Nearly Half Of America's Buick Dealers Take Buyout Instead Selling EVs: Report

When the Great Recession forced the American auto industry to downsize, Buick was saved from General Motors’ kill list largely because of its surprisingly strong following in China. That’s not so much the case anymore as Chinese buyers start to go for Chinese brands instead. So where does that leave Buick’s future now? For starters, with 50% fewer dealers across the United States.

That’s because they didn’t want to get in on GM’s EV plans for the brand, which admittedly is a bit late already to the electrification game. Automotive News reports that about half of Buick’s dealers took a buyout this year when given a choice between that and investing in selling EVs.

As it stands today, Buick doesn’t have a single EV in its U.S. portfolio, but that’s about to change starting next year when the company’s first battery-powered car is scheduled to debut Stateside.

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Buick dealers refuse to sell EVs that don’t exist

American carmaker Buick will switch to an all-electric lineup by the end of the decade, so it asked its dealers to either get in on the action or get a buyout. With zero EVs to show in the U.S. right now, nearly half of its dealers chose the buyout.

It’s not like Buick doesn’t know how to make EVs—it has four of them on the Chinese market—but it’s saving the best for the U.S., or so it seems, with an Ultium-based crossover reportedly in the works.

Gallery: Buick Wildcat EV Concept

Out of the roughly 2,000 U.S. Buick franchises that were open at the beginning of 2023, 47% or about 1,000 of them chose a buyout instead of investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in tooling, equipment, charging and training to prepare to sell and service EVs as the carmaker prepares to go all-electric by the end of the decade.

According to Duncan Aldred, vice president of global Buick-GMC, who spoke with Automotive News, the loss is smaller than it seems. “The network, where we are now, is a good size. It’s with dealers who are focused on the business, who’ve shown that they can recover the volume that the dealers who transitioned away were doing.”

That’s probably because the dealers who bailed on EVs represented just 20% of Buick’s sales in the United States and that overall, the company sold 58% more cars year-over-year through November.

Moreover, about 89% of the country’s population is still within 25 miles of a Buick dealership, according to the marque, which is significantly better for customers compared to newcomers such as Rivian and Fisker, who sometimes have to drive hundreds of miles to get to an official brand store.

Buick started offering buyouts to its dealers in late 2022 after revealing its new logo and EV strategy. The Wildcat EV concept also debuted last year, marking a new design direction for the often-overlooked brand.

But Buick has canceled many concepts before. And it has plenty of American fans who would love to see it return to being the innovative entry-luxury brand it once was. Hopefully, it can figure that out sooner than later, because it’s certainly got no shortage of competition these days. 

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