GM Has Something Different in Buick
In his study of variations in the age of automobile buyers, Libby found that among 42 brands of automobiles sold in the U.S., only Buick showed a decline in the average age of its buyers between 2007 and 2011. Overall, the average new-car buyer was 51 in 2011, up from 48 in 2007, most likely a function of the rising cost of new cars. At Buick, the average age declined to 59 from 62. That is the good news; the bad news is that Buick now has the second oldest buyers. The average Lincoln buyer is 60, up from 55 in 2007, which is a trend that Ford hopes to reverse. Cadillac has the third oldest buyer, with an average age of 57, while Land Rover has the youngest buyer, with an average age of 47.
In his report, Libby wrote, "Buick has brought in more young buyers by dramatically altering its product portfolio, adding the Regal and placing much greater emphasis on the Enclave (average age: 56 for both) while discontinuing the Lucerne (average age: 70 years). In 2011, the Regal and Enclave accounted for more than half of all Buick retail deliveries. Going forward, Buick will benefit from the recently-launched compact Verano, though the age of the Verano buyer so far (59 years) is higher than the Buick team probably would like.
"Polk's Automotive Forecast indicates Buick has additional new products and powertrain enhancements in the pipeline, which should attract younger buyers," he wrote.
As Ford moves to remake Lincoln, it probably should take a lesson from Buick, Analyst Rebecca Lindland of IHS Global Insight has said.
"The baseline problem with Lincoln is that they have to do what Buick did, which is to get people to reconsider the brand," she said. "Buick is on people's radar screens now; it wasn't a couple of years ago."
In China, Buick got a lucky break in the 1920s when the last emperor, Pu Yi, owned two Buicks. "When we started selling vehicles in China we already had somewhat of a legacy established," said spokesman Phil Colley. "But we've done a good job leveraging that goodwill and affinity towards the brand, and the Buick Excelle is the top-selling vehicle in China. So, it's more about vehicles now than anything else."
Despite its successes, Buick has not exactly emerged from the pack in the U.S. auto market. In 2011, the brand sold just 10% of the number of vehicles that Chevrolet sold, and just 7% of the 2.5 million vehicles that GM sold. Buick sales were up 14% in 2011. But in the first quarter of 2012, Buick sales declined 17%, which the brand says reflects an effort to vastly reduce fleet sales. In the first quarter, Buick retail sales declined 5%, while GM retail sales declined 1%.