Buick targets foodies; VW seeks MPG mark; MotorMouth returns

Automakers keep coming up with new ways to get us to embrace their brands. Buick, for example, brought three celebrity chefs and a renowned wine expert to the Boston area to both feed and entertain potential buyers.

This was part of Buick’s third annual Discovery Tour, which visited the Westin Hotel in Waltham early this month on the final stop of its 10-city trip across America.

The program brings in five groups of 200 during a weekend. Each group gets three celebrity chef presentations, and dishes to enjoy, plus the opportunity to test drive the latest Buick models. Afterwards, there’s a wine lesson and tasting.

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The Buick event team makes this a slick presentation. Instead of feeling lost in a large group, you feel more like you’re in a group of 15 to 20 other folks all enjoying the experience.

Buick has been working hard to get out the word that it has a new, refreshed lineup and to persuade us that the present group of Verano, Regal, LaCrosse, Encore, and Enclave no longer consists of “your grandfathers’ Buicks.” The program is paying off: The average age of a Buick buyer dropped by seven years during the five-year period from 2007 to 2012.

It’s notable that I’ve driven all of the Buick sedans: Verano, Regal, and LaCrosse. If the size is right for you, each merits consideration on your shopping list.

The Regal GS is a fun car for the driving enthusiast who wants to mingle fun and everyday use. The eAssist (hybrid light) is an ingenious fuel economy booster in the LaCrosse. The Enclave is a worthy mid-size SUV.

New to the lineup is the Encore compact SUV. It’s the one model I haven’t driven at length. First impressions are that its interior amenities are nicely done, but I’d like some seat time to see if it’s got the necessary refinement on the road. It will be an important car for Buick in traffic-congested markets such as Boston where small SUVs are particularly good sellers.

If the way to a potential buyer’s heart is through the stomach, Buick has the route perfected. Participants were culled as “conquest targets” in collaboration with Food & Wine magazine. These are drivers of other brands whom Buick would like to woo.

Is the program a success? Yes, says Buick communications group manager Nick Richards. In three years, the automaker has hosted 29,950 participants, and gotten the following results.

•Buick brand opinion has doubled, to the positive.

•Brand consideration for purchase increased 65 percent.

•The follow-up buy rate is roughly double that of other promotional events.

In addition to appreciating the Buicks, I got to appreciate the chefs. Barry Maiden, chef at Hungry Mother in Cambridge and Food & Wine’s Best New Chef designee, talked about doing Southern cooking with a New England flair and got me to try fried catfish with a crawfish remoulade.

Hedy Goldsmith, a Miami pastry chef, mesmerized us with the preparation of pannacotta with basil and fruits.

Michael Psilakis demonstrated his love of Greek cuisine, wonderfully seasoned with the most important ingredient for a good meal—sharing it with family and loved ones.

The food was delicious, and the cars’ presentation was pretty good, too.

An economy ride

Some people will do anything to get out of the office. Take Wayne Gerdes and Bob Winger, who will finish an 8,000-mile, 14-day economy run on Friday.

They’re driving a 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI clean diesel and chasing the non-hybrid Guinness record for lowest fuel consumption. That mark is 67.9 mpg set in 2009 by a VW Jetta.

The pair set out from VW’s headquarters in Herndon, VA, doing a clockwise loop of the country, heading west on the Southern route, and returning via the Northern route, which should take them across New Hampshire and down through Eastern Massachusetts at midweek.

MotorMouth and more

The second edition of “MotorMouth, The Insider Series,” an evening of tall (and maybe exaggerated) tales, is scheduled for June 20 at 7 p.m. at Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline. Emcee is George Kennedy, whose work regularly appears on these pages, and who offers a great look at some high-profile collectors in the current issue of Boston magazine.

The panelists did the talking in the first edition of MotorMouth two months ago. This time, the panel will be equally interesting, but they want to have more audience participation. If you’ve got a story to tell, email motormouth@larzanderson.org and you may be preselected to share that tale. Panelists this time include vintage racer Douglas Fraser, a Dartmouth professor who races his Jaguar E-Type coupe, and Bruce Male, who has run in vintage events all over the world with his sons Andrew and Jason.

And if you want to make this weekend a Larz Anderson doubleheader, today is German Car Day in the museum’s lawn-event series and next Sunday is British Car Day.