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LaCrosse helps to change image of a brand whose average buyer's age was once 72

Robert Snell / The Detroit News

April 12. 2010

Buick, the venerable General Motors Co. brand long maligned as catering to elderly buyers, is enjoying a rebirth in the United States and drawing younger, more affluent buyers, thanks to improved quality and styling. Just a year ago, the brand was headed for the scrap heap until then-GM Chief Executive Fritz Henderson convinced President Barack Obama's auto task force that Buick was worth saving, particularly in the booming Chinese market, as the automaker shrank from eight to four brands.

"They are making definite improvements in the U.S.," said Aaron Bragman, research analyst with consultant IHS Global Insight in Troy. "They made the right decision. To kill Buick would have been crazy. It's one of the most important brands in the Chinese market."

Last month, Buick sales in the United States rose 76 percent, and market share of the new Buick LaCrosse sedan climbed to almost 17 percent in the large-car segment, a one-two punch that is meeting Chairman and Chief Executive Edward Whitacre Jr.'s mandate that GM boost sales and market share after bankruptcy.

The LaCrosse sedan is furthering a Buick resurgence that started with the 2008 Enclave crossover, which had its best-selling month in December 2009, two years after debuting. The strong sales convinced GM to add a third shift this month at the plant near Lansing where it is produced.

The average age of a Buick buyer has fallen from 72 several years ago to 65. That figure is trending lower ahead of the launch of the Buick Regal midsize sport sedan this spring.

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