Buick counts on style, tech to alter stodgy image

Automotive News reports on Buick's future model line-up.

Automotive News

DETROIT--General Motors Co. will add style and technology to Buick vehicles in the coming years, keeping up the fight to overcome the brand's senior-citizen image.

For instance, a plug-in hybrid crossover is due in 2011. A small crossover seating five is planned in a few years.

The 2010 LaCrosse has received high marks from reviewers for interior refinement, lending credibility to Buick's effort to move upscale and command higher transaction prices. But GM's plan for Buick to compete with Lexus still seems a stretch.

Meanwhile, tastes of Chinese drivers--such as an ample back seat--stand to influence future Buicks.

Last year, Buick sold 280,102 vehicles in China, compared with 137,197 in the United States.

The Pan Asia Automotive Technical Center, an engineering and design center in Shanghai, helped develop the 2010 LaCrosse. The center, a joint venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., also is codeveloping an upcoming Buick compact sedan.

Here are highlights of Buick's plans for the 2010-12 model years.

Small sedan: Buick will market a compact car built on GM's global compact front-drive Delta platform. The platform will be shared with the Chevrolet Cruze and other GM models. Buick's model will have unique sheet metal and be slightly longer than the Cruze.

GM probably will sell the small Buick first in China as a 2011 model. The U.S. version is expected to be assembled in North America and marketed as a 2012 model.

Regal: Buick is resurrecting the Regal name for its version of the Opel Insignia, which it will get as a 2011 model. The car already is on sale in China.

The Insignia, Regal, and 2010 Buick LaCrosse are based on GM's new global midsize, front-wheel-drive vehicle platform, but the Regal and Insignia are 6.9 inches shorter than the 196.9-inch LaCrosse. The Regal is expected to be priced several thousand dollars less than the LaCrosse and offered only with a four-cylinder engine. The Regal is critical, because GM expects the car to be the brand's top seller.

LaCrosse: GM is hoping the redesigned 2010 LaCrosse sedan will do for Buick what the Malibu has done for Chevrolet: raise transaction prices and sales volume. LaCrosse sales begin this month. The LaCrosse was developed on GM's new global midsize front-wheel-drive platform.

GM sees this car as a key to Buick's renaissance. Prices start at $27,835, including transportation, and top out over $40,000. The LaCrosse will be Buick's flagship sedan when the Lucerne is discontinued.

Lucerne: The Lucerne will be discontinued in the next year or two because of poor sales.

Small crossover: GM will offer Buick a small crossover developed on its next-generation global Gamma platform. That platform will be shared by the redesigned Chevrolet Aveo and other vehicles. The crossover is expected to appear in the 2012 model year.

Compact crossover: Buick will get a version of the Saturn Vue, with a restyled front that will make it look like a Buick. The car will debut next year as a 2011 model. A plug-in hybrid will be added in 2011.

Enclave: GM plans to freshen the Enclave for the 2012 model year. The Enclave is not in line to get a hybrid version because GM cannot fit the power train into the current model.

(Source: Automotive News)

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