| BIRMINGHAM, Mich
BIRMINGHAM, Mich Jan 22 General Motors Co
is counting on the new Encore small crossover vehicle to
bring more new customers to its premium Buick brand.
The Encore, which went on sale in U.S. show-rooms last week
after launching last fall in China, is the fifth vehicle in the
Buick brand, joining the larger Enclave crossover and the
LaCrosse, Regal and Verano sedans.
Buick's U.S. sales rose 1.6 percent last year to 180,408
vehicles, a six-year high for the brand. But LMC Automotive
senior analyst Joe Langley says it has a tough road ahead.
"Buick still remains a small player in the market and faces
many challenges," he said. "While a good strategy to try and
have Buick serve the entry luxury market, it will come under
pressure as well-established brands with far greater prestige
enter the space over the next several years, such as BMW
, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
"Buick is already having a difficult time carving out a
place in the market and the down-market push by the German
luxury brands will make that mission that much more difficult,"
LMC expects GM to add another small crossover and a compact
hatchback within a few years, with the Encore's annual sales
hitting about 30,000 vehicles. The brand's overall U.S. sales
are expected to top 280,000 vehicles in 2017, according to LMC.
Buick executives did not reveal what sales volume they
expect the Encore to generate, but they anticipate it will help
further boost demand at Buick.
"There's a lot of momentum in this brand," Tony DiSalle,
Buick marketing vice president, said at an event outside of
DiSalle told reporters he expects the Encore's conquest
rate, or the percentage of buyers new to the brand, to match
that of the Verano, which is above 50 percent. The brand's
overall conquest rate has risen to just over 43 percent last
year from 28 percent in 2007.
Buick officials see the Encore's primary rival as the
Volkswagen Tiguan, but they also mentioned the BMW X1 and
Over the last five years, the average age of Buick buyers
has dropped seven years to 57, Buick officials said. The Encore
is targeted at young professionals and empty nesters, marketing
DiSalle said GM expects the segment in which Encore
competes, small and mid-sized crossovers, to add more than
350,000 sales in the United States over next three years.
Marketing for the Encore, which will start in earnest in
March with a campaign during the NCAA March Madness college
basketball tournament, will emphasize Encore's maneuverability,
flexibility to accommodate people and their cargo and
technology, said Lloyd Biermann, marketing manager for Buick
crossovers. The company expects 60 percent of the vehicle's
buyers to be women, he said.
The Encore, which is built in South Korea on the same
vehicle platform as the Opel Mokka available in Europe, has a
starting price of almost $25,000.