Why China Loves Buick


In America, Buick is
widely considered an old fashioned car brand perhaps
best known for being the favorite of
American grandparents. But in China, Buick is a
kind of automotive rock star General Motors’s near
luxury brand was barely saved from the
chopping block during the financial crisis in
part because of Buick’s strong performance in
China. However, despite efforts to turn the
brand around, Buick has not yet managed to distinguish
itself in the United States. U.S. sales of
the brand fell considerably further in 2018 than did
any other GM mark even though Buick had
realigned its portfolio toward SUV and crossovers and
made bold and critically praised bets on sleek
cars and wagons borrowed from GM’s former European
portfolio. But in China, which has the world’s
largest auto market, Buick is considered an
elite, almost exclusive brand. In 2018, just over
80 percent of Buicks global sales were in China.
GM sells more Buicks in China than on its home
turf in the U.S. like almost five times as
many. It also outperforms all other U.S. manufacturers
that sell there. In America, Buick sold just
under 207,000 Buicks in 2018.
A 5% decline over the previous year. But
in China, the brand sold over one million vehicles for
the third year in a row. That is almost one third of the 3.64 million total vehicles GM sold that year! It is roughly
twice the number of Chevrolets and four
times the number of Cadillacs. Only GM’s
China exclusive Wuling brand topped Buick and only
by a few thousand units. Buick also sells Audi,
BMW, and Mercedes Benz in China. So why did a
brand that struggles at home become such a hit
over there? The reasons for this unusual status are varied
and go back a long way. Buick has been in
China since the early 20th century. It was a car
of choice for many famous Chinese political figures
including Sun Yat Sen, commonly regarded as one
of the founding fathers of modern China. And
Zhou Enlai, the first premier of the
People’s Republic of China. China’s first impression of
beauty comes from the 1950s Buick. And this
is when all the important representatives of state
and government officials in China were riding
around in Buicks. Go back and look at 1950
Buick and you think about them driving around the
streets of China. It would’ve left quite
an impression on everyone who saw one. One key moment
came in the 1990s when China’s auto market was
still very much in its infancy. Buick was already
GM’s most famous brand in China and it
partnered with a local manufacturer to make
brand new vehicles that stood very much
apart from the competition. Bearing the name that
already had such a prestigious reputation in
the country, the Chinese never forgot
that. The brand’s prestigious reputation
particularly among the country’s decision makers
gave it a considerable head start. But it
didn’t rest on its reputation. Some credit is also due
to GM’s partner in the region. Shanghai
Automotive Industry Corporation which is about the
best regional partner GM could hope to have in the
country. SAIC has over the years pushed GM to keep
the quality of its cars high and the product
fresh. A very important step in a country where
consumers are spoiled for choice. The result is that
the fit and finish in Chinese Buicks is the
best the brand offers in the world. As of 2018
Buick had sold 10 million units in China since
it had first launched in 1998. So they have a big
partner that’s what got them established and that will
be one of the key factors for them to
continue to thrive in China. It’s going to depend on maintaining that relationship and continuing to foster that relationship. A lot of success depends on a good domestic partner. Over the years, Buick
has also been careful to cater to these somewhat
unique tastes of the Chinese buyer. For example
in China one of the major coaches of choice for high powered executives is, believe it or not: the minivan. Spacious and luxurious,
minivans have almost a limousine-like status in
China. So Buick answered that call and made
upscale minivans that are considered some of Buicks
marquee products in the country. The vans
have interiors considerably upgraded from the average
family mover found in the United States and
enough space to seat a Chinese executive’s
sometimes large entourage. The brand has also worked
hard to appeal to the country’s younger consumers.
The average Chinese Buick buyer is younger
than 35. About half the age of the average buyer
in the U.S. Even Buick’s Chinese advertisements are
distinct. Bearing high tech and futuristic depictions
of young urban and often wealthy people. On the other hand, Buick
has struggled in the U.S. for a variety of reasons. A decline in quality over the decades is
partly to blame, say many industry analysts. Buick
also fell victim to wider practices at GM
such as the habit the automaker had of
slapping different brand names in a single vehicle. The characteristics that made Buick distinct from
fellow GM brands, not to mention other competitors,
faded away and the brand lost its
identity, becoming mostly a vehicle for customers who
remembered what it had been in its heyday. Now
Buick is trying to take some of the lessons it
has learned in China and bring them back home as
it tries to forge a renaissance in America.
For example, GM began manufacturing the Buick
Envision in China and importing it to the United States. Something President Trump seems to have overlooked when he was on the campaign trail slamming U.S. automakers for building cars abroad. “So these are the biggest
in the world and we’re going to be talking to them and we want them to build more cars in the United States and also build them here and ship them overseas.” GM even sought an exception to U.S. tariffs on imported cars for the Envision. It will not be easy for Buick to shake its frumpy image and get back on buyers’ consideration lists. Buick has for several years now scored highly on industry analysis firm J.D. Powers metrics for quality and has also earned competitive scores on service. But Buick knows it has to fight to change buyer perceptions in the U.S. One recent ad campaign featured actors pointing to the brands cars and asking incredulously: “Is that a Buick?”, as though they were surprised something so stylish could bear that nameplate. But industry analysts, such as Cox automotive
Karl Brauer, think the brand can still make a go of it in the U.S. if it can succeed in China. That prompts the question of how long Buick’s success in China can last? As Brauer is quick to note: “a company’s reputation in China can change in an instant,” often for reasons that have little to do with the brand itself. Japanese and Korean automakers have found this in the past. Buick is the eighth largest brand in China in terms of market share, competing with other foreign heavyweights such as Volkswagen, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan as well as several Chinese name brands. So far, things have been far better for GM in China than they have been for Detroit’s other big automakers. Fiat, Chrysler, and Ford. But it doesn’t look like the good times can go on forever.

100 comments

Not being a GM fan, I must say the interiors look shockingly impressive. But you should know, GM is now a Chinese Corp.

i think the all silver name plate from a few years ago looks better than the new one now that looks dated.

Buick sells well in China also because there a lot of cars like Vauxhall or Opel cars use Buick brand in China

I always thought Buick should make a luxury suv like Cadillac Escalade and bring back the Buick grand sport.

Do Buick's made in China not suffer from the same chronic mechanical problems other GM cars here in the U,S have, like the plastic intake manifold problem that warps after so many miles and leaks that has plagued GM V-6 motors for years and even today?

TESLA THE MOST EFFICIENT & EXTREMELY SAFE CAR IN THE WORLD, HATS OFF TO HON. ELON MUSK (GAME CHANGER). ENTIRE WORLD SHOULD GO ELECTRIC 100%. DUMP COMBUSTION ENGINE AIR POLLUTING GAS, OIL GAZZELERS PRODUCT (SCREWED UP THE ENVIRONMENT, CREATED OIL WARS IN MIDDLE EAST ETC).

Sounds like Buick cares MUCH MORE about it’s Chinese market than it’s American customers. Overpriced Chevrolet.

This might sound kinda weird, but I'm 19 and I like some of the designs of the Buicks (yes, I'm aware many were borrowed from Opel). That being said, I still question if they're as reliable as say, an Acura.

Buick makes a really great product. The Enclave rates up there with the Japanese competition. The Lacrosse is one really nice car. Pillow soft ride with plenty of power, maybe a better buy than its direct competition Lexus. What I don’t get is why won’t GM advertise these great cars? (They then cancel production). They should have a Buick Ad every other commercial on TV all weekend. What happened to the Buick Open Golf Champion ? Instead, we see Nissan, Toyota, Mercedes Commercials. Doesn’t make sense to me… U make a great Car, Show it off !!! It’s not rocket science….

Ford and Buick are all Chinese brand, toyota and honda are Americunt company.
sort of.
Even Americunt don't like made in Americunt, why should we Chinese buy their trash?

Cars made in North America are still junk! Even foreign marquees made there are poorly built – for example Volvo.

I just don’t understand why American car companies make better and more reliable versions of things over seas yet get surprised when their crappy American version fails?? Like what the hell logic is that and how come after handfuls of times they’ve had this issue they never learn their lesson? Like… it makes no sense, just make the cars as decently as you can world wide.

The great Buick Regal TourX AWD wagon COULD help rebuild their image but the dealers are either too shortsighted or limited in supply to stock them in any #'s.
We drive a Mercedes e-class wagon & would strongly consider replacing it with this TourX wagon.
I saw just 1 locally & followed to see badge to research it.
A crying shame, at our local Buick dealer in Nacogdoches Texas, the salesman was unaware of its existence !
Or that it was made in Europe by Opel.
We did find 2 Regal Sportbacks – shorter hatch model, but no TourX wagons.
This great wagon is very competitive with Subaru, Volvo & the far pricier Benz.
Plus it has personality & style that no bland dime a dozen crossover / SUV can match.
C'mon, Buick /GM get your act together !

The great Buick Regal TourX AWD wagon COULD help rebuild their image but the dealers are either too shortsighted or limited in supply to stock them in any #'s.
We drive a Mercedes e-class wagon & would strongly consider replacing it with this TourX wagon.
I saw just 1 locally & followed to see badge to research it.
A crying shame, at our local Buick dealer in Nacogdoches Texas, the salesman was unaware of its existence !
Or that it was made in Europe by Opel.
We did find 2 Regal Sportbacks – shorter hatch model, but no TourX wagons.
This great wagon is very competitive with Subaru, Volvo & the far pricier Benz.
Plus it has personality & style that no bland dime a dozen crossover / SUV can match.
C'mon, Buick /GM get your act together !

US Buick models are attractive in my opinion. It’s just that the engine is you know, American made.. Not Japanese

The best to sell a Buick is to change the name, Buick is an old person's car. No matter what you do to it it will always be associated with old people and will not do very well because of that negative mindset in many Americans.

They could just make buicks for china only.

In fact lexus, acuras and infinitis are not avaible
In japan

So by making this, they could replace it by pontiac

im from china. we dont love buick specially. the top fmaily car imprted brands we consider are from german. we call BBA(BenzBMWAudi). then japanese toyota and honda. american cars are just normally treated…

you see buick good sale in china only because china market is big, and sale number is just big accordingly.

Fell in love with a late 90's Riviera at age 22. Now I own one and am still mesmerized by it and love to drive it. I can't wait to own a brand new sporty Buick some day and love that it's so underrated here in the USA. Let me do burnouts in a Roadmaster all day while people overlook how cool Buick is. If I can get a more exclusive model from China that we don't have here in the states, I will do it.

This American junk car is mainly attracted China corruptors and gangsters. Good Chinese person will never drive America junks

I have a 09 LaCrosse and it's a great car,…….did all the maintenance as indicated in the manual,…….and it's still purring with 188,000 miles. Don't understand why people are ripping the brand,…….

On of the better pieces of GM. Glad Buick is doing well, but Trump is correct GM needs to make it happen over here in America also. It’s totally up to GM if they want to succeed in America.

Who would have thought Chinese domestic Buicks have better fit and finish than their American counterparts…. Only GM…

Here in America Buicks are not common anymore. Is rare that I see a new Buick I still see old lacrossse's and lucerne's but not new ones

Unless I am mistaken you slipped a street scene from Ximending in Taipei / Taiwan into this clip. Btw maybe partnering with SAIC is the ingredient that helps a lot, apart from re-badgeing Opel models.

And even after this help from China,Trump put an embargo on the chinese for some of their products like Huawei? Shame on you egomaniac Trump,Huawei sold 118 million mobile phones for 6 months,bye bye US economy

Situation in the US: I've always thought it would be useful if elderly people put a bumper sticker saying that they are elderly on their car, then I would be more patient with them when they're doing 15 below the speed limit. But I've found that, at least for sedan-bodied cars, the Buick badge tells me the same thing. Lincoln and Cadillac similar to a lesser degree. Interestingly I've also seen some Buicks driven by younger people who drive in in the manner of an elder, I guess an "old soul" or something? In the US, once something is associated with elders, that is a hole that's hard to dig out of. I would imagine that association never happened in China. Actually gives another interesting thought – in the US and other western societies, being old is seen as a bad thing, elders are seen as disposable, even a drain on society, people hate the idea of being old or looking old, often doing things like dying their hair to look young. Think of Abe Simpson as the stereotypical American view of elderly people. I could see this causing more aversion to brands associated with old people such as Buick. In China the culture is a bit different, they actually respect and revere elderly people, who are seen as wise and important. Thus this association, even if it existed there, wouldn't have the same negative connotation it does in the US.

I used to buy Large Buick's from 1976 to 2005 !!!! Then after 2005 they started making smaller cars with V4 engines that would Stop and Start ! No room for comfort !! So, today , I crossed over to a Large Chrysler 300 rwd car ! I just love it !!! They still make larger American Style cars that look good and ride well !!!! No v4 engines or tiny low profile tires to blow out !!!!!!!

Buick had the opportunity to put into production two very appealing concept they that would have helped their American portfolio, but decided to back off and keep them as mere concept: the Avenir and Avista concept cars. The Avista was reminiscent of a budget price Bentley Continental GT coupe, with it being based off the Camaro platform and powered by a twin turbo V6 with 400 horsepower, and the Avenir was a 4-door coupe-styled sedan with beautiful lines and a powerful engine itself.

Both could have had a place in Buick's lineup, and yet both were turn down for production for Buick to focus more on SUVs. Problem is, they don't even have uniquely styled SUVs with any form of pizzazz to them. The Enclave is a big rental car blob with an underperforming V6 engine and an unoriginal interior. The Envision is a basic at best compact crossover with boring styling and a lethargic turbo 4-cylinder engine. And I don't know where to begin to say everything that's wrong with the Encore, which is literally a Chevy Sonic based crossover with an even more lethargic turbo 4-cylinder and cramped interior. All of their SUV offerings are based off of Chevrolet models, and there really is no incentive to pay more for the Buick renditions of the platform except for if you really liked the design. They have a long way to go in the US before they are considered to be more than cars for the elderly and decent rental cars from Enterprise.

Getting rid of the 3800 engine was the dumbest thing gm ever could of done. Most people in the US expect there cars to reach 200,000 -250,000 miles with minimal repairs.

I think, for a rich country like the US, probably a mid-luxury brand like buick, (or mercury, before dissapearing) would make no sense, but for a developing country it'd be an attractive option. When Mercury was strugling in the US, in Mexico they were very popular, specially grand marquis. Unfortunetly, Ford rebranded them as 'Ford' instead of promoting Mercury

I’m sorry but the politics chosen car is Audi while the official choice is RedFlag. It was never Buick and will hardly be Buick ever, simply because it’s American.

In 2018, people in China bought: 1.47M TOYOTAs, 1.56M NISSANs, 1.43M HONDAs, 4.21M VOLKWAGENs, 1.06M BUICKs, so, really?

And yet here; GM continues to mothball the Grand National. The best car they've built in the last 40 years, with the most powerful engine of the 80's, that is even more applicable today: (a V6 turbo,)
The "87 GNX is Buick's "69 Camero.

The number 3 has strong significance & luck in china. The Buick logo is 3 shields, not just coincidence. I saw a story on something similar in regards to Mercedes and design elements incorporating 3. (Headlight LED's/Taillight LED's /Grille designs) Subliminal influence perhaps!

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