Both Buick and GMC have become darlings of General Motors as the market turns away from sedans and passenger cars to larger crossovers and SUVs. The proof isn’t only in the brands’ sales numbers, but analysts say Buick and GMC will continue to ride high with SUV-centric lineups.
At Buick, sales grew 12.3 percent in 2016, which outpaced the industry three times over, according to The Detroit News. With its growth, Buick is now the fourth-largest premium brand in the United States, only behind Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and BMW. That’s right, Buick is bigger than Audi and Cadillac.
Kelley Blue Book analyst Michelle Krebs said, “the SUVs have brought new customers to the brand and brought its aging buyer demographic down.” Combined with the right product at the right time (we’re looking at the Buick Encore, specifically) and a quirky marketing campaign to fend off stereotypes, Buick is now a 70 to 75 percent SUV brand today.
GMC never had the image problem Buick did, but the SUV boom allowed the brand to fully flesh out its core competencies, that is premium SUVs and trucks via the Denali sub-brand.
“GMC has done the right thing for a long time,” KBB’s Krebs said. “It’s allowed them to stay true and authentic to their customers. Now the SUV trend gives them a great opportunity to head-to-head against Jeep as the premiere utility brand.”
The brand’s sales have doubled from 2009 levels, and despite a plateauing car market, sales are up another 3 percent this year. The now mid-size Acadia and compact Terrain help further define GMC’s SUV segments. GMC says it has high hopes for the 2018 Terrain, in particular, with a softer, more premium design that should appeal to more female buyers.
In the grand scheme of things, GM benefits from the market’s love affair with SUVs in general. When thinking of SUVs, studies show most consumers think of American automakers—not foreign companies. SUVs are inherently in GM’s DNA, and its brand will ride that wave for all its worth.