01Malibu

2009 Buick Regal

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How Sweet it is!

An age-old battle for Buick

June 15, 2007

The 2008 Buick Enclave with 20-inch wheel.

CHICAGO - When General Motors announced plans three years ago to revive its Buick brand with a string of new models aimed at younger buyers, it was to reduce the average owner's age of 63, among the oldest in the industry.

Today, the average Buick buyer is 65, according to the Power Information Network, the data-gathering unit of J.D. Power and Associates. That is the oldest and 19 years senior to the industry average.

Its image as a geriatric brand continues to haunt Buick despite years of fighting against it.

In the 1980s, for example, Buick offered turbochargers on several models to seem racier. The company also has adopted golfer Tiger Woods as a pitchman and the hip-sounding advertising tag line of "It's all good," all to no avail.

"Buick is the only brand in the industry with an average age in the 60s. Even Lincoln and Jaguar are in the 50s," said Power analyst Tom Libby.

Two of Buick's three current models, the Lucerne and LaCrosse sedans, were supposed to be part of the youth movement, but Power lists the average buyer ages at 68 and 69, respectively.

Libby points out that means a sizable number of Buick buyers are in their 70s or older. "If the average age of LaCrosse buyers is 69, that means for every 65-year-old that buys one, a 73-year-old buys one," he said.

That is a double whammy because it not only reinforces the seniors-on-wheels image but also places the customer base with owners who won't buy many more new cars.

Even Woods, 31, the company's spokesman since 1999, hasn't moved younger people.

"How many people the age of Tiger Woods consider a LaCrosse or Lucerne?" asked Global Insight analyst Catherine Madden.

One thing Buick does have, however, is a new general manager to wrestle with the age problem. Jim Bunnell took over May 11 after John Larson resigned to become chief executive of radar-detector company Escort Inc.

Bunnell also is in charge of the Pontiac and GMC brands, which GM is combining with Buick into single dealerships, a strategy he says will eliminate overlapping lineups and boost dealer profits.

Putting all three brands under the same roof also will bring a wider range of shoppers into the showroom, including coveted younger ones. Pontiac and GMC buyers average 46, same as the industry, Power data show.

Bunnell also points to the newest Buick model, the Enclave crossover that went on sale recently, as an example of how the right product can be a youth tonic. Power says early buyers of the Enclave average 55.

The Buick Rainier and Rendezvous sport-utility vehicles also drew a marginally younger crowd before being discontinued as part of GM's product overhaul.

"We see the same happening with the Enclave crossover, buyers in their early 40s and 50s that are much younger than the traditional (Buick) buyer," he said.

That doesn't mean Buick intends to scrap its traditional sedans in search of the Fountain of Youth.

"At the same time, I'm still happy to sell Lucerne to a 65-year-old or 70-year-old buyer because we still have a lot of loyal buyers," Bunnell said.

But analyst Erich Merkle of industry forecaster IRN Inc. says it will take more than Enclave to reverse Buick's aging process.

He says Buick needs to ditch features aimed at traditional buyers, such as the front-bench seat in the Lucerne, and roll out a sporty car like the Chrysler 300 to lure younger buyers.

"There's no reason Buick can't have a showpiece like that in their lineup." Merkle said. "It would be a car that would change the image of the brand, a car that would speak volumes for the brand without having to say a word."

Buick does have more fresh metal coming. This summer it adds performance versions of the Lucerne and LaCrosse. Though Bunnell wouldn't confirm it, analysts expect GM to add at least one model to the lineup and overhaul the LaCrosse and Lucerne.

Global Insight forecasts that a smaller crossover, a version of the Saturn Vue, will arrive in 2008. In 2009, the LaCrosse is expected to be redesigned and renamed Regal, bringing back a popular nameplate. The front-wheel-drive Lucerne could be replaced by a larger rear-drive sedan in 2010, perhaps as the Riviera.

Such a sedan would fulfill a promise GM made in 2004, along with a convertible.

GM did show such a sedan, Park Avenue, recently in China, where Buick commands the prestige it used to have in the U.S. - a step below Cadillac in GM's hierarchy. But GM says Park Avenue is not intended for the U.S.

China is a shining light for Buick, where it is among the most popular brands and sold 303,000 there last year, topping U.S. sales for the first time.

In the U.S., sales dwindled to 240,657 last year and are down 31 percent this year, relegating Buick to 23rd place among brands, behind niche marketer Subaru. That is a far cry from 1984, when Buick sold 941,000 and was among the Top 5 with talk of reaching 1 million in sales.

Bunnell ascribes most of this year's decline to discontinued models and a planned reduction at GM of low-profit sales to daily rental companies. The latter also has hurt Pontiac, which is off 20 percent through April.

Bunnell says GM's plan is to have "fewer but well-executed Buick and Pontiac models and not play in questionable segments like mini-vans and have product overlap between the two divisions."

That could crimp sales at both, but Bunnell said combining Buick, Pontiac and GMC into single showrooms will lessen the need for each brand to prop up sales with incentives to retail buyers or discounts to rental companies to justify their existence.

Under GM's plan, Pontiac will streamline to a smaller lineup of sporty, rear-drive cars, GMC will remain a truck and SUV brand and Buick will be the premium brand.

GM says it has 1,650 Buick-Pontiac-GMC stores that generate about 70 percent of sales for the three brands and expects further consolidation will make it 80 percent by year-end.

There are about 100 standalone Buick dealerships and slightly fewer Pontiac stores.

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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Dont know the website you quoted here, but it is a spam site and it was deleted. Please don't post it again

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Yeah...that confirmed nothing. Just speculation there.

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There is definitely no smaller crossover coming next year.

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Regal makes more sense, GM changes names too much. But they allow cars to stay on the market too long (8 model years for the last Regal), so they get a bad image, then they change names and some people don't know what a LaCrosse is, so it has less recognition. To stay successful you have to update cars often and continually advertise to keep awareness up. GM has too many models to do this, so they often introduce a car, advertise it for a year or 2 and then forget about it for 4. They have gotten better with consolidation, but still too many models and rebadges.

Avg. age of 65 is sad. I don't think that is reversible either. Brands (in any industry) get an image and reputation and people make purchases based on that. Personally I think they should plan to make Buicks for about 5-8 more years and phase them out. There is still a small market for them now, but 5 years from now they might have an average age of 70 and selling 130,000 cars a year. If that happens they need to phase out. Focus on other products and growing segments.

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I've said this all along and I'll say it again: Buick needs more products, and cannot survive on just LaCrosse, Lucerne, and Enclave. LaCrosse is flat out an underwhelming vehicle-the Saturn Aura will and likely has stomped on LaCrosse and Pontiac G6 in terms of sales/production, deservedly so (not to mention the similar Chevy Impala as well). Lucerne is okay, but it never has convinced me as having Buick styling, and the interior could use some perking up too, and it is selling...but still almost solely to elderly people (I've seen about 3 under-senior citizens driving Lucernes around). It may be better than the LeSabre/Park Avenue it replaced, but it still has the same clientele, plus maybe a few import conquests. But the 3800 V-6 and 4-speed automatic transmissions are ancient, and lacking as we all know, no matter how proven they are. And the LaCrosse 2008 update? Next to even the tepid 2008 Caddy STS, that looks like no improvement at all, still keeping the Chevy-like CX/CXL trims, complete with little more than grille and color changes. And why is it becoming Regal? I've liked most Regals, but when I think of mid-size mainstream, (FWD) Buick, I think of Century, not the Regal. And so did the overwhelming majority of people in the 1997-2005 generation (and 1982-96, but a little less so there).

With the Enclave's immediate success and the 2007 Riviera concept car and more, I am very, very hopeful about Buick, and I can't wait to see (and be a part of) its future.

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I've said this all along and I'll say it again: Buick needs more products, and cannot survive on just LaCrosse, Lucerne, and Enclave.

Why should they get more products when the ones they make don't sell? Investing a few billion on a dying brand makes no sense. Toyota builds a better Buick than Buick does, thus the baby boomers have gone to the imports. Once the 70 and up crowd dies off Buick will have little to no customer base left.

When Oldsmobile died, they gave Buick the minivan and Bravada became Rainier, and sales still dropped. GM has too many rebadged cars as it is, they can't rebadge more. I think the G5 and Torrent need killed too. They gave more models to Pontiac dealers because they complained sales were dropping, Pontiac sales have dropped for 8 or 9 of the last 10 years and the G5 and Torrent did nothing to change that. Two good cars will outsell 8 bad ones, just look at how the Camry and Corolla are going to combine to sell over 800,000 cars this year in the US, vs Buick and Pontiac combined will probably be around 500-600,000.

I agree with you that the CX trims need to be dropped, those are worse than what is on a Chevy, basic rental cars are nicer. Plus Buicks are built on 90s platforms with an engine from the 70s, which doesn't help sales.

I support sacrificing Buick and Saab for the overall good of GM. Take every dollar spend on those 2 brands and spend it on the Cobalt, Malibu, Impala, and Alpha platform, and GM would be better off.

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Well we'll see how this plays out, I have a funny feeling that GM will shut down both Buick and Pontiac if this doesn't work and merge GMC into Chevrolet.

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Global Insight forecasts that a smaller crossover, a version of the Saturn Vue, will arrive in 2008.

Ya, that will work!Posted Image

:pbjtime::pbjtime::pbjtime::pbjtime::pbjtime:

(just kiding)

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There's no VUE-based crossover coming that soon and the LaCrosse name is not being changed... at least not as of last week.

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Avg. age of 65 is sad. I don't think that is reversible either. Brands (in any industry) get an image and reputation and people make purchases based on that. Personally I think they should plan to make Buicks for about 5-8 more years and phase them out. There is still a small market for them now, but 5 years from now they might have an average age of 70 and selling 130,000 cars a year. If that happens they need to phase out. Focus on other products and growing segments.

Well, I honestly believe that Buick is here to stay thanks to China. If there is a problem. I'd expect Pontiac to be shut down and Buick to gobble up GMC.

Buick would then become the white-collar Chevrolet.

I'm really looking forward to the new Regal. The ES350 is everything I need but, I refuse to buy a fancy Camry to get a V-6 FWD luxury sedan in a mid size package. Please Buick this car cannot come soon enough.

Edited by carman21
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" Two good cars will outsell 8 bad ones...."

Exactly. Buick needs a small sport ute like a fish needs underpants. The Rainier, Terraza, and Rendezvous were all stiffs. I realize every manufacturer has a business case for more volume, etc..., but Buick is a car company, remember?

Edited by CaddyRich
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Well we'll see how this plays out, I have a funny feeling that GM will shut down both Buick and Pontiac if this doesn't work and merge GMC into Chevrolet.

Chevy-Saturn-Cadillac would be interesting. I'd be willing to sell my donkey and olive cart to buy GM stock if they did that :spin: Edited by ZL-1
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