General Motors Corp. will borrow a page from Cadillac's playbook as marketers try to resuscitate the Buick brand.
As with Cadillac, which developed a cult-like following the introduction of its second-generation Escalade fullsize SUV before launching the highly praised CTS sports sedan, Buick will try to capitalize on the popularity of its Enclave cross/utility vehicle ahead of the redesigned LaCrosse midsize passenger car.
Susan Docherty, North America vice president-Buick-Pontiac-GMC Channel, draws a parallel with the Cadillac brand, whose average buyers just a few years ago were in their 70s and living in Florida.
“They wore white shoes, plaid coats (and) wraparound glasses,” Docherty says of Cadillac, where she played a key role in managing its renaissance. “So when you think about what we've done in a very short time on Cadillac, we have the same potential at Buick.”
Cadillac benefited both from an edgy, one-of-kind design and a marketing message scored by rock band Led Zeppelin. GM back then also had deeper pockets to advertise, allowing Cadillac to lord over major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl, for several consecutive years.
Times are tougher now, and Buick recently ended its multimillion relationship with professional-golfer Tigers Woods.
Additionally, Cadillac's design jolted consumers, whereas Buick's styling arguably follows a more subtle path.
But Docherty would disagree that Buick's elegant design is not affecting the market.
She points to the Enclave, whose average buyer is age 55, compared with 70 years for the Buick portfolio prior to the CUV's launch about 18 months ago. Enclave intenders' median age is about 44 years old.
“Ninety days ago, I was in Atlanta,” Docherty tells Ward's. “I sat with 20 Enclave owners, who all came to Buick for the first time, and one of the comments they made was (over)the exterior design of the Enclave. They wanted something different.
“It wasn't that people weren't happy with the Mercedes or Lexus they traded in, or (with their) Volvo or Acura. It was, ‘I was taken by the design of the Buick Enclave, and I had no problem buying American if it lives up to the quality reputation of the products I've been driving.’”
Which suggests a buyer's birth date may not matter so much, after all.