Buick Has Great Vehicles, Now Needs A New Image
By Kevin Miller
General Motors has released details and images of the 2010 Buick LaCrosse sedan, ahead of its debut next week in Detroit. The car looks great both inside and out, losing the awkward, gawky looks and parts-bin interior in exchange for an expressive-yet-tasteful exterior and a genuinely good-looking cabin. With the new LaCrosse and its crossover sibling the Enclave, Buick has two vehicles which are stylish and well-appointed. The marque’s third model, Lucerne, lacks the style of its siblings, though it is a comfortable car with luxurious touches.
Last January I wrote a piece contemplating whether the Enclave was cool enough to lure younger buyers to Buick. The article featured a thirty-something mother in suburban Portland, Oregon, who was in the market for a new crossover and in love with the Enclave, but unsure whether she was old enough to buy the car, because of Buick’s image as a retailer of unexciting, uninvolving cars designed for retirees and grandparents. After driving the Enclave and its competition, she decided to buy the Enclave, and has been extremely happy with her choice. While this consumer was able to get over Buick’s unexciting image, plenty of consumers have been unable to do so.
Buick’s unexciting image is fortunately not a worldwide phenomenon. In China, Buick is seen as an aspirational car, and sales figures prove that. With over 300,000 Buick-branded vehicles sold in that country last year, Chinese consumers bought more than twice as many Buick vehicles as American buyers did. With the brand experiencing such success in China, GM had designers in the US and China collaborate on the LaCrosse’s design to create a vehicle that would appeal to consumers in both markets.
Chinese influences on the design of the LaCrosse extend to the car’s handsome, well-appointed interior, which has expected available features like in-dash navigation system, Bluetooth telephone integration, and auxiliary and USB inputs. Unexpected features available on the LaCrosse include all-wheel drive, a head-up display, headlamps which swivel based on steering input, Side Blind Zone blind spot monitor, rear view camera, power rear sunshade and a rear-seat entertainment system with two display screens which stow by folding into the back of each front seat.
A lot of the upscale equipment available on the LaCrosse is the type of stuff which has long been the domain of European luxury cars, and which has started to more recently become available in Japanese luxury brands. Many American shoppers will be surprised to find that the good-looking LaCrosse is available with all-wheel drive, swiveling headlamps, and blind-spot monitoring; that is, they’ll be surprised if they ever find out. There is a chance that a lot of consumers shopping will never know how great the LaCrosse is, because they have written Buick off and are not willing to give the brand a chance.
Of course, the more LaCrosses consumers see on the road, the more awareness there will be of the car. Many people who bought Enclaves in the past year would have never visited a Buick dealer if they hadn’t seen an Enclave on the road. GM can only hope that the LaCrosse can create a similar buzz when it hits showrooms and parking lots across North America after production commences this summer. That type of buzz is what gets customers into showrooms, and that type of buzz is what can help evolve Buick’s image in the marketplace.
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