By Jim Mateja on August 1, 2007
Imagine a domestic vehicle in such short supply that there are 3,000 people on a waiting list just to get one.
And imagine that the domestic in high demand, but low supply, is a Buick — the 2008 Enclave crossover.
The only thing that would be more surprising is if the car was an Oldsmobile.
"We have 3,000 Enclaves on a waiting list nationwide,” said Buick spokesman Dave Darvitz. “Demand has been a pleasant surprise."
Darvitz said Buick will employ a third shift at its Delta Township, Mich., plant for six months to boost crossover output, with most earmarked for the Enclave. GM doesn't want to overbuild the vehicle and then get stuck offering incentives to move unsold inventory. Enclave is one of three new midsize crossovers at GM all built on the same assembly line. The others are the Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia.
A waiting list is an out of the ordinary event for Buick.
"Demand is unbelievable. If you ordered an Enclave today, it would be about two months to take delivery," or sometime in September says Steven Hill, North Central regional manager for General Motors, headquartered in Naperville.
Originally, GM said it expected the crossovers to attract buyers moving out of big, low mileage full-size SUVs, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with the Enclave. "We aren't seeing as many full size SUVs in trade as we are people moving out of minivans," Hill said.
Supply in inventory is only 20 days nationwide, versus the national average of 51 days. The turn rate, or time an Enclave spends on the showroom floor, averages five days from the time off-loaded from the truck to the moment the car is driven away by a consumer.
Buick said buyers are loading the crossover with high priced options, with 50 percent sold with all wheel drive and 60 percent with power sunroof, for example.
"Enclave … shows what happens when you do a new vehicle right, says John Wolkonowicz, senior analyst for Global Insight. “It also is important that it sells well because it's GM's highest priced, highest profit crossover, so that means it is making money for GM."
"Enclave is the right size, the right look, and the right vehicle that has started the turnaround at Buick just like the CTS sedan did at Cadillac. It's getting people into the showrooms who haven't been there in a long while and, I suspect, many are younger," Wolkonowicz said.
The average age of the Enclave buyer has been 53, far below the average age — 65 — of the typical Buick buyer.
"What it will take to keep the turnaround going is more new cars from Buick,” Wolkonowicz said.
He points to a replacement for the LaCrosse sedan coming for 2010 that will be called Regal, and a rear drive replacement for the Lucerne sedan coming for 2011 that probably will be called Park Avenue or Wildcat with a choice of V-6 or V-8 engines. The Enclave may just be the beginning for Buick.