California Autos Examiner

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Buick future cars and product plans: What is ahead for the brand?

Buick Regal is headed to the states (source: gm)

Buick made the cut when bankruptcy rolled around, waiving from the deck of the ship as Pontiac, Saab, Hummer and Saturn sat on the dock. Many Americans may have been surprised that a brand with such an “old GM” feel to it would make the grade, but to be honest it was largely the strength of its Chinese operations that saved the brand’s bacon.

View this slideshow for a look at current and future Buick products.

We can debate the merits of the brand until the cows come home, but why not focus on the future? GM recently gave a broad overview of its plans for all its remaining divisions, so we can look at the future offerings to decide whether or not GM made the right call.

On sale right now are two very solid entries: Buick Enclave and the 2010 Buick LaCrosse. These vehicles are extremely stylish and well appointed. If this is the future of Buick, then we’d all better wear our shades. The Enclave won’t see any serious changes until the 2012 model year.

Sadly, some things remain the same at the General. Buick will be getting a rebadged Saturn Vue and by all accounts it is no looker. Imagine a Saturn Vue with a Buick nose on it. Yeah, not so pretty, huh? You can view a rendering of what the Buick-ized Vue might look like in this slideshow. Buick will get a plug-in hybrid version of this model as well. Look for the crossover to appear in the 2011 model year with the hybrid showing up in calendar year 2011.

With the demise of Saturn, GM was left with another orphan: What would have become the next generation Saturn Astra. The Astra was scheduled to get a sedan body style in the States, so Buick has now inherited that model. If we look at the new Opel Astra hatchback, things look promising, so we’ll have to see how well the sedan carries that design language. This author would love to see the Skyhawk name make a comeback. Figure on this puppy arriving for the 2012 model year.

Also slotting below the Buick LaCrosse will be the Regal sedan. The Regal is basically a de-contented LaCrosse with Opel Insignia styling. Buick expects the Regal to become its volume leader. In terms of styling, this author far prefers the LaCrosse’s flowing lines. The Regal will arrive next year.

The large Lucerne sedan is being taken behind the barn and shot. Chances are the sedan will survive for the 2011 model year but after that it’s off to the big sales lot in the sky. There was nothing inherently awful about the Lucerne, but it failed to impress shoppers and make its numbers.

GM is also considering an Aveo based crossover for Buick. Imagine something around the size of a Scion xB . Is it wise to stick so many crossovers into the Buick lineup when showroom sister brand GMC is the division sporting all the utes? It would seem to this author that three sedans: small, medium and large with perhaps one premium crossover would be enough. If more variants are needed, how about coupes, wagons and hatches instead of wagons on stilts AKA crossovers? This model should arrive for the 2012 model year.

GM is trying to be clear that Buick has a future. However, examining the product portfolio yields only a few truffles with the rest merely being mushrooms on the forest floor. The 2010 LaCrosse and Enclave are well conceived and executed vision of the Buick brand and the General would do well to study them carefully before spoiling Buick's soup with lesser ingredients.

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