Buick this spring expects to begin reeling in customers whose leases are expiring from a 24-month promotion it rolled out in spring 2012.
The 24-month Experience Buick program helped General Motors' near-premium brand gain market share last year. Buick's leasing in 2013 increased to account for more than one-third of its sales, which grew 14 percent, to 205,509.
Buick launched the promotion in March 2012 as a way to entice customers to consider its improved lineup without having to make a long-term commitment. The deal includes scheduled maintenance, OnStar, Sirius-XM radio and other perks.
Now Buick dealers are preparing for the first wave of those customers to return to the showroom, says Henry Brown, an Arizona Buick-GMC dealer and chairman of the Buick-GMC National Dealer Council.
"There has been some heavy-duty planning to make sure we go recapture all those people," says Brown, owner of Henry Brown Buick-GMC in Gilbert, Ariz. "Buick is very committed to the leasing program. We're not about to lose the first customer."
Buick spokesman Nick Richards declined to say whether the Experience Buick program will be continued past January.
Many dealers say that Experience Buick has also led to a big increase in 36- and 39-month leases. Customers are drawn in by the promotion, but end up choosing the lower monthly payment that comes with the longer lease term.
Brown says the promotion, along with the broader rise in Buick's lease penetration, is drawing more non-GM customers. Buick's conquest rate was around 42 percent last year, up from the mid-20s five years ago.
The brand even has advertised its growing ability to poach owners of other brands with a commercial, widely broadcast in metro markets, that showed owners of Acura, Lexus and other rival brands handing over their keys to Buick salespeople.
"Most of these Buick customers, quite frankly, we're having to go out and do conquest sales," Brown says. "The brand took such a nosedive for a long time. It's been tough to overcome that. I think now it's a matter of getting exposure and getting people in to drive it." c