Why Buick's future lies in China


Back in the last half of 2008 and into 2009, when General Motors was looking at too much capacity for too few customers, when it was running out of money and needing to go to the governments of the US and Canada and to the UAW for financial support, its management team was pretty much instructed by the feds to focus resources on what would create the best likelihood for a return on the investments and guarantees that it was getting. Things needed to be cut, and not just the corporate air fleet.
This led to the elimination of Saturn, Hummer and Pontiac and the sale of Saab to Spyker. What remained of GM’s North American brand portfolio was Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC. (Oldsmobile had been shuttered in 2004.)
There were a variety of opinions regarding which brands GM should keep/lose during the midst of the Great Recession. Some thought GMC should be axed, but then it was pointed out that GMC essentially produced high-content Chevys, which resulted in fantastic transaction costs. Lots of money in the back of those pickups.
Others thought Buick should be eliminated. The rationale was: Chevy was the mass-market brand, Cadillac was the luxury brand, and GMC helped leverage the company’s investment in trucks. (Yes, even back then the F-Series was winning the pickup sales race, so it was always a matter of adding Silverado and Sierra sales to show that GM was solidly in the game.)
So what was Buick? Better than Chevy but not as good as a Cadillac? Somehow that doesn’t seem to be a particularly aspirational position to hold. But Buick’s identity didn’t need to be worked out in 2008-09 because there was a single compelling reason to keep it: China.
According to official GM history, Pu Yi, the last emperor of China, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the first provisional president of China, and Zhou Enlai, a Chinese premier, “Either owned, drove or were driven in Buick automobiles.” What’s more: “According to statistics from the Shanghai government, in 1930 one out of every six cars on the city’s roads was a Buick.” Which is to say that Buick got to China early and has a major presence in that market.
When the Regal Sportback and Regal TourX were being unveiled at the GM Design Dome the first week of April, Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global Buick, gave a briefing of Buick’s place on the automotive landscape. He pointed out that last year the brand sold 1.4 million units, a record, and that it was the “seventh consecutive year of international market share growth.”
And out of that 1.4 million, how many were sold in the US? 229,631.
According to research firm LMC Automotive, in 2016 Buick delivered 1,230,058 vehicles in China.
Source: Autoblog