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Buick has a golden opportunity


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Buick has a golden opportunity

By ROGER HART on 11/18/2010

WITH VIDEO -- As the saying goes, you never get a second chance for a first impression. But the folks at Buick hope that's not true. Buick has been around for a century (I guess you could call it a "Buick Century"), and the general public has a basic idea of what Buick stands for: cars for old men who wear hats and drive slowly, usually in the left lane with their turn signal on.

Demographics back that up, well, at least the age part: The average age of a Buick owner is 70--nearly two decades older than the average new-car buyer.

Buick is working hard to change that image and to make its products attractive to younger buyers. Its latest salvo was the launch of the Regal GS on Wednesday at the Los Angeles auto show. With a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, the smallest car in the Buick lineup (so far) should get some younger buyers at least looking at the brand.

That was evident in Florida a couple of weeks ago at an event in South Beach that Buick called the "Regal Remix." It was one of several such events the company has hosted around the country. Using a social-media site, invitations are sent out asking people to come to a location where they can take a look at the new Buick products. An open bar and a music concert, in this case by the Plain White Ts, help pack the place.

In a small warehouse, a couple of stages are set up, a couple of bars are stocked and staffed, and you have the makings of a party. It's all about trying to change attitudes.

If the event in Miami is any indication, the attitude shift just might work.

In speaking with several of the attendees about Buicks, the younger set--let's say those in the 25- to 30-year-old range--really don't have any biases against the brand. They're not all that knowledgeable about Buick but they are at least willing to listen. They grew up in families that drove Toyota Camrys or Honda Accords or minivans or SUVs. The worst thing I heard someone say about a Buick was that "my grandma owns one."

Every automaker wants to get younger people buying its product. Car companies want to seem young and hip. Of course, the problem is that once you become the next big thing, the trendsetters have moved on to something else.

Another problem with trying to attract younger buyers is that they typically don't make enough money to buy a new car. But I guess it's worth planting that seed about your brand for when the time comes that they do have enough to buy a car.

Buick's plan to remake its image will take time, needs to be consistent even when General Motors management changes, and its overall message has to contain more than free booze and rock concerts.

Oh, and the one thing all the attendees at the Regal Remix said: The cars have "to rock."

Watch video of the Buick Remix in Miami:

Read more: http://www.autoweek.com/article/20101118/FREE/101119857#ixzz15h6RdudE

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