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.