General Motors hopes to carve out a new auto sales segment with the all-new Buick Encore compact crossover, which hit U.S. showrooms last weekend.
The automaker also expects the Encore to continue the brand's momentum among younger buyers and people who don't own a GM product.
Tony DiSalle, vice president of marketing for Buick and GMC, said dealers are reporting "twice as many hand-raisers for Encore as for Verano" when that vehicle was released in late 2011.
The brand's overall conquest average rose from 27% to 43% over the last half decade. More than 50% of Verano buyers are new to Buick.
"That's part of the mission for this brand," DiSalle said this morning. "Verano is really the conquest leader in the pack, so we'd anticipate Encore to also conquest well for the brand."
The five-seat Encore enters a relatively new segment of small crossovers that several automakers believe will balloon in size over the next few years. GM believes it will appeal especially to young professionals and empty-nesters.
The crossover ranges in price from $24,950 for the basic model to $28,840 for the premium package with combined average fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon on the front-wheel drive version.
The Encore's introduction comes as the average age of Buick buyers has fallen over the last five years from 64 to 57. GM says Buick is the only major brand in the U.S. to lower its average age over that time.
"Now that we've got a second crossover in the portfolio we're going to see new folks again coming into the showroom," said Lloyd Biermann, marketing manager for the Buick Enclave and Encore crossovers. "They're going to be younger, as well."
The Encore could compete against vehicles like the Volkswagen Tiguan and the forthcoming Fiat 500L. GM said it expects 60% of Encore buyers to be women.
"Here's what we see at auto shows: 'Wow, I never knew I needed one until I saw it, I didn't know it existed,'" DiSalle said.
Built in South Korea, the Encore is badged as the Opel Mokka in the European market. In China, Buick's biggest market, dealers ordered 6,000 Encores in the vehicle's first month this fall.
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