.

They are. C&D doesnt even like Lexus models and they never win comparisons.
-(Yawn) Same with Consumer Reports huh? Is all in their best interest to put down vehicles made by the world's second largest automaker...

that ridiculous comparison you provided (who even reads Autoguide?)
-Whoa, ridiculous? Strong words, it really means something coming from you. You told someone else to do more research but then you get trumped.

They can't be taken seriously and at the end of the day the sales speak volumes. Advantage: Lacrosse.
-(Yawn - again) How many ES's have been sold compared to Buick Lacrosse? One month and about 300 more sales - which are fleet by your own admission apparently - I don't really think is that big of a deal, especially where it is taking the place of two other brands that were canceled.

jett1000

I don't think there should be any denial of the success of the enclave and the new lacrosse. Buick is gradually getting better, that can't be denied. You don't see as many white haired old women in the new lacrosse and the enclave as you saw in old buicks like the century, park avenue, etc.

Mike

Lexus and Buick aren't even in the same class. I don't know why this comparison is being discussed. This is like when Kia compared the Sorento to the RX330...laughable.

Robert

@Belly I have to agree that if you have never been in a LaCrosse, why you would invest so much time tearing down the Buick and trying to justify your point of view. Your posts are juvenile and neurotic. AND you are extremely agressive and provocative in your posts. My suggestion is take your butt to the nearest Buick dealership, test drive the car with comparable options, and then come back and make comments. Then persons like myself, that are trying to really understand the facts (instead of the flames) can get some value from your comments.

TX_GM_owner

The LaCrosse looks like the Lexus ES? I don't think so. The Lexus is frumpy and god-awful looking while the Buick is absolutely stunning. Check your glasses.

Post a Comment 

Please remember a few rules before posting comments:

  • If you don't want people to see your email address, simply type in the URL of your favorite website or leave the field empty.
  • Do not mention specific car dealers by name. Feel free to mention your city, state and brand.
  • Try to be civil to your fellow blog readers. This blog is not a fan or enthusiast forum, it is meant to help people during the car-buying process and during the time between purchases, so shoppers can keep a pulse on the market.
  • Stay on topic. We want to hear your opinions and thoughts, but please only comment about the specified topic in the blog post.
view posting rules

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Search Results

KickingTires Search Results for

Search Kicking Tires

KickingTires iPhone App
Ask.cars.com