Buick: One Year Draws to an End and Another Eagerly Awaits

An interview with Mark Alger, national marketing manager, Buick | GMC Canada
November 21, 2018 Updated: November 21, 2018

As a premium brand, Buick has earned the unique distinction of being the longest running North American automotive brand.

In fact, there is much about this venerable brand that might make the average consumer scratch their heads in bewilderment and exclaim, “I did not know that!”

Three such mind-blowing facts?

  1. Buick consistently sells over 1 million units a year around the world.
  2. The cool, aspirational car in mainland China is… a Buick.
  3. Buick’s success in China may be attributed to a couple of factors: first, heritage (longevity), and second, for the affluent Chinese market Buick has the right products. In China, according to Mark Alger, Canadian national marketing manager for the brand, “That means SUVs!”

We caught up with Mr. Alger at GM Canadian headquarters recently and spoke about the continued and sustainable growth for Buick as a brand in a competitive market place.

Epoch Times Photo
Mark Alger, national marketing manager, Buick | GMC Canada. (David Taylor)

In North America, in less than 10 years, the Buick brand reinvented itself and successfully presented the marque as a brand that almost any demographic might embrace. Buick has worked hard, in a self-deprecating manner, to convince people that, “It’s actually cool to own one of its cars.” In the brand’s current television and online advertisements, fashionable young people are surprised to find a Buick that doesn’t look like a stodgy old dad wagon and are prepared to consider the brand as their own.

For many years, Buick was perceived as a brand which tended to have greater appeal to an older, male-oriented demographic. Buick had to convince consumers they were no longer associated with only large sedans. They needed to draw a line in the sand, a demarcation point to prove they were not only viable, but frankly, relevant.

“Internal research showed a false familiarity with the Buick brand. We were still liked—but perhaps not for the best reasons.”

The conclusion?

“Buick produced good quality robust vehicles—just not for me!”

As we intimated earlier, Buick worked a plan to attempt to mitigate the potentially difficult downturn in 2008 and looked long and hard at its operations—and future plans.

The decision was ultimately made to reduce their product lineup and focus on what they do best: sell quality, premium product to a market who might reward history and innovation.

Today, the Buick showroom may only feature five different vehicles—for sedans, that would be the Lacrosse and Regal and in the CUV/crossover segment, the Encore, Chinese-built Envision, and the seven-passenger Enclave. Those numbers will change when the Avenir trim is offered to discerning customers who “demand” a little more from their Buick.

As in the market in mainland China, it would be fair to say that generally, many Canadian automotive OEMs may attribute their current success to SUVs; , as much as 70 percent of their annual sales may be directly credited to the light truck, crossover-type vehicle. “Actually, for Buick Canada, we see that figure being closer to 80 percent,” Mr. Alger smiled broadly.

So what exactly is it that Canadians want or even expect from an SUV-type vehicle?

“Canadian consumers like the taller ride height, visibility and the practicality of easily accessible space for people and cargo that SUVs deliver. For many consumers the availability of all-wheel drive is also a factor.”

There is something appealing to customers about SUVs: the high roof, raised driving position, low floor, and folding seats give  SUVs comparatively boundless headroom, legroom and storage space. Plus, the roof line on most SUVs does not sweep down to the road at the back, so headroom for backseat passengers will not suffer.

Furthermore, Buick’s continued success has been buoyed by numerous JD Power top honours for dependability, sales satisfaction, and overall appeal as well as a five-star safety rating across its entire vehicle lineup from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA).

To sum up, “Buick delivers elegant styling, refined interiors, and spirited performance. . .in a model lineup that meets the needs of Canadian consumers.

David Taylor is an independent automotive lifestyle writer, producer, and editor based in Barrie, Ontario who is fascinated by innovation and technology which enhance the overall driving experience. He’s also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) and is a Co-Chair and Director of that organization’s Canadian Car of the Year Award. Follow him on Twitter @Omemeeozzie or on Instagram @hugoscaroftheweek.