In Detroit this month, General Motors showed Buick's new compact crossover, the Encore and the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks. Cross-town competitor Ford has its hands full with just two brands. With GMC and Buick, General Motors has four. The automaker's head of marketing, Alan Batey, talks about where the two brands stand today vis à vis both Chevrolet and Cadillac, and competitive brands.
Q: You've just shown the Encore, a crossover below the Enclave that opens up the brand to new buyers. Have you grown consideration for the brand?
A: We are getting younger people, and more women. The upside opportunity is that Buick is a well known, distinct brand, and vehicles like the Verano [compact sedan] are bringing in a different customer, and so will the Encore, which hasn't been launched -- we aren't going to get our first vehicles until later this month. Our biggest challenge -- or opportunity -- is conquest. So, programs like Experience Buick, which is a 24-month lease with OnStar, maintenance and XM radio included, are giving us an opportunity to bring people into the brand. And they become our brand ambassadors.
Q: Does Buick compete with Cadillac?
A: Buick is a very different interpretation of luxury versus Cadillac, which is about dynamic styling and performance. Buick is a "human" kind of luxury -- a different positioning for a young audience, a family audience. Understated luxury for people who want to reward themselves.
Q: Isn't the real challenge for Buick the higher end of the mass market rather than other luxury brands?
A: We have four brands that we think can really cover the market in the U.S., maximizing our opportunity and scale. That is really what it's about. But we are conquesting from brands like Lexus, Acura, and -- to your point -- we are also taking people out of the mainstream as well: Honda, Toyota, Ford and also Chevrolet.
Q: You just launched Both the 2014 GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks. Aren't Chevrolet and GMC on top of each other (and doesn't GMC limit Chevrolet's upside in trucks and SUVs)?
A: First off, GMC is the best-positioned brand we ever had. "Professional Grade" really made sense and designers were really able to translate that into our product. In the past, if there was a criticism, it was that we didn't have enough differentiation [with Chevrolet]. I would tell you that the differentiation that we are bringing through the new full-size pickup trucks for example, is really going to give GMC even more substance. We have really pulled [Sierra and Silverado] apart: the use of of high-strength metals, aluminum, stitching of seats, the front end, features and benefits -- things that are standard on GMC you just can't get on Chevrolet.