By on October 14, 2016

2018 Buick Expansion full-size SUV rendering, Image: © 2016 Matt Posky/The Truth About Cars

11.3 percent of the new vehicles sold by General Motors in the United States in September 2016 were full-size, body-on-frame, truck-based SUVs.

The Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV, Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, and GMC Yukon and Yukon XL combined for 28,172 total sales in September 2016, a 45-percent year-over-year increase worth nearly 9,000 more sales.

September marked the second consecutive month — and just the tenth month in the last five years — that GM produced more than one out of every ten of its U.S. sales with full-size SUVs. Not since November 2011 has GM produced such a hefty portion of its sales with large SUVs.

So why can’t Buick have one?

The answer, according to Buick spokesperson Stuart Fowle, is a rather obvious one.

“We operate as a sales channel partner with GMC and our showrooms are shared,” Fowle told TTAC via email yesterday. “From that standpoint, every dealership already has a full-size SUV.”

GM YTD 2016 sales by category

And it’s not as though that specific U.S. dealer network is suffering from a shortchanged SUV/crossover lineup.

“With the Acadia’s step down in size, a customer can now walk into a Buick/GMC dealer looking for an SUV and have seven totally different options from smallest to largest: Encore, Envision, Terrain, Acadia, Enclave, Yukon, Yukon XL,” Fowle says.

Yet the increasing strength of GM’s biggest SUVs highlights the low-volume nature of the Buick brand in America. Formerly a major player in the United States, Buick now derives its strength from China. U.S. Buick volume is about half as strong now as it was in 2002.

GM’s six large SUVs outsold Buick by 7,250 units in the U.S. in September 2016; by 25,640 units through the first three-quarters of 2016.

Buick’s significant September growth — the brand jumped 14 percent to 20,922 units, year-over-year — was powered largely by the entry-level Encore crossover’s best-ever month and a 65-percent increase in sales of the discontinued, entry-level Verano sedan.

But sales of GM’s hugely profitable full-size SUVs are rising across the board.

Total Escalade volume has increased by 1,557 units this year. The full-size Cadillac flagship tandem sells more than twice as often as the ATS, Cadillac’s entry-level model.TTAC GM sales chart September 2016At GMC, total Yukon/Yukon XL sales are up 17 percent to 59,438 units this year, numbers similar to those of the GMC Acadia in its (admittedly rather slow) transition year.

Chevrolet produces the top-selling full-size SUV tandem. The Tahoe, America’s 25th-best-selling utility vehicle, reported in September a 21-month sales high. Tahoe volume is up 8 percent this year. Combined, Tahoe/Suburban sales are up 9 percent to 109,282 units this year, more than the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickup trucks combined.

Of course, General Motors is far from the powerhouse that it once was, and GM’s full-size SUVs aren’t the powerhouses they once were, either. Though GM is on track to sell a fairly astonishing 270,000 full-size SUVs in the U.S. in 2016, the numbers sound less impressive when one realizes GM sold more than 500,000 of these behemoths as recently as 2004.

But after averaging fewer than 220,000 annual full-size SUV sales over the last eight years (and falling below 200,000 units in 2009, 2010, and 2012) there’s no denying the renewed strength of GM’s six remaining SUVs. Glory days? GM isn’t back there yet, but gone are the days when observers wondered if Lambda-platform crossovers could replace full-size SUVs at GM.

In September 2016, with tolerable fuel prices and incentives intended to remove 2016 models from dealer lots — current offers show up to $9,930 off 2016 LT 4WD Tahoes — GM’s 28,172 full-size SUV sales represented the best September for the sextuplets since 2007.

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe white

But don’t be surprised if GM produces a big uptick in full-size SUV sales come December. Traditionally, GM sells 45-percent more full-size SUVs in December than the company averages in the preceding 11 months, suggesting a near 32,000-unit result in December 2016.

Perhaps, deep down, Buick would like to get in on the action, too. But the current group of six have never offered much space to interlopers. Among volume brand full-size SUVs, GM owns 73 percent of the U.S. market so far this year, leaving few leftovers for the surging Ford Expedition, the forgotten Toyota Sequoia, and the transitioning Nissan Armada.

Throw premium brand full-size nameplates into the mix, including the Escalade and Escalade ESV, and GM’s 61-percent market share figure still reflects a highly unusual level of dominance.

And what of Buick’s lineup on the other side of the Pacific? In China, the only full-size SUV in GM’s network is the previous-generation Cadillac Escalade ESV. In a thoroughly different regulatory and tax environment, that SUV is priced at the equivalent of USD $250,000.

TTAC’s Matt Posky provided the above rendering of what a Buick Encounter might look like. (Encompass? Ennui? Entrapment? Entrails? Endometriosis? Enough?) But no matter what Buick doesn’t call it, it’s not going to appear in showrooms. Not here, and not in China.

[Images: © 2016 Matt Posky/The Truth About Cars, General Motors]

Timothy Cain is the founder of, 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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35 Comments on “GM Full-Size SUV Sales Are Riding Towards A Nine-Year High, Poor Buick...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Encore, Envision, Terrain, Acadia, Enclave, Yukon, Yukon XL” – all under one roof.

    Why don’t they ditch “Buick”, and give them all a GMC surname?

    • 0 avatar

      Good point. Other than the new Lacrosse, Buick doesn’t really exist for any appreciable reason anymore here in the US. My mother enjoys her one-term and done Verano, but apparently not enough other folks bought into it enough to keep it around. And heck, given how good the new Impala is, I’m not sure why a Lacrosse is needed.

      Oh, wait…China.

  • avatar

    Buick Dealers are doing just fine. They’re all hitched to GMC dealers.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, the dealers are fine, but Buick the brand isn’t. What GM needs to do is separate Buick from Cadillac and GMC and put it into another upscale-from-Chevrolet sales channel with a couple other nameplates like, say… Pontiac and Oldsmobile. Sell sporty Pontiacs to junior execs, more restrained Oldsmobiles to mid-level managers, and almost-luxury Buicks to corporate execs just below the top floor.

      • 0 avatar

        But every Buick is either a Chevy with extra frosting, a badge engineered Opel, or “something-we-made-money-from-selling-to-the-Chinese.” Buick is damn cheap to keep going right now, at this point if GM isn’t making profit on every Buick sold, that’s a GM problem, not a perception problem.

        • 0 avatar

          I suspect Buick brand leadership is focused on their primary market. The US is small potatoes at this point.

          • 0 avatar

            Buick is a luxury brand in China BECAUSE it was a quality American brand. That’s where the reputation came from. If Buick is no longer sold in America, what will happen to that brand cache in China? The potential answer to that question is why Buick survived the bankruptcy, and why GM has to make a go of Buick in America.

      • 0 avatar

        “What GM needs to do is separate Buick from Cadillac and GMC and put it into another upscale-from-Chevrolet sales channel with a couple other nameplates like, say… Pontiac and Oldsmobile.”

        Is it 1968 again?

        • 0 avatar

          Hey, the strategy worked before, maybe it’ll work again! GM could use that nifty slogan “A car for every purse and purpose” again. In fact, GM could dust off the old advertising too. It was much better than the ads they’re doing today.

  • avatar

    Tim, your chart has the Yukon XL listed twice.

  • avatar

    Imagine if there were a GMT full size in Oldsmobile guise today! That’d be the one to have, with a giant old-style rocket logo in the grille, and Bravada Elite on the back.

  • avatar

    “GM sells 45-percent more full-size SUVs in December than the company averages in the preceding 11 months”

    Merry Christmas honey.

    Now do I get a Christmas gift? ;)

  • avatar

    Only 30% of GM’s sales are cars. I’m betting that Ford and FCA have similar breakdowns.
    name change: The Truth about Trucks = TTAT

  • avatar

    As someone in the market for a Suburban or Expedition EL; I’d jump at a K2XX SUV with Buick’s emphasis on quiet interiors and serene ride quality.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Lou_BC–It not just Ford, FCA, and GM but it is everyone else as well. The 4 door sedan especially the midsize and full size has been plummeting in sales where the CUV, pickup, and SUV sales have been increasing. Everyone is jumping on the band wagon of these more truck like vehicles.

  • avatar

    Buick Yuclave Avenir?

  • avatar

    Just watched a review of a ’16 Tahoe LTZ by one of my favorite Russian youtubers (an avid offroader and G-wagen aficianado based out of Naberezhnye Chelny). He did some offroading in it and it acquitted itself very well aside from the low hanging chin. To its credit it never got torn off and didn’t look much else for the wear at the end of the segment. The G80 auto-locker allowed the truck to tackle a lot of the obstacles in 2wd, and the prodigious power and weight blasted it through a mudhole that an older Niva had to really churn its way through. Magnetic Ride Control got dinged for making the ride a bit too stiff. The reviewer made the correct observation that the Tahoe is never trying to be the offroad bruiser that a Land Cruiser is, and mentioned that on the US market these are the ultimate road trip vehicles and trailer haulers.

    I recently saw a new Tahoe Z71 in the flesh and was surprised to see that they actually clipped the lower air dam. Still not a great approach angle due to the length of the overhang, but a major improvement nonetheless.

    For those curious to see a new Tahoe NOT on a pampered/controlled offroad course:

    • 0 avatar

      It’s funny to watch British reviews of large SUV products (not sure if most of Europe gets the Expedition/Nav?) the Tahoe/Suburban in particular. I saw this old video from the early 00s reviewing the Tahoe, and it was surprisingly positive since it wasn’t Top Gear. It looked so out of place on British roads, and the guy did mention it was A) very thirsty at their fuel prices and B) did not fit in the standard British garage size.

      • 0 avatar

        Link? I like the 1990s Top Gear SUV reviews.

        Russians unlike most Europeans appreciate the rugged design of American SUVs and large interiors. Yes the thirst is an issue for folks on a budget but there’s plenty of V8 Land Cruisers (4.7,5.7) to prove that there’s a demand for big SUVs regardless of thirst. The simple, understressed OHV motors are liked for their tolerance to low quality fuel (unlike many Germans and some direct injected Japanese options). And you must remember, CNG conversion is a very popular way to go on large gas vehicles in Russia. Cut your fuel costs in half, the $1000-ish kits pays for itself in a year usually.

        • 0 avatar

          Lol, that’s cause I didn’t put one! Let me find it.

          It’s the show Richard Hammond was on before TG.

          • 0 avatar

            LOL did they seriously add big-rig air brake sounds in the background when the guy first rolled up to the stop sign in the Tahoe?

            “Electric everything, because Americans are just so lazy”

            Stay jelly my dude.

            Also, he sucks at parking, and keeps pronouncing it “Ta-who”

          • 0 avatar

            Yeah I recall thinking that guy has some weird northern accent (I guess) lol. The truck brake sound I think was from across the street. They just set the camera up there and didn’t mic the Tahoe at all, so you could hear all the other traffic.

            I don’t get criticizing power features. If it were a British Range Rover, those would all be pluses, highlighted in glorious fashion. British car reviewers need to learn at least a little bit of objectivity.

            Also! I just noticed the cars sitting at that dealer when he pulled out. An old Deville extended limo, and a 6-door Crown Vic from 1989?!?

      • 0 avatar

        The killer is parking—a full-size vehicle will not fit neatly into a noticeable number of spots in the UK—even at the British Mega-Lo Marts.

  • avatar

    Back when the great brand cull was going on I argued: “Chevrolet and Cadillac matter, everything else is noise”.

    I stand by that view. The Buick-GMC-Cadillac sales channel is largely a distraction. Do you think Lexus would be a better brand if it was sold alongside “professional grade” trim options versions of Toyota Tundra pickup trucks? NO!

    GMC and Buick are both massive wastes of design, marketing, advertising and support staff and expenses. Imagine if all of those resources were instead directed at further building Chevrolet and Cadillac? Alternatively, imagine if half of the resources wasted on those redundant brands went into the viable brands and the other half were used to improve profit margins.

    China loves Buicks? Fine, let China have Buicks. Europe used to love Opels, but every attempt to sell them in North America has been a failure (including when Opels have been renamed Saturns, Cadillacs and Buicks).

  • avatar

    I know they don’t all have waterfalls, but the grill on your “Buick” is disturbingly horizontal.

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