2023 Q3 Buick Sales Gains Mask Nosediving China Demand: Can It Survive?
Buick had quite a good 2023 third quarter. Its sales were up over 50% in the U.S., which in anybody’s book is a huge win. But looking at year-over-year numbers, Buick did so poorly in 2022 Q3 that 50% gains ended up not being such a big deal. And the real problem is with China. That’s where Buick sales were strongest and where they’re now tanking the worst.
Buick cars sold 54.18% higher than a year ago last quarter. That amounts to 28,523 Buick sales in America. It makes three SUVs: the all-new Envista for 2024, the Encore, and the Enclave. Four if you add the Envision, which is in its last year of production.
What were Buick sales in China last year?
In China, sales are tanking. As China ramps up EV production, buyers are flocking to those models. They’re cheaper to purchase, and being EVs, they’re cheaper to own. The losers in this new normal are auto manufacturers that are outside of the nationalist companies. Tesla is seeing this, as are other automakers.
Last week, Mitsubishi said it was pulling out of China. Earlier this year, Jeep did the same. Things are happening too fast and drastically for many outside car makers to hold on. With this in mind, let’s look at how Buick is doing.
In China, Buick sells the Excelle, Regal, LaCrosse, GL8, Encore, and Enclave. That’s six models. Last year, Buick sold 677,938 cars, down 18.2% from 2021. For comparison, it sold 103,519 in the U.S.
What percentage of worldwide Buick sales are in China?
Through July 2023, the only numbers we have so far it sold 242,200. If that continues, we can factor out to the end of 2023 at roughly 480,000. That puts Buick down 30% year-over-year. Or almost 50% over the last two years. And any way you look at that figure, it is bad.
Over 75% of Buicks sold worldwide sell in China, with 21% in the U.S., according to ChinaMobile. The remaining are Canada, Mexico, and Japan. And the amount sold in Japan is in single digits, which is an interesting but bewildering side note.
When did this sales dive begin?
Now, pulling back, the downward trajectory over the past 10 years is dramatic. From 2015 to 2018, Buick sold over one million vehicles each year in China. By 2021, the number was down to 828,640. And that’s when it kept diving, with the projection this year at a little over half of that 2021 number.
So, it appears to be an increasingly precipitous trend line. And that raises the question, Can Buick survive? It was only saved during the GM bankruptcy turmoil of 2010 because of sales in China. It has not done well in the U.S. for a long time. But with Buick having the rug pulled out from under it there, we have doubts it can survive in this uncertain EV-focused world.