By on July 29, 2016

2017 Buick Encore

Buick is all about China, where the brand claims more than 5 percent market share.

Buick’s achievements in the United States, once storied, are now not nearly so impressive. Buick’s market share in America today is half what it was in 2002, after volume declined in eight of 14 years, tumbling from more than 430,000 sales 14 years ago to 223,055 last year.

This is part of the Buick story we told you yesterday. In touting record global sales as one of the planet’s fastest-growing volume brands, Buick’s General Motors parent company also made clear that the brand is achieving rapidly increased rates of sales because of the Chinese market, even though U.S. sales are declining, albeit marginally.

Following our managing editor’s press of the publish button, we almost immediately heard from Buick.

“We’re launching three all-new products in this market this year (Cascada, Envision, LaCrosse) as well as updating a fourth (Encore) after a long stretch where we were more reliant on successful marketing than new products to maintain momentum in North America,” Stuart Fowle, Buick’s communications manager, told TTAC via email.

“Cascada is not a volume player and the other three, which are, have either not arrived or are only available in limited supply. The Enclave, now in the market for eight years, is pacing for its best July ever.”

2016 Buick GL8 Minivan

That’s fair.

Buick, says Fowle, will post impressive July growth even as the brand prepares to wind down the discontinued Verano, in large part because of the launch of new models. Moreover, the brand’s two established crossovers are selling in healthy numbers. The Encore is a top-flight subcompact crossover competitor. The ancient Enclave and its Lambda platform siblings from Chevrolet and GMC combined for more than 117,000 first-half sales, not an inconsiderable sum for vehicles launched the year before Barack Obama was elected president.

Wrote GM’s Fowle: “Buick reaches much further into the mainstream in China than in the U.S. The top seller is the Excelle, an affordable sedan that wouldn’t make sense for the U.S.”

We would point out here that Buick rather recently reached deep into the American mainstream, as well; that consumers quickly began reacting negatively to Buick more than a decade ago; that Buick’s attempt to reposition itself as a premium brand — if successful — will take time.

Moreover, Buick has been and is selling an affordable sedan in the U.S.: the Verano. It’s Buick’s best-selling passenger car in America. But GM is ending the Verano’s U.S. run. As for the Encore’s superior volume in the U.S. market, we have no desire to argue with facts.

2016 Buick Excelle GT blue

Thus, we’re left to wonder whether Buick’s U.S. outpost suffers from something of an identity crisis. Less a desire to convey Buick’s strength relative to GM’s perceived Buick rivals in the U.S. — Fowle’s email did mention that, “Buick outsells Acura and Infiniti and sells double the volume of Lincoln,” — Buick’s response to TTAC seems more taken up by distracting us from our conclusion that Buick is a Chinese-intensive automotive brand.

As we mentioned yesterday, more than 80 percent of Buick sales now occur in China. If Buick’s U.S. sales in the first-half of 2016 declined 100 percent, global Buick volume would still have increased because of Buick’s position as the fifth-best-selling brand in China, the world’s largest auto market.

GM is entitled to own these facts, to shout from the mountaintops that Buick’s current successes are based almost entirely on its Chinese strength (and despite its diminished status in the United States), to proclaim that GM’s historic efforts to capitalize on the Chinese auto industry’s growth are paying off. But this isn’t the first time Buick has spoken up when seemingly concerned by North American media attention regarding its China-centric nature. It likely won’t be the last.

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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84 Comments on “Buick Tells TTAC To Pump The Brakes, It’s All Good — We Never Said It Wasn’t...”


  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The obvious answer is that Buick is two brands that share a name. The Chinese Buick sells a tarted-up Cruze and has been doing well. The American Buick has been losing market share for years, and is hoping that it’s new-ish, forgettable models will turn the tide.

    The two Buicks share one model, but that’s low by GM standards. American Buick shares several models with Opel, and nobody gets them confused.

    • 0 avatar

      “The obvious answer is that Buick is two brands that share a name.”

      But you can’t have one (Buick in China) without the other (Buick in America). That’s the allure (pun intended) of the Buick brand to the Chinese. Without Buick in America, the Chinese love affair in the brand is lost.

      Though, it’s ironic that the Chinese love Buick’s American-ness, though some Americans are incredibly sensitive to the fact that Buick is becoming, more and more, a Chinese-market brand.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        “the Chinese love Buick’s American-ness”

        Is that how they dabble with decadence?

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          “Is that how they dabble with decadence?”

          Nope, that’s reserved for the Rolls-Royce Phantom, Dragon Edition.

          http://www.motortrend.com/news/dragon-tale-1-2-million-rolls-royce-phantom-dragon-edition-sold-out-in-china-157995/

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        I think you can have a Chinese Buick without having an American one. It’s not like a Couture line improving the image of ready-to-wear line, they are both mid-range at best.

        Chinese Buick depends on the American-ness of Buick in the 1940s, and that will never change. In fact, Chinese Buick may be better-off without American Buick: it breaks the spell.

      • 0 avatar
        ccode81

        Just saying for fun,
        it’s ironic that the American love Accord’s Japanese-ness, though most Japanese are ignorant to the fact that Accord is becoming, more and more, a American-market brand.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          Except neither of those two statements has much truth to them.

          Think of Honda car sales and production as an iceberg. What you see above the water is Japanese; the rest is North American or European. Everybody knows this. Honda is a very minor player in Japan.

          • 0 avatar
            ccode81

            Yep, just said for fun after knowing Accord’s Ohio-ness. Kudos to Honda for achieving the localization they aimed 30 years ago.

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth

            DIDN’T MEAN TO GET AGITATED

            THOUGHT YOU WAS DISRESPECTIN’ MARYSVILLE YO

          • 0 avatar
            87 Morgan

            I know Honda was considering for a time relocating to the U.S due to pressure of the Yen and what not along with the fact that for intents and purposes Honda is an American company producing product for the U.S. market only.
            I would wager a small bet that if they were to do this sales would increase domestically as their are still those that want to buy an American made car from what is considered a domestic car manufacturer. I get the Fiatsler argument, but I believe the masses still considers Dodge/Ram/Jeep/Chrysler to be a Merican’ company.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Honda is the number two car brand in Japan. Japan isn’t a huge market, and Toyota is the biggest player, but saying Honda is a very minor player in Japan is like saying you speak freely without any concern for telling the truth or knowing your subject matter. I am disappointed.

            http://www.best-selling-cars.com/japan/2015-full-year-japan-best-selling-car-brands-and-manufacturers/

        • 0 avatar
          doug-g

          Honda is your father’s Oldsmobile. Even many, if not most, current Honda dealers began as Oldsmobile dealers. Honda is the Methodist of cars.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            The headline from that list of sales in Japan by manufacturer is that Nissan is #5 in volume. I would have never guessed that.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Since we apparently have a direct line to Buick, tell them to put a supercharged or turbo’d pushrod V6 in the new Lacrosse and Regal.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Hey Buick people, bring that Opel Insignia wagon over (Regal Tourx?). I might buy one to replace my Sportwagen.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Same.

    • 0 avatar
      Joshua Johnson

      I concur. As a two time Buick owner who is only 30, Park Avenue Ultra and Lucerne CXL Special Edition, I would be all over the Opel Insignia Sports Tourer OPC as the Buick Regal GS Sports Tourer.

      In shopping for my current car, I was sorely tempted by the Regal GS after test driving one. I was not expecting much from after how disappointing the Lucerne had been, but it far exceeded my expectations. The primary reason I did not get one, however, is because Infiniti made/makes a wagon called the FX/QX70. And because V8.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      I’m in the tiny minority within a minority of people would be into a Verano wagon (or hatchback!) if such a thing were to exist.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    So, Buick’s Communications Manager will presumably be reading what little old us are saying on this thread?

    Christ, now I’m too nervous…

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’m just glad they’ve brought the colored tri-shield back (which I realize had been in place in the Chinese market all this time).

    And yes, bring that Insignia (Regal) wagon over.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    Dear Buick Communications Manager,

    I want a new RWD V8 Buick Roadmaster station wagon. Make it happen! My old b-body wagons are still my favorite vehicles I’ve ever owned.

    • 0 avatar
      benders

      Holy crap you guys are predictable.

      Those cars suck and an updated model wouldn’t sell in any appreciable numbers. Partly because the people who are clamoring for “the good old days” are too cheap to buy one new, mostly because most consumers want ride height, predictable behavior in the wet and score, and fuel economy.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Welcome to what I call “Every Single Day over at The Brougham Society.”

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        The cars they have right now don’t sell in appreciable numbers anyway.

        If you’re going to bother spitting out anything that isn’t a CUV, might as well make it interesting (or popular for the Chinese).

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “the people who are clamoring for “the good old days” are too cheap to buy one new”

        B-body went out in ’96, there are twenty years worth of new buyers since then. The closest thing to it would the be Chevrolet SS which isn’t advertised at all nor will it be produced in reasonable numbers despite demand because of its loss making nature.

        Personally I have no delusions about Roadmaster, it was simply an attempt to sell more Caprices through the BPG channel. But aside from RWD the Roadmaster also had the distinction of using a relatively reliable GM truck motor. This is attractive to anyone who likes GM trucks or GM Powertrain. FWD aside, the 3.6 was developed by Holden and Cadillac (read: Holden for Cadillac) and is nothing like its LS pushrod cousin. The GM Ecotec family was developed by Opel with input from GM Powertrain, Saab, and much of the work by Lotus Engineering. Some buyers prefer the more reliable low revving truck motor over high revving OHC in their GM product, and they are not wrong per se. The truth is, Buick was always upscale C-P-C and it remains as such with a few random Opel models tossed in. Whatever Chevrolet or Opel offers, Buick will largely mimic. If this happens to be a Caprice like vehicle, then you will see the Roadmaster return.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_High_Feature_engine

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_Ecotec_engine#LDK

        “most consumers want ride height”

        Data? Anecdotally, I’d say about half care.

        “predictable behavior in the wet and score”

        I guess this means drive-train? Buick buyers traditionally wanted and got predicable reliability out of 3800 which, along with 3100 in some models, was the brand standard for many years. Buick now draws upon several drivetrains some of which were problematic for their owners in and out of the warranty period. I don’t know enough to say this has all been sorted out now.

        “fuel economy”

        With truck sales and 18mpg CUVs at an all time high? While some may be seeking out EVs and hybrids there are a sizable chunk of consumers who clearly don’t care about fuel economy and buy the biggest vehicle they can afford. They may be buying GMC instead of Buick, but if Buick offered them a product which met their other needs despite fuel economy, it might have a winner.

        http://www.statista.com/statistics/325597/estimated-truck-sales-in-the-united-states/

        • 0 avatar
          benders

          Just what do you think is driving the CUV craze? They’re not buying CUVs just because they’re too dumb to ask Buick to bring back the Roadmaster.

          CUVs offer consumers the best package that builds on the last 30 years of cars. It drives like a mid size car and has the height of an SUV but gets better gas mileage.

          Fuel economy is reported by NADA surveys as the most important factor in purchasing a new car. Of course, it’s always relative to each buyer but most people are not going to buy a RWD station wagon that gets 15 mpg (V8 CTS wagon) when there’s an SUV right next to it that gets 15 mpg (Escalade)? At one point CTS wagons were 0.5% of CTS sales for a historical GM comparison.

      • 0 avatar
        Frylock350

        @benders.

        “Those cars suck and an updated model wouldn’t sell in any appreciable numbers. Partly because the people who are clamoring for “the good old days” are too cheap to buy one new, mostly because most consumers want ride height, predictable behavior in the wet and score, and fuel economy”

        The b-body station wagon did not suck at all. When it was new it could outrun its contemporary Mustang GT, tow 7000lbs (99% of CUVs cannot touch that), haul 4×8 sheets of building material, haul 8 people, and accomplish all that with a comfortable interior and smooth ride. I’m not too cheap to buy one. I own a Silverado CCSB and and exploring a Suburban (the closest modern analog) purchase. In fact I got into trucks in the first place because I cannot buy a new b-body wagon. I have no delusions that it was a rebadged Caprice wagon, but I also don’t care. The fact that a Yukon XL is a rebadged Suburban won’t keep me away. Ironically I find that my willingness to purchase a Suburban is why GM will never bring the wagons back; much better to sell me a $50k SUV than a likely $40k wagon.

        @28Cars,

        For former wagon owners the SS isn’t remotely the same thing. Its a sports sedan with a harsh ride quality to match. It also can’t tow squat, can’t haul squat, etc. The Chevy Suburban is the modern analog: reliable, RWD, BOF, hauls/tows like a champ, V8 powertrain, and comfortable highway ride. My vehicle needs to be a road trip vehicle and I need towing capacity. Othewise I’d be all over an SS, Challenger 392, or even Volt.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      No don’t. But do say you will so FCA will release a new Magnum.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Never understood why a) they canceled the Magnum; and b) they didn’t stick the 300 front end on it like they did for Europe.

        Was at the MOPAR Carlisle show a few weeks ago – there were a few Magnum’s that looked showroom. That was a greatly underappreciated car….

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I betthat Buick mostly took exception to the article’s healing stating that Buick didn’t need the us market, with the implication being that they no longer cared about the us market. The marketeers cannot sit by and allow to grow a common perception that the company is no longer interested in success in a market in which it continues to compete.

    I don’t think any thing in the article as a whole is in dispute; this is a case of quickly reacting ro a headline without rea ding past the jump.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    It’s really depressing to hear him say that an affordable sedan doesn’t make sense in the US.

  • avatar
    markf

    Dear Buick, I am not Chinese and I am under 70 so I am not interested in your products……

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    An American brand that enjoys good sales in China. The parent company’s other brands are major players in the USA. Sounds good to me. What’s the problem?

    • 0 avatar
      The_FOG

      Thank you!

      To be frank, the problem is bitch-ass anti-GM “journalists” who don’t like the fact that ‘ole blue hair Buick’ (even though ALL the millennials know most old people drive Euro and Japanese cars) is so successful in China. It’s a classic case of the self-loathing and shit-talking America that helped usher Detroit into bankruptcy IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        The hipsters like Euro and Japanese as well. My nephew was offered a *free* loaded MKS with 30k miles on it and he preferred to keep his 2003 Avalon…

        Kids today with their tattoos and Pokemon Go….

  • avatar
    threeer

    Sounds like Fowle carries much of the same party line that Reuss carried when he wrote me a few months back. Why can’t GM just fess up that Buick is now (largely) a Chinese brand in both sales and manufacture and move on? Granted, the Verano my mother bought will likely be the last Buick to ever grace our family’s driveway, but at least we’ll know the truth from GM/Buick. Most Americans won’t care where Buicks come from…if they care about Buick at all.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Mr. Fowle,

    Killing your high volume small Verano in order not to interfere with the low volume and disliked Regal is not a good plan. The Cruze is always going to exist for the foreseeable future, and it’s a good car. Making a Verano on it just makes sense.

    What doesn’t make sense is forcing yourself to be burdened with an Opel that few people buy – and when they do buy it, they return it as soon as possible and get something else. Too small, too expensive, and zero other similar GM vehicles in the US. It’s the Catera of our times.

    Thanks!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Buick says to TTAC (to quote my 2 year old daughter): “Nooooo stop it!”

  • avatar

    I’ll say it again…Buick needs to disappear in the US, along with GMC.

    UNLESS! The effort to return prestige to the Buick brand continues and becomes relentless.

    Cadillac – a brand that once offered models that competed with Rolls-Royce – can move even further up the food chain in such a scenario.

    Chevrolet is GM’s mass-market, everyperson brand. Buick has no business operating in that sphere, if indeed it ever did.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Buick’s problem in the US is Cadillac, which went downmarket in the 1960s and thereby moved directly into Buick’s segment. Buick until that time was a substantial, soft car that was luxurious without the Cadillac flash, perfect for doctor’s, banker’s, college administrators, etc. that needed to convey success without drawing too much attention. With Cadillac’s encroachment Buick became nothing more than a slightly more expensive Chevrolet with often more awkward styling. I would argue that the Lexus ES and RX, and GMC SUVs have basically taken over the old Buick position today, while GM tries to move Cadillac back up to the higher position they vacated decades ago. Lack of investment has made Buick into a niche brand in the US today, and it would take a major investment to move Buick to a more relevant position. Unfortunately for any remaining US Buick fans, I suspect that the success of Buick China will likely erode the effort that GM puts into Buick US.

    • 0 avatar
      JLGOLDEN

      Part of the US Buick problem is the (pricing, features) overlap with Chevy and Cadillac, and the blurred lines of the Buick brand. Buick and Cadillac both lack the recognition, respect and street credibility to command anything near their list prices. Cadillac tries to move upmarket, but buyers balk at paying anything close to “Benz/BMW/Audi/insert favorite brand here… money” for a comparable Cadillac. Pour on the discounts and blowout sales, like always. GM would do well with Chevrolet, Cadillac, and maybe GMC.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        It’s not just Cadillac encroachment on Buick – what about Mercedes? The Envision MSRP is $34,065 and the Mercedes GLA is $32,850. When the average person sees those prices on the manufacturer’s web-site, are they even going to bother looking at the Buick?

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Denial isn’t just a river in Africa.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The automotive task force wanted to kill off Buick, but GM management fought to keep it.

    Personally, I don’t think that it made much difference, either way (I would have phased out Buick, but whatever), but they should have moved it to a two-tier distribution strategy. Mainstream vehicles on one lot, luxury on the other, ala Toyota vs. Lexus.

    That would have eliminated these overlap problems. The GMC trucks could have been a specialty commercial fleet arm of the Chevy dealership. Buick could have gone whereever, it would not have mattered much.

    This is similar to the problem that GM had before the bankruptcy. Now the company is stuck with the burden of providing inventory for a third channel of dealers, which sell a brand that nobody cares about and another brand that competes with Chevy stores. This just doesn’t make any sense in the post-Sloan era of European-Asian dominance. GM can’t just kill off Buick now, because the cost of compensating the dealers make that idea unworkable.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Ideally, GM should have done the same thing as (then) Chrysler did, and just became GM Stores. Maybe left Cadillac as it’s own channel, though.

      This way those of us pining for Pontiacs and salivating for Saturns could still have one or the other of “our” cars. Possibly they could have successfully re-introduced Opel to the US, too.

      But, as noted, it doesn’t really matter at this point.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    I guess there really is a job out there for dweebs who crash every single car they’ve ever tried to drive on a racetrack, and that job is at Buick.

  • avatar
    Hank

    I may be in the minority, but none of this shift bothers me in the least. As Buick has become more Chinese centric, it’s US offerings have become more compelling, and their styling has been stepped up. Are they offering ’53 Roadmasters? No. But neither are they offering a ’79 Century. If China makes them step up their game, good.

  • avatar
    lemko

    My wife just bought a new 2016 Buick Lacrosse last month. It replaces her 2005 Buick Lacrosse we’ve had since we bought it new on March 12, 2005.

  • avatar
    bodayguy

    Hey Buick, if you want us to care again, take that Camaro platform and make us fat Americans a stylish Riviera. Make a statement folks.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Dear Buick,

    Grand National. Grand National. Grand National. You know what you must do.

  • avatar
    The_FOG

    Why does everyone here seem to live under a rock? “No one cares about Buick”? The brand is still a major player in the American market. Plus, it’s very profitable. Money talks, folks… “Euro-Asian dominance [of the market]”. Not quite… Check the numbers. Buick is an international brand (they source products from every part of GM). That’s the way it should be, and the way it has been planned for close to a decade now.

    If venture to say Buick/GMC is probably the most profitable part of GMNA right now, on a per unit basis. Once again, this is an anti-GM journalist attacking a positive Buick press release out of spite.

    It just amazes me how OOT TTAC, and some of its readership, is. Could they do more with the NA market? Absolutely. And hopefully they will. But rebuilding a brand is a long process, especially when you’re trying to do it right.

  • avatar
    Troggie42

    Since apparently Buick people read this:

    Hey guys! I’m 30, I have a stable job that pays decently, and I love what Buick used to be. You want me as a buyer? Build the Avista. Don’t bother reviving the Grand National badge or anything most people say like that, just make the Avista, give a detuned ATS Vsport engine at like 300-350hp or something, steal Cadillac’s suspension guy to make it ride right, and most of all, make sure people know it exists, and know how great it is. Don’t do what Chevy did with the SS and ignore its existence, hype that mofo up give it a Regal entrance! An entry level grand tourer from an American manufacturer is something we just don’t seem to have at all, and would be supremely awesome to be able to purchase. I can Envision being able to drive one of those down Park Avenue and see the heads turn as I go by on my way to the Riviera for a day out with my Special lady.

    Give us something to look forward to, Buick. Don’t follow the trends, SET them, like you used to.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    why not try to sell that minivan? bling it out to the max and call it a cadillac…

    the cadillac of minivans!

    Cadillac Coup DeGrace Estate

  • avatar
    doug-g

    GM is selling Buicks to people who want Buicks regardless of where those Buick yearning people live. Move along, nothing to see here.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I have to laugh, as part of TTAC’s authentication system, I now have to prove my humanity… by doing addition? I thought my humanity will be proven after my expiry and folks can judge what I’ve done to help my fellow man… All along, I could have proven it with arithmetic… Who knew?

    If there really is someone at Buick listening: I’d really like to put in a vote for the Adam. We’re looking at downsizing for the next vehicle. My wife wants a MINI, I do not. Outside of a Fiat 500 there’s nothing really close and she doesn’t want a Fiat.

    Also, I’m amazed at how good that U van looks with updated Buick sheetmetal hung all over it. I think that could be saleable here.

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