This is the second part of two in regards to our interview with 2018 Buick Enclave and 2018 Enclave Avenir assistant marketing manager Susanne Hinz. Be sure to read the first part that was posted a few days ago.
GMAuthority: Competition wise, the presser listed out a wide band of rivals, including the Infiniti QX60 to the Honda Pilot, which, when I look at Buick, especially a vehicle like the 2018 Enclave Avenir, I don’t think I’m going to cross-shop a Pilot. So, I’m just trying to figure out why the inclusion of such a wide bandwidth?
Susanne Hinz: I’m glad you asked that question, because Buick sits in a really interesting space. I’m sure if you’ve talked to any of us you’ve heard this before. There’s ‘mainstream’, there’s ‘luxury’, and we’re in a space that’s ‘premium’. We reach the higher-end of the mainstream and the lower end of the luxury segments. So, the Enclave Avenir, that pushes up further into luxury, and we know based on our customers that they have the means and the wherewithals, and the need in their lifestyles to support a vehicle priced around something like an (Enclave) Avenir, something that is in a more luxury space. I feel like I might be getting off your question, though – can you read it one more time? I just want to make sure I’m answering it.
GMA: So, rivals like the Infiniti QX60, Acura MDX, Lincoln Navigator, MKX, Q7, CX-9, Honda Pilot; the bandwidth seems to be pretty wide. And there are even vehicles like the Volvo XC90, that’s a really pretty, very popular SUV, kind of an enviable SUV at this point. I think it’s doing a lot to change Volvo’s image, just from an observational standpoint, but in the case of the Enclave Avenir, is that a competitor you guys are looking at as well?
SH: I wouldn’t say it’s one of our main luxury competitors, but it’s definitely in the peripheral. We really consider, like you said, Acura and Infiniti, Lexus even.
GMA: There’s also a, I would say, very obvious space between the Buick Envision and the 2018 Enclave. Would you say that keeping the size of the outgoing one, rather than doing what GMC did which was to shrink it, what was the strategy behind that decision versus, say, doing something like GMC?
SH: Customers – and what they need in this vehicle. This vehicle has been on the market for nearly a decade. We know what works and we know why people buy it, and one of the number one reasons is because of the space, because of the interior flexibility. We wanted to take something and not necessarily change it, we didn’t want to have a revolution, but an evolution. We wanted to evolve what was already great and not take away anything that we know our customers really felt was one of their main driving decisions.
GMA: This might be a little tertiary – but sharing the dealership (with GMC), you have a GMC (Acadia) and a Buick (Enclave) that are not at all stepping on each other’s toes anymore, because of the newly different size spacing. Was that an influence in the decision to maintain size?
SH: I don’t think I’m at the liberty to say. I want to say no, it’s not. I don’t think it was ever a conversation that the Enclave was going to change its size, and I think because the Enclave didn’t and held ground, it creates an even better opportunity in that shared dealership environment. So, if a family comes in and they’re looking at the Acadia but they’re also looking at the new Enclave, that 3rd row, that extra space could really be the differentiator. So we’re happy to capture those people and keep ‘em under the GM umbrella.
GMA: Let’s talk about white space for a minute. Buick’s been pretty good at consistently launching (white space vehicles). You’ve got a 2018 Regal liftback in a sedan segment, you’ve got a 2018 Regal wagon in what I think will be the next big growth, because millennials seem to like wagons, maybe because their parents didn’t have wagons. I think you guys are the first into something where no one’s really been eyeballing, which they probably should’ve been. And also cars like the Cascada. But if you were calling the shots, if you could fill a white space, where would you fill it?
SH: I would actually put the Avista Concept into production. I think that is such a great looking vehicle, and just being outside of work people have come up to me and said I would really buy a Buick if I could buy that car. Not to say that they wouldn’t buy one now, but that would really push them over the edge, no questions asked.
GMA: Do you think your opinion echoes a lot of people on your side?
SH: I think so. I think everybody – so we talk about beauty and we talk about style, and something that’s beautiful is very subjective, something that has style most people can appreciate even if it’s not their own. And that car has style, and I think everybody can universally appreciate it. It’s just a good looking car, doesn’t matter what your tastes are, you can appreciate it.
GMA: The Enclave release stated that there’s going to be at least 12 new or refreshed products globally by 2020. Is that a China-centric thing? Is that going to be a U.S. market thing? What did that mean?
SH: It’s definitely global, so that would include China. But you can see that so many of our vehicles here – if you look out into our stand here alone, you can see that once the Enclaves and the Regals are shown on the floor, our entire lineup is less than 21 and 24 months old, the entire lineup. So, even just here in the U.S., that’s every single product that you see here, is entirely new. That’s a considerable chunk of just U.S.-centric vehicles or North America-centric vehicles.
GMA: What about the ‘That’s a Buick’ campaign? Seems to be really successful. Are you guys looking to stay the course there or roll out something different?
SH: So, we’ve done a really good job staying the course and that was done purposefully… if you really want the message driven home you have to stick to it. And that’s not easy to do when there are monthly sales figures to hit and you want to be able to pull different levers to try and do whatever it takes to make your numbers. I mean, this is a business, let’s be honest. We have exercised really great discipline to stay on that message. In terms of if we’re going to be veering off of it or going a different route, that is still to be determined, but we’re excited to see what that next evolution could be.