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GM FastLane:Buick is Popular in China?

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The Buick Royaum at Auto Shanghai 2005

By Steve Shannon

General Manager, Buick

Have you been to Shanghai lately? It’s a young, vibrant, dynamic and technologically advanced city. And, believe it or not, it’s also a city where Buick is a very popular brand.

Few of us think of Buicks being sold anywhere but in the U.S, because Buick is seen as a distinctly American brand. However, Buick is one of the best selling auto brands in Shanghai and in China as a whole.

But that shouldn’t be surprising. After all, Buicks have been on the streets of Shanghai since about 1912. And one story suggests the Chinese were interested in Buick as early as 1906. A Motor Age article that year reports that two men attempting to set a transcontinental speed record in a Buick Model F were doing so in the interests of Yuan Shai Kai, viceroy of a Chinese province, who was interested in introducing the vehicle into China “if they come up to expectations.”

To respond to growing demand for its products, Buick opened a sales office in Shanghai in 1929, and a 1930 Buick advertisement claimed that “one out of every six cars [in China] is a Buick,” and that “Buick owners are mostly the leading men in China.” It has been confirmed that Pu Yi, China’s last emperor, owned at least one Buick in the 1920s.

In addition to Pu Yi, at least two other major Chinese political figures were identified with Buicks in the early 20th century: Sun Yatsen, first provisional leader of the Chinese Republic, was photographed in a Buick in Shanghai in 1912; and Zhou En-Lai, a popular president of more recent times, kept a 1941 Buick at his home at Shanghai.

The relationship between Buick and China goes far beyond sales figures and dignitaries though. GM and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) signed a joint venture agreement on March 25, 1997, in China’s Great Hall of the People. A plant was built, and the first Chinese Buick was driven off the assembly line on Dec. 17, 1998.

A 2001 survey found that Buick had a brand familiarity rating of more than 85 percent in China. Perhaps that’s why a recent article in The Detroit Free Press pointed out that Buick has been Shanghai GM's passenger car leader since the first Regal came off the Shanghai GM line.

So, yes, the young and hip in Shanghai have made Buick popular there, and sales are strong throughout China. We at Buick are really proud of that.



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