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.

How is Buick still in business? ›

The profitability of the model lineup and popularity in China ensured Buick's future within General Motors, with the decision being made to discontinue the Pontiac brand instead. Since 2005, GM had gradually consolidated Buick with GMC and former Pontiac dealerships to create the current Buick-GMC network.

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.

Are Buicks expensive to fix? ›

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.

What is the reputation of Buick? ›

According to data compiled by RepairPal, Buick earns a respectable reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5.0. This puts Buick in 13th rank among 32 surveyed brands for mechanical robustness and lower ownership costs.

Why are dealers dropping Buick? ›

Buick offered buyouts to dealers who did not want to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars on tooling, equipment and training to prepare to sell and service EVs. Nearly half of Buick's U.S. dealerships left the brand this year after it offered buyouts for those who didn't want to invest in selling electric vehicles.

What is happening with Buick? ›

General Motors said nearly half its Buick dealers took buyouts this year rather than invest in selling and servicing electric vehicles as the automaker's brands transition to all electric by 2030. That means GM will end 2023 with about 1,000 Buick stores nationwide, down 47% from where it started the year.

Does Buick have a future? ›

Buick is in the midst of an evolution, launching a beautiful new vehicle portfolio, while becoming the fastest growing mainstream brand in the industry in 2023.

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.

What country buys the most Buicks? ›

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

Who makes Buick engines? ›

The Buick Motor Company is an American automobile manufacturer founded in 1903 by David Dumbar Buick in Flint (USA) and now part of General Motors.

What is the most common problem with the Buick? ›

Top Buick Problems
  • Air Compressor for Rear Air Springs May Fail. ...
  • Fuel Level Sensor Failure. ...
  • Transmission Pressure Control Solenoid Failure May Cause Erratic Shifting. ...
  • Heating and AC Temperature and Air Delivery Mode Door Actuators May Fail. ...
  • Door Lock Mechanism Sticks.

Are Buicks high on insurance? ›

Insurance for Buicks tends to be more expensive than average thanks to their status as a premium brand. With The Zebra, you can quickly compare Buick insurance quotes across hundreds of insurance companies to help find the best coverage for the best price, specifically for your vehicle.

How many miles will a Buick last? ›

Buicks and Longevity

In fact, they generally last 200,000 miles, or about 13 years, which placed them third overall (and first among luxury brands) in J.D. Power's 2020 vehicle dependability survey. Of course, preventive maintenance and driving habits have a lot to do with a car's longevity.

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.

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.

What is the most luxury Buick? ›

Buick's Avenir trim provides the automaker's highest degree of luxury in its most upscale SUVs: the Enclave and the Envision.

What is considered a luxury brand car? ›

The generally accepted list of luxury brands includes Acura, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Bugatti, Cadillac, Ferrari, Genesis, Infiniti, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Lexus, Lincoln, Lotus, Maserati, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Tesla, and Volvo.

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