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BMW And Buick: One Gains, And The Other's In Pain

Friday, 3 Aug 2007 | 9:00 AM ET
BMW 3 Series
AP
BMW 3 Series

Call this the tale of two brands going in opposite directions. One knows its core market and continues to roll out hot models that win over fans. The other is drifting with sales slumping and serious questions mounting about its future.

When I look at the July sales, I'm struck by the numbers at Buick. How bad was it?Sales dropped 29 % and every single model was down at least 17%. Think that's bad? Check out year to date sales. It's the same thing (down 28%). Buick's sales this year of 106,837 are, the weakest of GM's original 5 brands.. Not to belabor this point, but Buick sales are so low, it's been outsold this year by Volkswagen and is essentially on par with Subaru.

I can hear you right now saying, "well, Buick's been struggling for some time". You bet, but we're looking at weakness hitting a point where serious questions need to be asked at GM. Do they really want to keep Buick alive? If so, what's the product plan? What's the marketing plan?

When GM announced a few weeks back that Tiger Woods may not be used exclusively to market Buick, it made me wonder what's the plan if Tiger is not the primary pitchman?

Meanwhile, BMW remains on a roll. Last month sales jumped 21% with 3 series coupe sales up an astounding 246%. This year, beamer sales are up 7.4%. Even SUV sales are up 6.7%.

It's not surprising since BMW has become the luxury brand of choice for buyers who want to go upscale. There was a time, years ago, when GM envisioned Buick as being the upscale car of choice for people who wanted more style and luxury but couldn't afford a Cadillac. That's not the case any more.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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