How Do You Sell Sexy? If You Know, Tell Buick

June 10, 2011
My cousin, a thirty-something up-and-comer, was looking for a new car. Not too fancy, but not too pedestrian, something that wasn’t a fuel pig, yet had lots of toys and bells and whistles. He does a fair bit of driving every year and likes comfort, decent performance, reliability, and just a little upscale feel.

Naturally, he came to me for automotive advice, because no one else would return his calls. Craving any attention due to childhood issues, I decided to help and gave him a list of vehicles that fits into his price range. 

I mentioned the four-cylinder Subaru Outback, the poor man’s Audi. A basic Audi A4 came up, but he’s not a fan. There was a VW Passat, but he has had bad experiences with VW so that brand is dead. The Japanese luxury marques were pretty limiting, except for one: Acura. He liked the TSX as it met all of his criteria. But after that momentous decision to go look at the TSX, I began surfing for cars and remembered the 2011 Buick Regal.

For those of you who don’t know, the Regal is the North American version of the Opel Insignia, a highly regarded car in Europe, an award winner at that, and one of Opel’s best efforts ever. The North American version has remained relatively true to the European version and even has a direct-injected turbo motor with a six-speed auto or manual tranny, plus all the requisite bells and whistles. I really want to take one for a test drive after having seen it on the road and solicited opinions from owners. Every owner I meet seems to love it.

Which is why I mentioned it to my cousin. Yet he immediately rejected it, as if I had told him to buy a Lada. His response was that of someone who has the bad memories of Buick of Yore.

It’s amazing what gets associated with a name. Buick still has a long, long way to go to get drivers interested in the brand again, and good product is obviously key. A quick hot fix: GM should bring over the extremely sexy Astra GTC coupe to overcome that stodgy image.

But almost as important as the product is the advertising, and to be honest, Buick’s ads are good but not great. Have a look at the ones below and you will see very competent ads. Well-filmed, set to decent music, lovely imagery of the interior, exterior and even the machinery. The message is clear, the voice-overs are reassuring. Everything is really good--but not awesome. There is no transcendent moment in any of those commercials that makes you say “I want to be that guy in the driver’s seat.” And this is where Buick and GM need to pick up their game.

I wish Buick every bit of luck and I hope they integrate more of their European lineup into North America (I want the Astra GTC!), but they need to produce some memorable advertising moments to banish that nasty old image.

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