A TV ad during the Summer Olympics featured golf superstar Tiger Woods winning a gold Buick, rather than a gold medal. The humor of Mr. Woods throwing an iron instead of a javelin and hitting an archery bull's eye with a golf ball is an indication of the division's attempt to attract a younger audience to its vehicles.
"We view 2000 as a year when we're setting the stage," says Roger Adams, Buick's marketing general manager. "We're trying to convey a new image for Buick, starting to appeal to the people in the 40-50 year old age group. We have product that we think appeals to that group, but the perception kind of lags that."
Although Buick's average age demographic still is over 60, the 45-50 group is its fastest growing segment.
And the age demographic may slip to less than 60 when the 2002 Rendezvous - Buick's first-ever truck based vehicle - hits showrooms in May. Sharing a platform, if not the styling, with the Pontiac Aztec, Rendezvous will bring Buick's stable to five vehicles.
"Dealers are excited about the Rendezvous because the market is more than half trucks, and we haven't had anything to participate in that segment," says Mr. Adams. He expects to sell between 55,000 and 100,000 Rendezvous in a full year.
Rendezvous joins LeSabre, Century, Regal and Park Avenue in the Buick lineup, which held their own during 2000.
"I think we had a pretty good year at Buick, particularly from a retail standpoint," says Mr. Adams. "We have consciously taken some units out of production that in previous years were put into daily rental fleet. So in the total numbers for Buick you'll see a decline for the year. But from a retail standpoint we've shown a lot of signs of life this year that we're particularly proud of."
LeSabre and Century are expected to close 2000 setting 10-year sales records.
Buick now has 2,800 dealerships, 125 of which are stand-alone stores. Seven of the stand-alone points are "flagship" stores, which are modern, customer-in-charge-of-the-process stores.
"The dealer body overall is a big factor in our success," says Mr. Adams. "We have one of the highest service reputations in the industry. That's a reputation that keeps a lot of our customers loyal."
In 2001, Buick will be working even harder to attract new buyers.
"We're trying to bring new customers to Buick so we're running promotions throughout the year to drive traffic," explains Mr. Adams. "Bringing on Tiger Woods is an example of that. We'll be doing more aggressive Internet promotions and a lot of test-drive activities. We're setting the stage for these buyers to start thinking differently about Buick."