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Buick sensed a golden opportunity to reinvent itself for a younger aspirational marketplace and has, for the past decade, followed through on that vision. The most recent effort to shake off its storied past and appeal to young millennial families came this fall with the introduction of the Avenir sub-brand.
What does a sub-brand mean in the car world? The label means that a vehicle, so far two models have been announced, will combine many of the options buyers historically bought piecemeal into one large package.
Executives saw a cultural shift towards what it calls smart, or attainable, luxury and asked what that meant for Buick.
The answer: A sleeker than usual body, the right type of power train in terms of efficiency and performance, and the idea of wellness (although the wellness feature is a little harder to detect than the top in-car technology). They then packaged those elements into the Avenir line providing not only a press push, but a single product to place in front of the customer.
“This trend towards smart, or attainable, luxury is something that you see across other segments. Top-tier luxury brands start to bring in intermediate or attainable sub-brands that have great quality, a more progressive design, and better insight into what customers are looking for outside ultra-luxury,” explains Sam Russell, director of marketing for Buick.
“You’ve seen it across a number of brands including fashion and even restaurants.”
The introduction of Avenir wasn’t a risk for the executive who had been blown away by the success of sub-brand Denali, which now accounts for 30-percent of GMC’s total retail sales.
“[Denali’s success] was the icing on the cake in building our confidence to develop a new sub-brand. The customer was moving in that direction,” says Russell.
Buick’s primary consumer base today is largely 30-something women. These are successful but relatively young customers who want to make a luxury purchase but at a price they can afford.
Younger buyers often don’t have a reference for what Buick was before the 2000s and don’t affiliate the brand with the low-rider 4-door sedans and plush seats of the 1980s. Executives call this “false familiarity.”
“If you base the brand on past references then you have an erroneous perception that it is a brand stuck in time, that it’s not adapting to the new market,” explains Russell.
“Our biggest challenge is to get out there in front of these consumers and say, ‘We’re not who you think we are.’”
Look back a decade and 70 percent of Buick’s business was 4-door sedans. Today, crossovers and SUVs account for more than 75 percent of sales.
Much of Buick’s marketing message revolves around this theme of transformation.