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Can Buick's new leasing program lure young buyers?

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Gary Cameron/Reuters/FIle

(Read caption) The 2013 Buick Enclave SUV sits on display at the Washington Auto Show last month. Buick's new leasing program is driving up lease rates and lowering the average age of the brand's customers.

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Buick is fighting hard to overcome its image problem. Once considered a domestic luxury brand for those not quite affluent enough to purchase a Cadillac, in recent decades the Buick name has become synonymous with a mainstream product line and an aging demographic.

 Five years ago, the average age of its customers was 64, and few were looking to lease cars. Thanks to an innovative program called “Experience Buick,” the automaker’s lease rates are up from 14-percent in early 2012 to 36-percent at the end of last month, while the average age of its customers has fallen to 57 years old.

 As The Detroit News explains, Experience Buick has many features designed to lure in buyers from other brands. At just 24 months, the lease doesn’t require a long-term commitment to the brand, encouraging shoppers to sample Buick’s wares on a shortened time frame.

 The program also includes Sirius XM radio, OnStar Directions and Connections and scheduled maintenance for the term of the lease. Longer-term, it will get Buick customers back into Buick showrooms more quickly, while increasing the inventory of certified pre-owned cars available at dealerships.

 The Experience Buick program has clearly helped to up Buick’s “conquest rate,” defined as customers trading in a competing brand (or lacking a trade-in altogether). Buick’s overall conquest rate has grown to an all-time high of 43-percent, while the conquest rate for the Experience Buick program is at 55-percent.

 For some models, it’s significantly higher: the compact Buick Verano has a conquest rate of 66-percent, while the next-size-up Buick Regal has a rate of 63-percent.

 It’s easy to read between the lines here, and the numbers clearly indicate that more shoppers than ever are giving GM’s near-luxury brand a second look. Could the once-stodgy brand become GM’s next big thing? Stranger things have happened in the automotive world.
 

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