Last year, Buick sales reached a 75 year low; this year, the numbers show a 60% leap over 2009. Granted, 2009 was a horrible year for sales, but the current trend is hopeful. The company has a fresh lineup of new products and a personal marketing approach that seem to be turning things around.
Interestingly, the average age of the Buick buyer has dropped, even though the average age of U.S. buyers industry-wide has risen. Parent company GM is looking to make a profit these days, and the average price of a Buick is up 26% to $35,884 according to J.D. Power and Associates.
GM was able to hold on to the Buick brand because of solid sales in China. Now, it hopes to woo the younger U.S. market with its new five-vehicle lineup and hands-on, grass roots marketing strategies.
Young people don’t see Buick as the older person’s brand, says Roger McCormack, product marketing director for Buick. “An older customer has the old image of Buick in their mind. The younger consumer really doesn’t have a specific image of Buick. It is a little fuzzy.” That “fuzziness” is something the company hopes to improve by using creative marketing tools to shape up its image.
The Buick marketing team has come up with some imaginative tactics to provide the public a hands-on experience with their models. For example, in Chicago, an art gallery was transformed into a free concert hall called “Buick Remix” for one evening in July. Visitors were able to enjoy a glass of wine, listen to live alternative tunes by Augustana and sit in the four Buicks that were available on the floor.
In another city, a coffee shop featured Buicks parked outside and offered people $5 coffee gift cards after they checked out the cars.
Similarly, the staff of a large doctor’s office was treated to a look at the new models and offered a free lunch after doing so. Buick spokeswoman Dayna Hart says, “We are doing a lot of grass-roots. We are taking the car to the people.”
GM launched a Web site in June, momentoftruth.com, that invites comments of all kinds about its Buick Regal sedan. The company is also using social media like Facebook to promote the Buick brand.
Even if the current trend continues, Buick is unlikely to reach sales comparable to past years. In 2000, 404,612 Buicks were sold in the U.S. The best seller for the brand that year was the LeSabre, accounting for 148,633 vehicle sales – more than the brands total sales for this year will be.
Hart said in a recent email that Buick hopes to sell 200,000 annually. They haven’t sold that many vehicles since 2006, but an upward trend would be a great thing for dealers who recently lost the Pontiac brand from their Pontiac-Buick-GMC stores.
Dealers like Mike Bowsher, president of Carl Black Automotive Group in Kennesaw, Georgia, report that the fresh product lineup is bringing in new types of buyers. He said, “We are getting a real shot at younger, import, traditional buyers. We traded in two Land Rovers in Kennesaw. We are not used to seeing that kind of product.”
It’s expected that by 2013 the Buick lineup will consist of the LaCrosse and Regal sedans, the Enclave crossover, a new compact sedan and an additional compact crossover. The large Lucerne sedan will be discontinued next year.
Buick will continue to firm up their identity as a brand. McCormack says, “We have not really come on the right way to say it. But descriptively we have talked about it in terms of attainable luxury, unpretentious luxury.”
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