A bit over 20 years ago, GM divided itself into two groups: C-P-C, (Chevrolet-Pontiac-Canada), and B-O-C (Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac). Now it has created the BPG channel to consolidate the products and sales organizations of Buick, Pontiac, and GMC. Let’s hope they’re more successful this time. According to John Larson, the channel manager for BPG, “About 1,500 dealers representing 60% of the sales volume of BPG already are channeled.” This doesn’t mean the three brands are located under one roof at these dealerships, but that there are 1,500 dealers who sell all three brands in a geographic area. Moving Buick, Pontiac, and GMC under one roof will come as the dealerships are updated.
That may happen quickly as these brands are refocused and their lineups consolidated. “For Pontiac,” says Larson, “that means no more minivans, and more rear-wheel-drive vehicles in tune with its ‘seductive performance’ image. Buicks won’t be found in rental fleets or with cloth seats, and there will be no body-on-frame trucks in the lineup. GMC,” he says “will be only trucks, though the lineup could extend lower than it does today.” This does not mean that Pontiac will sell only rear-drive cars— front-drive models like the G5 and G6 will remain—Buick will cashier the Rendezvous and Rainier—at least not before the Enclave arrives—or that GMC’s smaller offerings will compete directly with those from Chevrolet. But the direction is clear: Collectively, these three brands will cover a market almost as broad as Chevrolet’s full line, but aimed to attract “active lifestyle” buyers at various life stages.
Steve Shannon, Buick’s general manager, describes the coming generation of Buicks as “cars for grownups with just the right amount of jewelry,” and points to the success of the LaCrosse. “Fifty percent of LaCrosse buyers never owned a Buick before, and 50% of those were import buyers who had never before even considered a Buick.” Shannon expects the 2008 Enclave crossover to continue the image refocusing, while alterations to existing vehicles bring them more in line with the new look and feel until they are redesigned, replaced, or eliminated altogether. It will be interesting to see whether or not the brand can increase its share of the market outside of the retirement meccas of Phoenix, AZ, and Tampa, FL, as the new products arrive. These are Buick’s two strongest markets, and ones it must retain while making inroads with buyers not yet ready for AARP membership.—CAS