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商业 - 汽车

别克幸免于难,通用终获回报

Doron Levin 2011年11月02日

2009年,美国财政部官员曾一度考虑关停通用汽车不温不火的豪华品牌别克。但现在看来,放弃这个决定才是英明之举。

    2009年,美国财政部官员还举棋不定:在通用汽车公司(General Motors)受到政府资助的破产计划中,是否应关停别克(Buick)这个品牌部门。他们最后决定保留这个品牌。如今看来,这一决策日益显得明智。

    由于全尺寸君越轿车(LaCrosse)和昂科雷酷越车(Enclave)的热销,别克汽车2010年在美国的销量比2009年激增48%。而今年,由于成功推出尺寸较小的君威轿车(Regal),销量又增长了24%。

    最新推出的一款车型名为维莱诺(Verano)。它很快就将运抵别克汽车的2,100家经销商处。看起来,它也将是一个强有力的竞争者。维莱诺的目标是与各种较高端的紧凑型车型一决高下。其车身结构与雪佛兰的科鲁兹(Cruze)和欧宝的雅特(Astra)如出一辙,而大量细微改进、流畅的车身线条、时尚的配置和先进的工程调校让它更有豪华车的感觉。

    别克的营销总监罗杰•麦科马克称,凭借别克品牌系列,通用汽车公司以更富竞争力的价格为消费者提供了众多品质更高的配置,从而扭转颓势,在与丰田汽车公司(Toyota)的雷克萨斯(Lexus)和宝马汽车公司(BMW)的竞争中占据上风。比如,君威的售价为27,000美元,与尺寸相当、配置相似的雷克萨斯ES350和宝马 3系相比,它动力更强劲,价格却要低8,000到10,000美元。

    这种策略大获成功。麦科马克称“40%的销售来自非通用品牌用户”,这表明很多别克品牌的潜在买家喜欢他们所看到的别克汽车。同样很重要的一点是,通用汽车并没有简单地蚕食旗下的另外两大品牌——雪佛兰和凯迪拉克的销量。

    汽车行业购买分析服务机构TrueCar.com称,截至2008年,别克汽车的买主平均年龄为67岁,比业内任何一个品牌的买主年龄都要大。但此后,主要归功于昂科雷的热销,买主开始出现年轻化趋势,平均年龄已经降至目前的50岁。所有豪华车厂商都在努力赢得年轻买主的青睐,希望将这些人变成回头客。

    形象也是推动销售的一个重要因素。“几年前,南加州还没人想买别克车。但突然之间,人们就开始排队购买昂科雷了,”TrueCar.com公司负责行业趋势研究的副总裁杰西•托普拉克称,这款车现在是“足球妈妈”(soccer moms,一般指家住郊区、已婚、并且家有学龄儿童的中产阶级女性——译注)们的最爱。他说,在南加州,别克目前还不是一个时髦的品牌,“但在品牌提升方面已经获得了长足进步”。

    别克的营销战略一直是致力于吸引卓尔不群的豪华车买主,他们不显山露水(正如这一品牌过去一贯的风格),不愿意暴露自己财富和社会阶层。医生一度不买凯迪拉克(Cadillac),因为这会向他们的病人和邻居传达自己是暴富阶层的错误信息,与此一致,今天别克的潜在买主也鄙弃那种“世界领袖”或华尔街大亨的形象。

    别克的营销团队将“美国大学篮球联赛”(NCAA)作为广告阵地,并创作了一段大学篮球明星的“精彩镜头集锦”。片中,明星们倾情参与了各种旨在帮助贫困人群的慈善活动。在2011年的终极四强冠军赛中,别克携手前北达科他大学(University of North Dakota)球星,来自尼日利亚的曼尼•欧豪姆,为儿童捐献了2,000双鞋袜。但是,就推出让人过目难忘、能体现品牌精髓的品牌口号而言,别克还有待努力。

    既然别克刻意回避追求用车彰显身份的买主,其引擎就不必追求纯粹大马力、高扭矩了。实际上,它首次用在君越上的全新的eAssit系统设计宗旨就是提高燃油经济性:当车因红绿灯停车或堵车时,这套系统就会让引擎熄火;而当车高速行驶时,它就会启用电力辅助系统。

    别克还努力实现车内的静音效果,这是别克数年来引以为荣的一大优点。工程师们努力钻研如何消音或隔音,再运用高技术材料消除环境噪音。这么做的目标是在行车状态下,让前排与后排的乘客也能用平常说话的音量交谈,对于愉快的驾驶体验来说,这是一个细微却又至关重要的因素。

    要想真正挑战宝马或奔驰(Mercedes)的王者地位,别克还有很长的路要走。但是数十年来,别克首次拥有了可以叫板的王牌。这也很好地证明了两任美国总统确保通用汽车不至破产的决策是何等英明。

    译者:清远

    U.S. Treasury officials weren't sure in 2009 whether General Motors ought to shut down its Buick division as part of the government-sponsored bankruptcy. Their decision to hang on to the brand is looking better by the day.

    Buick (GM) sales in the U.S. soared 48% in 2010 from 2009 on the strength of the fullsize LaCrosse sedan and Enclave crossover and another 24% this year following the successful introduction of the smaller Regal sedan.

    The latest entry, dubbed Verano, will be arriving shortly to Buick's 2,100 dealers and it looks like a strong contender as well. The Verano intends to compete among higher-end compacts; it features the same architecture as the Chevrolet Cruze and Opel Astra, with lots of tweaks, rakish lines, high-fashion touches and advanced engineering to give it a more luxurious feel.

    GM, with its Buick brand, is turning the tables on more prestigious brands such as Toyota's (TM) Lexus and BMW by offering premium features at a more competitive price, according to Roger McCormack, Buick director of marketing. The Regal, for example, sells for about $27,000, or about $8,000 to $10,000 less than a similarly sized and equipped -- though much higher-powered -- Lexus ES350 and BMW 3 Series.

    That tactic is paying off. "About 40% of our sales are conquests from non-GM brands," McCormack says, indicating that lots of new prospects to Buick are liking what they see. Just as importantly, GM isn't simply cannibalizing sales from Chevrolet and Cadillac, two of its other remaining car brands.

    According to TrueCar.com, an automotive buying service, Buick buyers at an average age of 67, were older than any in the industry, as of 2008. But the average has been trending younger lately, mostly because of the Enclave, with an average buyer age of 50. All luxury car manufacturers struggle to win younger customers they hope to convert into repeat buyers.

    Image is also an important factor. "A few years ago no one in Southern California wanted to own a Buick. But suddenly there were waiting lists for the Enclave," a big favorite with soccer moms, said Jesse Toprak, TrueCar.com vice president for industry trends. Buick isn't yet a cool brand in Southern California "but the brand has made some headway," he says.

    Buick's marketing strategy has been geared to attract a different sort of luxury customer, one that (as in the old days of the brand) isn't trying to make a statement of wealth or class. Just as doctors once avoided Cadillac because it sent the wrong message to patients and neighbors, today's Buick prospects may very well disdain "Master of the Universe" or Wall St. status.

    The brand's marketing team chose NCAA sports as a venue for its advertising and created a "highlight reel" of collegiate stars involved in charities meant to help the needy. With former University of North Dakota basketball star Manny Ohonme, originally from Nigeria, Buick contributed more than 2,000 pairs of shoes and socks to children during the 2011 Final Four championship. But Buick still has headway to make in coming up with a sticky tagline that encompasses what the brand stands for.

    Because Buick is deliberately side-stepping status-seekers, its engines aren't necessarily chosen for raw horsepower or high amounts of torque. Indeed, its new eAssist system, offered first on the LaCrosse, is meant to improve fuel efficiency by stopping the engine when the car stops at a light or in traffic and using electric assist to help it at speed.

    Effort has been applied to cabin quietness, a virtue of Buicks for decades. Engineers studied how to remove or block sounds, and applied high-tech materials to subdue ambient noise. The goal is to allow passengers to converse in a normal speaking voice between front and rear rows while traveling, a small and important factor in a pleasant driving experience.

    Buick has miles to go before it is a real challenger to BMW or Mercedes. But for the first time in decades, it has a shot at relevancy. And that may very well vindicate the decision of two U.S. presidents to make sure that GM didn't go out of business.

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