2011 Buick RegalEnlarge Photo
Look, we all miss Pontiac. Saturn, too. A few even miss Saab. (Fewer miss HUMMER.) But although General Motors' bankruptcy and brand sale may have been painful for fans, it's begun to pay off for the automaker and its remaining marques -- especially Buick.
Not so long ago, Buick was on the skids, with flagging sales and a consumer base that averaged 72 years of age. Only funeral parlors and dinner theatres have that kind of target demographic. GM brought in Tiger Woods to liven up things, conveniently overlooking the fact that golf watchers are some of the oldest sports fans around.
Then GM restructured and narrowed its focus. Four brands were cut, but Buick remained in the fold. We're sure some lobbied to keep Pontiac instead, but cooler heads prevailed: sure, we all love a performance ride, but luxury (or mid-luxury) touches drive more customers into showrooms. And besides, Buick was taking off elsewhere in the world -- why let that go?
Today, Buick is one of the most popular brands in China, and thanks to the revamped, relaunched Regal sedan, it's making waves on this side of the Pacific, too. Just last Friday, we highlighted a new campaign featuring honest reactions from unsuspecting Regal test-drivers, and not long before that, a series of parties Buick threw to introduce younger trendsetters to the model. Buick also launched its Moment of Truth campaign, centered around a stunning, CoolIris-like interface and real quotes about Buick -- both good and bad -- pulled from across the social web. It's a brave move for Buick, one that promotes a sense that the brand is finally listening to consumers.
It's those kinds of promotional efforts that have helped buoy Buick over the past few months. Between the Regal, Lacrosse, Lucerne, and Enclave, Buick sold 137% more units in July 2010 than July 2009, and it's up 60% for the year. Given last year's economic free-fall, those figures may not mean too much -- heck, anything would be an improvement over 2009 -- but Buick's rate of growth is still outpacing its competitors.
According to GM's vice president of marketing, Joel Ewanick, Buick's next hurdles are (1) building a brand brief to ground the company's marketing efforts and (2) putting designers in dialogue with dealers, helping Buick build and market cars consumers want. Number one sounds easy enough, but number two could be dicey: "You give [dealers] a good product, they can sell it. That's what they've been asking for for years. We are going to see design and marketing work together. I don't know why it's never been done like that before." Of course, better communication between designers and dealers probably means a more informed sales staff and thus, higher sales. We just hope it doesn't lead to cars designed by committee.
[AdAge via Jeff]