Archive for December, 2010

Buick behaves unexpectedly.

Monday, December 13th, 2010

When General Motors was going through bankruptcy many industry observers were surprised that Buick would be one of the four brands that would be part of the new company (along with Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC). The explanation was that the Buick brand was very successful and respected in China. What was left in the “un-said” was that Buick was a basket case in the United States.

Since coming out of bankruptcy there has been lots of discussion and coverage regarding Chevrolet and Cadillac but relatively little about Buick.  Chevy represents 70% of the company’s business and certainly warrants attention.  No one was really surprised that shortly after arriving, Joel Ewanick hired Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to help re-build the Chevy brand.  Cadillac, the company’s luxury brand also seems to garner a lot of attention.  With bold designs, terrific new products, another new agency (Fallon), the folks at Cadillac believe that they are in a position to finally break into the Tier 1 portion of the luxury segment.  Marketing for Chevy and Cadillac has been stepped up and through November sales are up 18% for Chevrolet and 38% for Cadillac.  All good.  There’s also quite a bit of anticipation for the Superbowl as one or both of these brands will launch new campaigns in the big game.

While Chevrolet and Cadillac seem to grab the headlines, Buick has been quietly going about its business and making unexpected progress in the US market.  In fact, Buick is the fastest growing GM brand; it is also the fastest growing automotive brand in the United States with sales +54% year to date.

It would be easy to attribute Buick’s success entirely to product, after all the new Lacrosse and Regal are pretty darned impressive (see my earlier blog post) but that would be unfair to the marketers.  The folks responsible for marketing at Buick continue to find interesting ways to let us know our expectations of Buick are misplaced and that we should think of the brand differently.

This starts with the television advertising that clearly establishes an unexpected competitive set for Buick:

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17 Million in sales predicted for 2015, here we go…

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Things have been looking up in the US market for the automotive industry lately.

Sales have been improving.  November was strong with most companies showing significant gains and one, Hyundai, blowing past everyone else with a +46% increase over same period year ago.  Some marques like Audi are predicting that they will achieve new sales records in 2010 and break the 100,000 unit mark for the first time.  It looks like we’ll finish the year at about 11.5MM units, up about a million over 2009.  Next year sales are expected to improve to 12.8MM.

The LA Auto Show was up beat; there were a number of new and exciting products shown (my personal favorite was the Audi quattro concept).  The sense of the industry moving forward was palpable; it was good to be there.  Then of course there’s GM’s successful IPO, where investor interest was so strong that the share price exceeded everyone’s expectations.

Even more important, the industry has made important progress during the worst recession within memory.  Given the widely held view in 2008 that we were entering a “new normal” with significantly lower industry sales, manufacturers took steps (some with taxpayer help) to reduce production capacity, which has led to dramatically lower inventories at the dealer level.  In turn, lower inventories combined with better product quality have led to lower incentives and higher margins.  Some manufacturers (BMW, Fiat) are even attempting to encourage consumers to order cars and wait for delivery as Americans become accustom to lower inventory levels and the idea that the car they want won’t be on the lot.

Sales on the rise, higher margins, lower inventories, Americans ordering cars, what’s not to like?  Nothing, all good news, until… (more…)