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Buick Attracting Younger Buyers

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Buick bounces back with younger buyers

LaCrosse helps to change image of a brand whose average buyer's age was once 72

Robert Snell / The Detroit News

Buick, the venerable General Motors Co. brand long maligned as catering to elderly buyers, is enjoying a rebirth in the United States and drawing younger, more affluent buyers, thanks to improved quality and styling. Just a year ago, the brand was headed for the scrap heap until then-GM Chief Executive Fritz Henderson convinced President Barack Obama's auto task force that Buick was worth saving, particularly in the booming Chinese market, as the automaker shrank from eight to four brands.

"They are making definite improvements in the U.S.," said Aaron Bragman, research analyst with consultant IHS Global Insight in Troy. "They made the right decision. To kill Buick would have been crazy. It's one of the most important brands in the Chinese market."

Last month, Buick sales in the United States rose 76 percent, and market share of the new Buick LaCrosse sedan climbed to almost 17 percent in the large-car segment, a one-two punch that is meeting Chairman and Chief Executive Edward Whitacre Jr.'s mandate that GM boost sales and market share after bankruptcy.

The LaCrosse sedan is furthering a Buick resurgence that started with the 2008 Enclave crossover, which had its best-selling month in December 2009, two years after debuting. The strong sales convinced GM to add a third shift this month at the plant near Lansing where it is produced.

The average age of a Buick buyer has fallen from 72 several years ago to 65. That figure is trending lower ahead of the launch of the Buick Regal midsize sport sedan this spring.

"The perception is changing -- I don't want to say it's done yet because perception takes a period of time and consistency," said auto analyst Erich Merkle of Autoconomy.com in Grand Rapids. "I'm seeing consistency out of Buick, but it's going to take more time."

Not all is well with the brand. Sales of the third vehicle in Buick's lineup, the Lucerne, are down 15.6 percent this year.

Appealing with technology

Buick is catering to buyers in their 40s, 50s and 60s by displaying new vehicles at events like food and wine festivals. But the push to lure younger customers is more than mere marketing. Buick is building vehicles loaded with technology such as DVD players, navigation systems and higher content that yields larger average sale prices.

"We identified a marketing opportunity and built cars for that demographic population," said Craig Bierly, Buick's product marketing director. "We were probably a little late doing it, but we are looking to broaden our base."

So far, the tactic is working.

Almost 29 percent of LaCrosse buyers are under 55 -- more than double the percentage that bought the prior model.

The LaCrosse, sales of which rose 236 percent in March, is seen as a less conspicuous luxury vehicle for buyers concerned about driving Mercedes and Lexus brands during a recession, dealers say.

"The recession's gotten to them. People who own a small business, they've been through an incredibly tough time, cutting wages, and they're going to buy a brand new Mercedes?" said Farmington Hills dealer Sam Slaughter. "It doesn't feel right. We're seeing people downsize and downgrade, but they don't want to give up having a navigation system and heated seats."

The new LaCrosse is fetching an $8,354 higher price tag than the 2009 model.

"The quality of the buyer demographic is good, but more important is achieving sales results and the desired profitability while spending little on incentives," Bierly said. A quarter of LaCrosse buyers are trading in non-GM vehicles, according to the automaker, which says buyers are drawn by exterior styling, value and reliability.

Rochester Hills resident Chris Bishop traded in a Toyota Camry last fall and bought a LaCrosse, drawn by the sedan's styling and "stunning" interior that he calls a departure from the brand's reputation.

"I wanted to go back to a GM product, but when I looked around before, I didn't see anything that said, 'Hey, buy me,' " said Bishop, 40, president of a software consulting firm. "When you think about Buick over the past 15 years, it wasn't a brand that stirred a lot of emotion from a styling standpoint. But the LaCrosse drove me back."

New vehicles important

Though sales are up, Buick began its resurgence with a small base, Autoconomy.com's Merkle said.

"They were whittled down to so few vehicles, they really had no place to go but up," he said.

The brand's lineup, however, is poised for expansion. Buick will unveil a compact sedan in the next 18 months and, later, a smaller version of the Enclave.

"We're moving the brand into more traditional volume segments where there is a greater opportunity and where traditionally we haven't played," Bierly said.

The true test of Buick's success in America will come following the launch of the Regal this spring and of the compact sedan, Bragman said.

"You have to change the product before you can change opinion," he said. "It's still too soon to really come to a verdict on how Buick is doing in the U.S. But nobody can say those are old person's cars anymore. Because they aren't."

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100412/AUTO01/4120334/1148/auto01/Buick-bounces-back-with-younger-buyers#ixzz0ktboEixJ

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Impressive Buick lineup is a winner

Scott Burgess / The Detroit News

General Motors Co. may have decided to keep Buick because of its success in China, but the brand has earned its strong recovery in the United States with a renewed lineup and stylish vehicles. It may still be seen as an older buyer's brand, but Buick has continued to score well in quality and consumer satisfaction studies such as those by J.D. Powers and Associates and Consumer Reports. The revival began in 2007 with the large crossover Buick Enclave and continued with the LaCrosse sedan. This year, the midsize Regal should continue the winning streak. When it comes to product, any brand can have a hit, but three hits in a row suggest a trend. GM's work is far from done, however. As Buick pushes smaller and more efficient, it's likely to become the first GM brand not to offer a V-8; at least if it's smart and discontinues the Lucerne sedan. Looking through its lineup, it's easy to see why Buick buyers are getting younger.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100412/AUTO01/4120331/1148/Impressive-Buick-lineup-is-a-winner#ixzz0ktgxp5eg

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The average age of a Buick buyer has fallen from 72 several years ago to 65 three years ago. That figure is trending lower ahead of the launch of the Buick Regal midsize sport sedan this spring.


The average age of Buick buyers was 65 back in 2007, so this data is not latest. There have been two home run models since then (Lacrosse and Enclave), which should bring down the age even further.

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Buick’s average buyer age drops from 72 to 65

04/12/2010, 8:38 AMBY ANDREW GANZ

When Bob Lutz introduced the Buick Regal GS “concept” to the media a few months ago, he was adamant that Buick would return to its glory days despite the brand’s borderline geriatric average buyer age of 72. Now, thanks mainly to a handful of fresh products, Buick has lowered the age of its average buyer to 65 as it targets buyers as young as 40.

Buick is aiming to bring in buyers from more established Japanese and German buyers – primarily Lexus and Mercedes-Benz shoppers – seeking something a bit different, less expensive and less ostentatious. The bold plan seems to be succeeding as analysts expect the average buyer age to plummet even further when the brand’s entry-level Regal hits showrooms later this spring.

“The perception is changing – I don’t want to say it’s done yet because perception takes a period of time and consistency,” said industry analyst Erich Merkle of Autoconomy in an interview with the Detroit News. “I’m seeing consistency out of Buick, but it’s going to take more time.”

The relatively rapid decrease in average buyer age – a rarity in the industry – is due primarily to the automaker’s recently-launched LaCrosse. While Buick continues offers the Lucerne, a big, wafty sedan, and the still fairly fresh Enclave crossover, sales and market share increases for the brand are concentrated mostly on the LaCrosse. Nearly one third of all LaCrosse buyers are under 55, which GM says is double the number it was on the outgoing model.

But not only is the LaCrosse appealing to a younger buyer; it’s selling better than its predecessor. Buick sales were up 76 percent last month – admittedly a good month for nearly every industry player, but an especially good one for Buick. The biggest news came from the LaCrosse: Sales skyrocketed an amazing 236 percent last month compared to the dated outgoing model.

Keeping Buick alive

When GM slashed its brand count to just four “core” units last year – by closing Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer and selling Saab – it took a lot of convincing of the Obama administration’s automotive task force to keep Buick from facing the same fate. Then-CEO Fritz Henderson had to show the government that Buick had a future – both in North America and in China, where the brand is one of the market’s strongest.

“They made the right decision,” Aaron Bragman of IHS Global Insight said. “To kill Buick would have been crazy. It’s one of the most important brands in the Chinese market.”

Cadillac concern

While Buick is making massive strides in terms of product, sales and market share, some of its success comes at the expense of Cadillac. Although the luxury market as a whole has not quite recovered the way more mainstream brands have this year, Cadillac’s relatively modest 41.6 percent gain last month over an especially weak March 2009 was concentrated nearly entirely in its succesful new SRX crossover. The brand’s former volume leader, its CTS, actually saw a 26.4 percent drop in sales last month – by far the biggest single decrease among all of GM’s mainstream consumer models.

The 2,870 CTS sedans that found new owners pale compared to the 6,054 LaCrosse sedans delivered in March. Granted, the LaCrosse is much less expensive than the CTS – but the numbers indicate that the dent Buick is making in Lexus and Mercedes-Benz luxury sales could also be eating away at Cadillac’s numbers.



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Those bloody 65 year old boy racers are going to be at the track drifting those Buicks ...

Edited by RjION

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Wouldn't you really rather have a Buick?

From where I sit .......... NO.

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I think part of the reason why sales are up at Buick that much is simple. no more Pontiac's and Saturn's. How many of those sales came from would be buyers of those brands? Everything at Chevy that had a Pontiac "twin" sales are up. Malibu sales are way up. could it be because there is no longer a Saturn Aura or Pontiac G6 to buy?

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Wouldn't you really rather have a Buick?

Im 33 years old and Im going to consider the new Regal when it comes time to replace my 2006 Pontiac G6. I did have a 1983 Buick Regal once when i was about 20 years old.

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