why is buick so popular in china
The heyday of Buick on American roads is long gone, but the brand is far from dead. In fact, business is booming just not in the U. S. Pwhere having a large, foreign car is a status symbol. Buick is the country's, according to the. Sales numbers support those claims. The Buick Excelle was the
in China in 2011, when 254,000 units rolled out of dealerships. The next year, Buick's sales in the country jumped 8%. J. D. Power Associates predicts total Buick sales in China could hit 1 million by 2016,. Why the love for a car that, in its homeland, is viewed as a relic of the past? The common view of Buicks in China is different from that in the U. S. The cars are the choice of business people and government officials. Chinese executives are partial to minivans, which don't come with the kid-hauling image they have here. General Motors, which owns the brand, has capitalized on that popularity. When it saw Chinese executives were partial to minivans, it, making it especially spacious and comfortable. By adapting to offer what Chinese buyers wanted, got its reward: It delivered nearly 67,000 GL8 Luxury MPVs in 2011. Sales rose 28% over 2010, to double the rate of the previous model. Buick sales in the U. S. are trending up and nearing pre-2008 levels, but China is now the focus for the brand. At the New York Auto Show, Buick rolled out three. It saved the fireworks for the Shanghai Auto Show, where it showed off the, a super sleek,Pplug-in hybrid revival of an old model that was discontinued in 1999. The concept car is supposedly inspired by a Chinese saying ("The greatest good is like water"), and it was partly designed by the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC), GM's joint venture with China's Motor. Buicks are huge in China because GM was smart enough to recognize buyers were fans of the brand, and then made cars they would like even more. BeijingÁWang Senghu slid into the seat of the sleek white sports car, eyeing the high-tech dashboard design. He had come to the auto show to upgrade his ride, and in a form-fitting black sweater, his hair closely cropped, he looked the part. There was just one thing that seemed out of place: the car he coveted was a Buick. ÁI think the business elite and people who are concerned about security drive Buicks,Á said Wang, 30, who works in ChinaÁs fast-growing environmental protection industry. ÁIÁve seen American Buicks. People who drive them are business elites, too. Á In the United States, Buicks are more commonly associated with retirees than with hotshot young businessmen. But in Beijing, Buicks have cachet. ItÁs not uncommon to find a shiny Buick valet-parked proudly between an Audi and a Bentley outside a posh hotel, like BeijingÁs Four Seasons.
Recently, the Chinese public got a preview of BuickÁs latest cars at the Beijing Auto Show. Held at the China International Exhibition Center, a sprawling facility more than 15 miles from the cityÁs center, the show attracted nearly 1 million attendees. The oldest surviving automobile make in America, Buick has long struggled to regain a foothold in the U. S. In 2005, GM vice chairman Bob Lutz called Buick a Ádamaged brandÁ during a conference at the New York Auto Show. In 2009, General Motors dropped several makes while the company was in bankruptcy proceedings, including Saturn and Pontiac. But GM kept the Buick line, in large part because of the brandÁs cachet in China. And that cachet has paid off for GM. According to the car enthusiast magazine Car and Driver, the average Buick customer in China is a man in his mid-30sÁabout half the age of the average Buick customer in America. In 2013, Buick sold more than 809,918 cars in the Chinese marketÁnearly four times as many as it sold in the U. S. That year, more than 78 percent of total Buick sales came from China. In its press release on those sales figures, the company touted 2013 as Ábest in brandÁs 110-year history. Á And in the first quarter of 2014, Forbes, Buick posted a nearly 14-percent increase in sales globally. Buicks generally cost more in China than in the U. S. For 2014, the Buick LaCrosse 3. 0 L V-6 SIDI IntelliTech Flagship costs 369,900 RMB, Autoweek, about $59,300,based on current exchange rates. The lowest cost Buick model in China is the LaCrosse 2. 4L SIDI Pilot, which costs about $37,900. In comparison, the U. S. version of the 2014 LaCrosse sedan with a 2. 4-liter engine has a sticker price of $34,060. Buick markets itself as a luxury brand and it costs more than many Chinese cars. For example, General Motors operates in a joint venture to produce Wuling brand cars in China, including the Áone of the most popular vehicles. One of the minivansÁnicknamed the Ábread box carÁ for its boxy shape, costs about $5,000. Buick is certainly not alone in its efforts to woo Chinese consumers. Car traffic chokes the streets of ChinaÁs capital city, once known as the Ákingdom of bicycles,Á with an estimated 7. 5 million drivers. Government statistics say the number of vehicles on ChinaÁs roads have more than doubled in the last decade. As more Chinese climb into the middle class, the government has taken steps to manage the enormous growth. In 2011, the Chinese government created a license plate lottery system to restrict the number of new cars. McKinsey estimates that by 2020, the sales of premium cars in China, fueled by an estimated 23 million affluent urban households, will surpass those in the United States.
Buick is well positioned to cash in. The brand has a storied history in China that may explain part of its current resonance. In the early 20 century, several of the countyÁs elite drove, or were driven in, Buicks, including, the countryÁs last emperor until his abdication in 1912;, the founding father of the Republic of China; and, ChinaÁs premier until 1976. On April 26, the first Saturday the auto show opened to the public, traffic crawled along the highway leading to the Exhibition Center. Crowds at the nearest subway station snaked like the entrance to a Disney theme park. People waited in long security lines in the sun for their tickets to be scanned. Buicks on display during a Beijing car show. (Photo by Abbie VanSickle) The car displays varied widely. One showed an enormous SUV crawling over giant bouldersÁmore African safari than Beijing commuter. Another display featured a woman leaning sensuously over the hood of an SUV, toying with her hair as dozens of people crowded around her. In another exhibition hall, dancers whirled around a Chinese-brand car as music pounded. The Buick display featured neither rocks nor models. It was simple and sleek. As white fan-like blades slowly rotated along the walls, hundreds of people examined the cars, opening the trunks, sitting inside and snapping photos. Zhou Jiong, 40, and his wife, Shi Chunyu, 37, wandered through the showroom, looking at minivans and SUVs on display. Zhou, who works in engineering project management, said heÁs heard about Buicks through his friends and from online ads. ÁI think Buick as a brand in China is very trustworthy,Á he said. His wife, who works in online media, sounded smitten. ÁI think itÁs a business peopleÁs car. ItÁs stylish, fashionable and dynamic. I was attracted at first glance. Á Both said they had no idea what kind of person drove a Buick in America. Nearby, Cheng Qingyong, 40, examined the trunk of a Buick sedan. In a smart gray suit, the businessman currently owns a Japanese car, but he said heÁs interested in Buicks. What sort of person drives a Buick? ÁA big boss,Á he said. ÁMy boss drives a Buick. Á As for who drives it in America, he doesnÁt know and says heÁs not curious to know. But a young couple walking past, Guo Tingting, 32, and Li Gang, 34, were intrigued. Guo, who works in human resources, said she learned about Buicks by watching American television dramas, such as Criminal Minds. ÁWe tend to think, for people our age, we like American carsÁthey are stylish, spacious,Á she said. When they hear that Buicks are better known for the early bird special set than Hollywood starlets, they both laugh.
So did Wang, who says heÁs seen Buicks on his favorite American drama, Prison Break. But they all immediately turned back to browsing the shiny showroom, their eyes fixed on all those brand new Buicks. Sophie Zheng contributed with interview translation for this story. The 2017 Buick Envision will arrive at U. S. dealers next summer -- from China. Image source: General Motors. General Motors ( made it official on Friday: The company will begin selling a new Buick SUV next summer -- and that new SUV will be made in China. What's this new Buick? The new SUV will be the 2017 Buick Envision. It's a premium five-passenger crossover SUV that is expected to compete with models like the Acura RDX and Audi Q5. It's built on a new GM architecture that is shared with some other recent models, including the all-new 2015 Chevrolet Volt. P As with other recent Buicks, the Envision's interior is understated, but luxurious. Image source: General Motors The Envision was introduced in China in late 2014, and it has been a strong seller, with just over 127,000 sold this year through November. It slots in between the small Buick Encore crossover and the larger Enclave in Buick's global SUV lineup. It's well-regarded by critics: Among other plaudits, it won Motor Trend 's SUV of the Year award in China. P It should do well in the U. S. , too. The Encore and Enclave together already account for about 60% of Buick's sales, suggesting than an in-between model has a good chance of catching on with Americans. Why isn't GM building it in North America? P GM hastened to point out on Friday that even though it won't be built here, the Envision was "designed, engineered, and tested in Michigan. " Normally, a vehicle like the Envision would also be produced on an assembly line in North America, likely one that's shared with Chevrolet and GMC vehicles that share the same architecture and underpinnings. P But in this case, those vehicles don't exist yet. Upcoming new versions of the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain are expected to be close siblings (under the skin, at least) to the Envision. But they're still a year or two away, and GM isn't ready to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars required to set up the assembly line to produce them. P Another view of the 2017 Buick Envision. Image source: General Motors. In the meantime, its Chinese factory has the capacity to produce enough Envisions for the U. S. -- and GM's U. S. Buick dealers would love to have the Envision to sell. Hence the decision to import Envisions from China. It's possible (maybe even likely) that the Envision will be built here alongside its Chevy and GMC siblings when those two vehicles hit the market in a year or two.
But for now, at least, the Envisions sold here will come from China. Won't this upset people? Well, the United Auto Workers isn't happy about it. UAW vice president Cindy Estrada, who leads the union's negotiations with GM, released a sharp statement criticizing the move on Friday. P "Today's announcement by General Motors that they are importing the Envision from China is a slap in the face to U. S. Taxpayers and the men and women who worked so hard to save GM during its darkest time," she said. "General Motors continues to use the slogan, 'Build it where you sell it. ' The Company should adhere to their own words and should reconsider this decision and place this product into one of their facilities in the United States. " Is this likely to be a problem for GM? I don't think so. If the Envision's quality is up to par -- and reports from China say that it's excellent -- then I think most American buyers will be. I also think that the UAW has probably known about GM's plans for a while, and that despite Estrada's sharp statement, it won't look to cause trouble over the Envision. There will be grumbling from some folks who are still upset about GM's 2009 bailout. But GM probably figures, probably correctly, that those folks weren't planning on buying a Buick anyway. Will it open the door to more Chinese-made cars in the U. S.? As of right now, no other U. S. -based automaker is known to be planning to import Chinese-made vehicles. But that could change. Some analysts have speculated thatP FordP ( could decide to import its from China, for instance. (To be clear, Ford has not even hinted at that possibility. For now, it's just one of those things that might make sense on paper. )P So what does it mean? For GM, it's not just a way to get a profitable vehicle into its U. S. lineup quickly. It's also a trial balloon: How will Americans react to a Chinese-made GM product? If it's successful, it's possible that more Chinese-made vehicles could follow. But if so, it's likely that GM will stick with niche products: I don't see GM moving production of any of its big sellers to China anytime soon. P Long story short: Unless you're a Buick dealer or you're in the market for what looks like a pretty nice premium crossover SUV, GM's decision to import the Envision from China probably doesn't mean a whole lot -- at least in the near term. owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a.
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