Buick Tells TTAC To Pump The Brakes, It's All Good - We Never Said It Wasn't
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.”
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.
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.
More by Timothy Cain
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