Buick, GM’s low-key pseudo-luxury brand, is suddenly hot | CNN Business (2024)

Buick, GM’s low-key pseudo-luxury brand, is suddenly hot | CNN Business (1)

The inexpensive 2024 Buick Envista is leading a sales resurgance for the brand.


In its earliest days Buick had a reputation for engineering innovation and raw speed. Swiss-born race driver Louis Chevrolet made his name, in part, driving Buicks on race tracks around the country.

In the 21st Century, though, Buick, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, has been a quiet spot in GM’s North American brand strategy. It’s long been popular in China where, despite increasing competition, it still sells far more vehicles than in the US. Not quite a luxury brand but not quite mainstream either, Buick offers luxury style at bargain prices. Recently, with some fresh designs, car shoppers have started noticing and sales have rocketed upward.

Last year, Buick sales rose more than 60% in the US compared to 2022. Things cooled off somewhat this year compared to a white-hot 2023, but sales were up again in the first quarter of 2024. Buick is one of the fast growing car brands in America.

“It’s all new, it’s actually good looking. It’s one in five of their sales and it sells quickly,” Edmunds.com analyst Ivan Drury said of the Envista. “It sells faster than the vast majority of GM products.”

Buick’s high-design history

Buick’s latest iteration of an eye-catching design is striking a chord. Since before World War II, GM has treated Buick as a design showcase. The 1938 Buick Y Job, a long, low convertible, is generally regarded as the auto industry’s first “concept car.” Production cars like the elegant, flat-sided 1963 Riviera helped move auto design forward from the chrome-encrusted ’50s, according to the The Atlas of Car Design by Jason Barlow.

A sharp-looking entry-level model has certainly helped, accounting for the largest chunk of the increase, according to data from Edmunds.com. The Buick Envista introduced last summer is, essentially, a modified version of the well-received Chevrolet Trax, GM’s cheapest crossover SUV. The sleek Envista looks distinctive enough that hardly anyone would guess the relationship. With prices starting at around $23,000, the Envista costs only a couple of thousand dollars more than the Chevy.

Buick, GM’s low-key pseudo-luxury brand, is suddenly hot | CNN Business (2)

The 1938 Buick Y Job is generally considered the auto industry's first "concept car."

Buick’s new look, the one that’s drawing buyers to the Envista and the recently redesigned Encore GX, was previewed by the 2022 Buick Wildcat EV concept car. It includes a curved blade-like front, smooth sides, and slim wedge-shaped lights.

“No one came to us – I don’t think we even said it to ourselves – that there was a problem with the old [design style.] It was just through the constant experimentation and looking toward the future, and what can we do with that, we came up with a solution that we thought would move the brand forward,” said Bob Boniface, head of Buick design.

Despite the fact that the Wildcat concept is a two-door electric car, the fundamental design cues were intended to be easily transferable to gas-powered four-door SUVs, too, said Bob Boniface, head of Buick design. Aspects will appear on a redesigned Enclave three-row SUV and an Envision model coming to market later this year.

The fresh designs of the Envista and Encore GX have attracted buyers into showrooms, some of whom have been buying other Buick models, said Duncan Aldred, who currently oversees both the Buick and GMC brands at GM. He pointed out that the Enclave and Envision, models that, for now, still sport Buick’s older design style, also had significantly increased sales.

“I think what we’re getting is the halo effect of the new design language,” he said.

Almost 70% of Buick buyers are new to the brand, according to GM. In fact, data on trade-ins for the Envista, as with the Chevy Trax, indicate that it’s often a buyers’ first new car, which is a good thing for Buick and for GM, since it means its bringing in a fresh crop of customers, Drury said. It’s doing exactly what an “entry level” model should do.

Facing headwinds

To be fair, Buick’s relatively small size makes its sales figures somewhat volatile and it’s had ups and downs before, according to historical data from Cox Automotive. But the trend lines are clearly positive at the moment. In 2023, Buick sold 167,000 vehicles in the US, moving it up just ahead of Cadillac among GM’s four brands in this market.

Buick, GM’s low-key pseudo-luxury brand, is suddenly hot | CNN Business (3)

The Buick Wildcat EV concept, shown here in a rendering, provided a preview of Buick's latest "design language."

Shifts in the American automotive market have presented a particular challenge for Buick. Within GM’s North American brand structure, Buick has traditionally been paired with GMC with both those brands placed under the leadership of one person and mostly sold at the same dealerships. For the past decade, that’s been Aldred, a lanky Englishman with a Liverpool accent who had previously worked for GM in Europe.

The original idea behind putting these brands together was that, with Buick’s cars and GMC’s trucks and SUVs, a Buick-GMC dealer would have a full line of vehicles to offer virtually any customer who came in. But the American auto market has shifted so hard toward trucks and SUVs that Buick now sells only SUVs and no cars at all.

GMC, which sold more than three times as many vehicles as Buick last year, brings in big profits for General Motors. For vehicles that often have little substantial difference from Chevrolet trucks and SUVs, buyers willingly pay thousands more for the GMC version and even more for pricier sub-brands like Denali and off-road-tuned AT4 models.

Buick has borrowed that sub-brand stategy from GMC. Buick has Avenir which indicates a slightly more posh versions of Buick models. Last year, Avenir models, which get some fancier interior materials, more features, and distinctive paint colors, made up almost a third of Buick sales, the highest levels yet, Aldred said.

The question now, of course, will the positive vibes last this time for GM’s sometimes awkward middle child.

Buick, GM’s low-key pseudo-luxury brand, is suddenly hot | CNN Business (2024)


Is Buick considered a luxury brand? ›

Is Buick a Luxury Car? Yes! Buick models are luxury vehicles. This brand is a go-to for drivers looking for a more affordable, high-end car or SUV with plenty of premium amenities.

When did Buick go out of business? ›

Buick, the company, effectively ceased to be an automobile manufacturer after 2010, when General Motors shut down its vast “Buick City” manufacturing complex in Flint, Mich. Buick City, once the largest auto factory in the world, had for more than a century produced purebred Buick vehicles, parts and powertrains.

Does GMC have a luxury brand? ›

Experience GMC Denali | Luxury Trucks & SUVs.

Are Buicks built in China? ›

Buick cars are actually built all over the world. There are factories in China, South Korea, Germany, Canada, and the United States. Some focus on building vehicles, while other facilities are focused on manufacturing specific components.

Why is Buick considered a luxury car? ›

From hardwood accents to carbon fiber touches, a luxury car brand like Buick offers you materials that look great and add to your overall comfort. Comfortable rides: If you spend a lot of time behind the wheel on your daily commute to Springfield, a luxury vehicle will be far more comfortable.

Is Buick more luxurious than Chevy? ›

When it comes to deciding if you should purchase a Buick or Chevrolet, it's about your wants, needs, and budget. The Buick line of vehicles are simply more luxurious and come with a much more generous offering of standard equipment.

Why is GM buying out Buick? ›

General Motors bought out roughly half of Buick dealers across the U.S. due to their reluctance to sell electric vehicles as the automaker looks to transition to EVs. About half of GM's 2,000 Buick dealers accepted the voluntary buyout.

Why did they stop making Buicks? ›

Sales for Buick passenger cars had been declining for some time, so the decision to end their production was a financial move. Though Buick no longer produces the Regal in North America, new Regal models do exist in China, where the vehicle boasts a body style that's exclusive to that market.

Is Buick closing down? ›

General Motors will transition Buick to an all-electric brand by 2030. The chairman of the Buick-GMC National Dealer Council, Bo Mandal, notes that some dealers chose to give up their Buick franchise and will focus on other GM brands that they have in their business, like GMC.

Is GMC higher end than Buick? ›

GM owns both Buick and GMC and each brand occupies its own niche in the market. GMC focuses on trucks and SUVs that are durable, strong, and downright powerful. Buick, on the other hand, is an affordable option for luxury cars. Buick models tend to provide more conveniences and creature comforts for your daily drive.

Why buy GMC instead of Chevy? ›

GMC trucks are designed for luxury users, offering more features and a higher price tag. On the other hand, Chevrolet trucks are designed for the average truck buyer, offering affordability while still providing plenty of features.

What is the luxury version of GM? ›

General Motors' Key Brands. The Cadillac luxury car brand is one of GM's most popular offerings. Established in 1902 with the founding of the Cadillac Automobile Company, the vehicle became a part of the General Motors portfolio in 1909.

Why do Chinese love Buick? ›

In the 1990s, Buick partnered with a key local manufacturer, joining forces to create brand new vehicles that stood out from the competition. This move also left a lasting positive imprint on the Chinese collective memory. In addition, Buick has enjoyed a fruitful partnership with the Shanghai Automotive Industry.

Are Buicks built well? ›

Today's Buicks score well in quality rankings and offer a quiet, comfortable ride with plenty of features for the money. Modern safety systems and improved reliability help dispel any outdated preconceptions.

What country buys the most Buicks? ›

For Buick, China is its biggest market with about 80% of its annual worldwide volume.

Is Buick more luxury than Cadillac? ›

Is Buick More Luxurious than Cadillac? Buick offers luxury vehicles positioned above other GM brands, such as Chevy. But Cadillac is considered more luxurious compared to Buick.

Where does Buick rank in cars? ›

This puts Buick in 13th rank among 32 surveyed brands for mechanical robustness and lower ownership costs. Both Consumer Reports and J.D. Power's testing show similar appraisals for Buick's reliability over the years, with models consistently ranking higher than competitors like Nissan or Mazda.

Is owning a Buick expensive? ›

Are Buicks expensive to maintain? No, they actually fall below the national average for repair costs. RepairPal, one of the leading car ownership resources, found that Buick vehicles average around $608 in annual maintenance.

What is the average age of a Buick owner? ›

With an average customer age of 60.3 years, Buick's clientele is older than that of any other non-luxury vehicle. Buick has struggled more than other brands to move away from its image as an older driver's brand.


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