With More Development Dollars, Buick Lineup Will Likely Expand

Joshua Duval

GM is set to shed its "bad assets" on Thursday--including its Hummer, Pontiac and Saturn brands (Saab made it into the 'New GM,' but will be sold)--leaving it with just four brands to inject development dollars into. Of its remaining divisions, Buick has the most potential to grow, although that growth could cause it to either flourish or flounder.

Buick currently has three products, two of which have been widely hailed as outstanding products: the Enclave and the 2010 LaCrosse. The current lineup is rounded out with the Lucerne, an unremarkable traditional large car. But in order for Buick to fill in the gaps left by the disappearance of the Pontiac and Saturn brands, it will have to expand.

In general, the Buick brand is expected to focus on front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles equipped with fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines. This will place it directly at odds with Chevrolet (especially when it comes to cars) unless GM is able to successfully differentiate styling, content and pricing. The LaCrosse is already slated to receive a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, a powertrain that could find its way into other Buicks as well.

An important car for Buick will be the 2012 Lucerne. Despite the fact that the brand is in the midst of an attempt to change its demographic, Buick is still notorious for catering to an older generation of car buyers. The Lucerne replacement will be vital in retaining that older audience. The 2012 Buick Lucerne will likely be built on a new, large Epsilon front-wheel drive platform (being developed by GM Australia) that will underpin the next-gen Chevrolet Impala as well as a replacement for the Cadillac DTS and STS sedans.

Equally important will be the redesign of the Enclave, Buick's most successful vehicle in years. The Enclave single handedly proved that Buick had a pulse--and also that GM could successfully re-skin the Lambda platform for its different brands. With the Saturn Outlook disappearing, the Buick Enclave has a chance to become an even more popular model for Buick. Expect more of the same, with more distinctive styling and technological goodies.

Recent speculation has the Opel Insignia venturing to North American shores within the next two years as the Buick Regal. Being slightly smaller than the new 2010 LaCrosse, such a vehicle could directly cannibalize sales of the Chevrolet Malibu--unless, again, Buick can substantially differentiate the styling, content and pricing structure of the Regal.

Buick may also get its own version of the Voltec technology that will underpin the forthcoming Chevrolet Volt hatchback and the Cadillac Converj coupe, but likely with a different body style. Motor Trend speculates Buck's version could be a small crossover or MPV, and we're inclined to agree, especially after seeing video of a baby Buick crossover a few weeks ago. Buick could alternatively (or additionally) receive the two-mode powertrain initially slated for the Saturn Vue.

Although much of this is simply speculation, the fact of the matter is that Buick is set for a lineup expansion that could make or break its future. Despite GM's knack for confusing product and branding (Pontiac comes to mind), we'll keep our fingers crossed that Buick will continue down the path forged by the Enclave.

Source: MotorTrend

Honda and Nissan have it right. One bread-and-butter brand and one techno-luxo cruiser brand. Any automaker that wants to survive this downturn needs to realize that they only really need TWO brands, with the possible exception of GMC in GM's case with its still strong presence in rural America. I elect that GM should make Buick a China-only marque and let it die with dignity in the North American market while it still has a chance to do so. The fact of the matter is that in a head-to-head, survive or not situation, GM would choose to keep Chevrolet over Buick. RIP Grand National...
We're not stating Buick needs to offer smaller cars. Your point, however, rings true--if you're basing cars off the same platform, you will inherently have some encroachment. What then needs to happen is some differentiation--be it styling, powertrain, content, pricing, etc. Will it happen? That remains to be seen.And you're right: I don't see a Lexus Corolla, although I do see a Toyota RX and a Lexus Land Cruiser. Whoops--seems they've crossed territories. Everybody is guilty, although some are less so than others...
Apparently GM still hasn't learned their lesson and this article doesn't seem to help matters if it is stating (as it seems to me) that Buick needs to offer smaller cars. Buick must not encroach on Chevy territory and vise-versa. Look at the successful brands such as Toyota and Lexus... You don't see a Lexus version of a Toyota Matrix or Corolla do you? There is a reason for this and its called CANNIBALISM and it was (and could still be) one of the biggest problems with the American Auto Industry. Why steal sales from your own brands? In my opinion the LaCrosse (what a screwy name) should be the smallest vehicle Buick offers. If Buick is to venture into Chevy territory then one of these brands is one too many.

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