So far this year, though, sales are up 22 percent, DiSalle said. The brand, he said, now has five models to sell, when last year at this time it had only three. “We certainly have the ability here to go to market with broader market coverage,” he said.
Still, Buick’s models combined were outsold last year by single models from other automakers. Ford, for instance, sold just over 241,000 Fusion midsize cars last year, beating Buick by itself. But Buick did outsell some competing luxury brands including Acura, Infiniti and Lincoln.
Four years ago, Buick’s future was in doubt. Members of the Obama administration’s autos task force thought about getting rid of Buick during GM’s government-funded trip through bankruptcy court. But the brand survived because of a strong following in China. Chinese drivers bought more than 700,000 Buicks last year, up 8 percent from 2011.
In the U.S., Buick likely won’t approach those numbers because the stodgy image clings to the brand.
“The vehicles themselves are very suited for young driving habits. Good fuel economy, performance, nice looking,” said Rebecca Lindland, owner of Rebel Three Consulting of Greenwich, Conn.
“But it’s still not cool to be in a bar and say you have a Buick.”