CYNTHIANA, KY – Buick’s marketing director says the automaker is having great success luring customers from other brands.
“Forty-four percent of people who buy a Buick are trading in something other than another General Motors vehicle,” Roger McCormack, marketing director-Buick and GMC brands, says at the media launch here of the refreshed ’14 Regal and Regal GS sedans.
“That number has gone up about 10% since 2008,” he says.
But the sales data suggest Buick has a long way to go. Through September, the brand has delivered 157,503 vehicles, roughly in line with sales of the Toyota Prius hybrid, according to WardsAuto data.
To date, the Enclave CUV is the best seller, with 46,384 units, followed by the LaCrosse sedan (38,345), Verano compact sedan (36,568) and all-new Encore compact CUV (22,930). Regal deliveries are a meager 12,767 units through September, down 38% from like-2012. LaCrosse sales have dropped 14% in the same period.
But the Enclave and Verano and the arrival of the Encore are pushing Buick to what could be its fourth straight year of growth.
The trend line has McCormack confident in Buick’s ability to bring in new customers from other mainstream and luxury brands.
“I think it could go up even more as we enter new parts of the market,” he tells WardsAuto of Buick’s conquest rate. “We’re doing really well with both Verano and Encore.”
The Verano has recorded Buick’s highest conquest level, as 52% of buyers are new to the brand.
“And I think we still have a lot of work to do with awareness of Verano,” he says. “If someone is looking for a compact sedan with luxury attributes, they should think of Buick. We just are not known for a compact car at this point.”
McCormack says Buick has managed to snag customers from Asian brands, particularly Honda, Acura, Toyota and Lexus, as well as Lincoln.
“We feel so good about our lineup, we think we stack up really well and actually beat all those key competitors relative to the execution, premium amenities, drive performance and, finally, value,” he says.
In challenging European luxury brands, McCormack says that task rests with Cadillac.
But he does call out the Volkswagen CC and Audi A4, a German luxury sedan often dwarfed in sales by BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and Infiniti entries, as susceptible to Regal conquests.
“Take into account all the great stuff on the Regal GS, starting with the high-output 259-hp 4-cyl., the Brembo brakes, the 19- and 20-in. wheels. It’s a really sporty machine to drive,” he says, adding the Regal has held up well in neutral third-party test drives of the vehicles back to back.
Arriving in showrooms now, the refreshed Regal receives a significant powertrain enhancement.
Standard is GM’s all-new 2.0L DOHC turbocharged 4-cyl. that earned a Ward’s 10 Best Engines award last January for its application in the Cadillac ATS. The same engine also appears now in the CTS and Chevrolet Malibu.
In both the ’14 Regal and Regal GS, the engine is rated at 259 hp and 295 lb.-ft. (400 Nm) of torque.
The ’13 Regal offered a turbo-4 rated at 220 hp and 260 lb.-ft. (353 Nm) of torque, in addition to a high-output 4-cyl. that produced 270 hp. For ’14, the lesser engine is eliminated.
With estimated fuel economy of 21/30 mpg (11.2-7.8 L/100km), the new powertrain configuration offers a 17% efficiency gain over the ’13 Regal Turbo.
Available once again is the mild hybrid 2.4L 4-cyl. with eAssist, which is expected to achieve 25/36 mpg (9.4-6.5 L/100km) city/highway.
New for ’14 is an all-wheel-drive system with electronic limited-slip differential; the GS also comes standard with HiPer Strut front suspension, which is intended to improve ride and handling by mitigating torque steer.
A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard on both the Regal and GS, and a 6-speed manual is available on the front-wheel-drive GS at no extra cost. Take-rate for the manual is anticipated to exceed 7%.
FWD Regal pricing starts at $30,615, including $925 destination charges, and options include 18-in. chrome wheels ($1,000) and navigation radio ($795).
Topping the range is the AWD Regal GS, which starts at $40,195. Options include 20-in. polished wheels ($700).
Available in both Regal and GS models is an optional sunroof ($1,000), as well as a $1,090 Driver Confidence package that includes blindspot detection, lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert and rear cross-traffic alert. An extra $2,295 gets two additional safety features: collision preparation and adaptive cruise control.
McCormack is hoping the refreshed Regal can help Buick return to its heyday. The brand sold 941,611 vehicles in the U.S. in 1984; 25 years later, sales bottomed out at 102,306 units, according to WardsAuto data.