Buick Don't Need You, Son

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
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buick don t need you son

General Motors today fêted Buick as the planet’s fastest-growing volume automaker. Ignored in GM’s press release was the Buick brand’s declining volume in Buick’s home market.

As if we needed more evidence that North America is an increasingly unimportant component of Buick’s future plans — Buick is discontinuing the Verano, its most popular car model in the U.S. and the most popular Buick overall in Canada — GM revealed that Buick added more Chinese sales between January and June than the whole U.S. Buick division managed in toto.

Only one year ago, 19 percent of the Buicks sold around the world were delivered in the United States. That figure fell to 15 percent in 2016’s first-half as global Buick volume jumped 20 percent and U.S. Buick sales dipped 2 percent.

Upon GM’s exit from Chapter 11 in 2009, we understood that “New” GM chose Buick over Pontiac because of China. Though American customers chose Pontiac nearly 70-percent more often than Buick over the previous five years and while Buick volume had declined in the U.S. every year between 2002 and 2009, the tide was turning on the other side of the Pacific.

In 2003, for instance, Americans registered more than twice as many Buicks as Chinese consumers.

By 2009, Chinese customers were driving away in nearly 90-percent more Buicks than their American counterparts.

Fast forward to 2016 and China now accounts for more than eight-in-ten Buick sales.

Indeed, Buick reported 34,700 more sales in China in January alone than Buick’s U.S. outlets reported in the whole first-half of 2016.

In June, Chinese crossover buyers acquired more than 14,000 Envisions while the Excelle GT, essentially our Verano, attracted another 26,000 buyers. This occurred during the same time span in which the entire Buick brand — Encore, Enclave, Verano, LaCrosse, Envision, Regal, Cascada — generated 16,575 U.S. sales.

With the Buick Verano dead, we asked in May, should Buick sell passenger cars in America at all? Then we were curious in June as to why the Envision was launched in the U.S., at least at first, without an ad campaign.

Do such questions even matter? Forgive us for wondering now whether GM needs to be troubled by anything Buick does, or doeth not, in America. U.S. Buick sales in 2016 are half as strong as they were in 2002, yet 2016 will be the fourth-consecutive year of record global Buick sales.

You can almost hear the Buick tri-shield badge mock under its breath. “America? Whatever.”

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • Johnster Johnster on Jul 28, 2016

    The only Buick I really like is the Enclave which is a surprisingly attractive vehicle in the luxury crossover field. Everything else is "meh." Even the Envision and Encore. "Meh." Theoretically, Buick should be able to offer luxury versions of Chevrolets, but the actual cars have been disappointing.

  • The_FOG The_FOG on Jul 29, 2016

    So, let me get this straight: instead of celebrating the success of an American brand in China, we're bitching about 'relative' American production numbers? With that in mind, American production that is no doubt mostly pure profit due to GM's platform sharif and Buick's China sales? With that in mind, from a brand that 1) still sells comparably to its primary competition.. in America. And 2) has absolutely KILLED it in the hottest segment (crossovers) in the market... In America. Typical TTAC anti-GM garbage.

    • Mark Stevenson Mark Stevenson on Jul 29, 2016

      We're not celebrating or "bitching" about Buick's current state of affairs. It's great that Buick is seeing success in China, just as GM thought it would before it decided to keep the brand post-bankruptcy. However, it's interesting to see that Buick's success in China doesn't translate to success in the United States; that Buick's global success doesn't rely on the United States at all. Additionally, a large portion of Buick's sales domestically were thanks to the Verano (which won't continue) and the Encore, two vehicles that can be had for less than $25,000 in the United States. This, from a brand that says it's a "premium" marque. This, from a brand that is losing domestic market share. This, from a brand with no millennial brand equity.

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