automotive

Q&A: Buick Focuses On New Vehicles, Buyers

BuickGeneral Motors' Buick brand has big plans this year, as it has the task of getting the word out about new vehicles and products that extend the brand into new segments of the auto market. The company is currently introducing the Verano, its first smaller car, as well as a new partial hybrid drivetrain technology called eAssist and its first performance car, the Regal GS.

Later this year, the Encore, Buick's first compact SUV, starts appearing in showrooms. In addition to the Buick Discovery Tour invitation-only experience, the test drive program, the automaker will tout the Verano through advertising around NCAA basketball. Marketing Daily speaks to Roger McCormack, marketing director for Buick and sister brand GMC. 

Q: Buick has a lot of new vehicles that put the brand into new territory. What are some of the challenges for the brand in terms of talking about the new cars and crossovers?

A: It's getting familiarity out in the market with the products we have on the road today. For us the term “butts in seats” works, because of the experience we offer at auto shows and events like the Buick Discovery tour, where we give people lifestyle, epicurean experiences and test drives. We find people coming out of that event have a much higher opinion and greater consideration of the brand. Obviously, you want to have a good share of voice in the market and do all the right things from an advertising perspective -- but the most important thing is to get people into the cars.

Q: What do you see for 2012?

A: We expect this year to be very good, especially as we get numbers of vehicles on the ground. We still don't have Regal GS and Verano vehicles in big volume yet, but last year retail was up 15%, and 2010 was up 49% -- so those two years back to back show good steady growth. Globally in 2010, we had the most growth of the major brands.

The competition is always tough but if we reflect on what we have coming to market, we feel good about where we're going. If you think about the last couple of quarters, even between the fourth last year and the first this year, we will have brought out eAssist in the Lacrosse and Regal, as well as the Verano, the Regal GS manual and GS automatic -- all in a very short amount of  time. The market is very competitive. but we feel like it comes back to bringing out great product out.

Q: Where are you in terms of conquesting other brands outside of GM?

A: We have done very well from a conquest standpoint. The Enclave gets 48% conquest, about half of which are imports. The Regal does well in that regard as well. Across all vehicles, we have a 41% conquest rate.

Q: Where will Verano buyers come from?

A:  If you had to pigeonhole it, young people just starting out -- starting to have success, maybe they have one young child -- on the other side of the spectrum are empty nesters, people who maybe don't need a bigger car any more.

Q: How will you market Verano to a new, younger buyer?

A: I think the Verano is a great example of a vehicle that will help bring new consumers to Buick. NCAA is a cornerstone: you will see a lot of Verano around our sponsorship of NCAA basketball and all that leads up to it. The Discovery Tour started the ball rolling, and in March we will really talk about the Verano with new creative around the NCAA. We are also the NCAA partner for human achievement.

Q: How about beyond sports and NCAA?

A: Between NCAA and the Discovery Tour, we have promotional activities like major automotive sponsorship of next weekend's South Beach Food and Wine Festival, where we display products, have subject matter experts, and will have [wine and spirits consultant] Michael Green do Buick-themed Ice Blue martinis. We are also at the Austin Food and Wine Festival and at NCAA championship we have a footprint and activation. We will be very prominent in New Orleans for the men's basketball tournament; we had a prominent display at the Sugar Bowl BCS championship; we will be at the Men’s College World Series; Men's Lacrosse Championships, the Frozen Four at Tampa.

Q: Why is NCAA the right place for Buick?

A: The metrics have shown NCAA with championship sports bring a more engaged audience. They are watching commercials, are engaged in their alma mater, and out of all sports properties tend to be most likely in market by a few percentage points.

Q: Does Buick do product placement as part of the effort to get the word out about new vehicles?

A: This year Buick will be involved in a new reality show, but we can't talk about that yet. Last year, Regal was a "star" in Univision's telenovela "Eva Luna," whose title character is a woman who runs an ad agency. Her mandate was to create [Spanish language] ads for the Regal.

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