By on October 28, 2010

China’s going nutty over the next-generation of Buick GL8 minivans, which recently strutted its Buick Business Concept-derived styling in downtown Shanghai. We’ve heard rumors of a Buick MPV coming stateside for some time, with each successive rumor placing the “Baby Enclave” on a different platform, first Delta then Gamma. Though the latest intel seems to indicate that the US will get a Buick-badged version of the suicide-doored Opel Meriva, wouldn’t an Epsilon-based full minivan be a more natural fit for the US market? Sure, it might cannibalize the Enclave some, but that hasn’t stopped Buick from offering no fewer than three mid-sized sedans. Could Buick be the next brand to re-hip the minivan? Should it be?

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46 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Could Buick Use A Minivan?...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    Buick gets the Epsilon-minivan, Chevrolet gets the Zeta-sedan.
     
    I think GM’s product planners have it backwards…
    __________
     
    It would be very easy to Chevrolize the GL8, and that’s the brand it should go to in North America.

  • avatar

    Didn’t they try this already with the Terraza?  Didn’t exactly light the sales charts on fire, that one.  Granted it was a thoroughly subpar minivan, but still.  I’d rather see Buick make another station wagon with a Vista Dome.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      Wasn’t it also identical, at least from the outside, to the Relay and Outlook (wasn’t there a Pontiac clone in there too)? I don’t know sales figures for any of them because I never cared for mini-vans as I’m young, single, and don’t have any plans for kids in the near future.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      The real question is whether there should be a new Chevy Astro van. If so, then spawning a GMC and Buick off the platform makes perfect sense. The white Chevys provide platform volume, while the GMC and Buick drive big profit. Being mom & passenger-oriented, a Buick minivan makes perfect sense. It’s why the Enclave is the hot CUV among 30-something moms (and grandparents).

      Seeing how well the Lambda sells, and how GM is currently capacity-constrained, adding a minivan that competes with the Sienna XLE/Limited with a roomy, upscale passenger interior would be a good thing. High parts commonality keeps cost down, and increased overall sales drive more Buick profit.

      And as Opel already sells the wagons in Europe, it’s not hard to bring them to the US & China for extra volume.

      So, I’ll say Yes to all 3:

      US-focused Buick Enclave CUV
      China-designed Buick minivan
      Euro-focused Buick wagon

  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    I think the US market needs a few more mini van choices – especially stylish ones.  Right now that whole market is forced into a fairly limited set if choices or into settling for a crossover.  Having recently bought a “family truckster” I was pretty disappointeed in the lack of options I had and I settled for a small SUV.

    That said, I don’t think Buick is the right venue for this - GM should slap on a barred grill and a bowtie and sell these through their Chevy dealerships.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      I agree.  My last three weather beater cars have been minivans. Like the utility aspect of them and you can pick up used ones on the cheap given their generally undesirable status.  None of the current offerings are super interesting.
       
      The Mazda 5 is probably the pick of the group but small by American standards.
       
      Chrysler remains the innovation leader but the quality is right around Communist Eastern European grade.
       
      Honda has a history of grenading transmissions.
       
      The new Sienna is nice, and reliable, and give it a few options and your over $40,000 fast, no thanks.  Give it AWD and you get SUV grade fuel economy with the lack of mojo a minivan offers at a high end SUV price.  I’ll take a crossover, thanks.
      The Kia Sedona isn’t “bad,” in the same sense that the last generation GM U-Body’s with the 3.9L V6 weren’t “bad,” but it is a disposable car.  Drive it 125K to 150K miles and that’s it.

    • 0 avatar
      tmkreutzer

      Holden I absolutely agree.  My number one choice would have been the Sienna but anything other than a totally stripped down base model costs a fortune.  I would have been willing to pay that much for one of Toyota’s high end JDM vans – the Alphard or the Velfire – but not for a tarted up middle of the roader like the Sienna.

      My other beef about vans is that Mazda has never brought over their current JDM MPV.  I would have happily bought one of those new – having traded in my older model 2002 MPV when I left Japan and came home to the US this summer – but the only option I had was the Mazda 5.  I drove the 5 and I liked it well enough, but if I am buying a van I want something bigger than that.

  • avatar
    Wagen

    I don’t think minivans will ever be “hip” in this country.  For some reason, the populace seems to value “SUV styling” over functionality and space. 

    That said, if Buick does it well, GM could actually have a competitor to the Odyssey/Sequoia/T&C.

    Speaking of Odyssey, that “design element” in the middle of the rear door screams “Odyssey-derivative-styling” from the profile view.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Buick already has a minivan, it just doesn’t have sliding doors.
     
    Yes, Lambda drivers, quit fooling yourselves. There is no such thing as a crossover, so pick the next closest segment.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    Remember when GM’s Lambda vans were supposed to have full stow-n-go WITH all-wheel drive, have lounge seating, look like spaceships, and be V8-powered…?

    I’d probably buy one for sheer ridiculousness.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    No, but Chevy could.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    No!

  • avatar
    BDB

    The Lambdas have been a big hit. Given that, why would any GM division, even Chevy, need a minivan?

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Because Buick & GMC could then sell *more* cars at a similar price point in the same way that Toyota sells Highlander / Sienna / Venza / Sequoia along with the RX.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Dear God no.  A minivan is the polar opposite of everything Buick is trying to be.  That’s why you have Chevy, GM.  Hey, Buick doesn’t have muscle car either, why don’t you stick a few portholes on the Camaro while you’re at it?

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      Be careful what you say, there might be a VXR version of the Regal one day, probably dubbed GNX or something similar that less than 1% of Buick’s current market will recognize.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Buick makes upscale passenger-oriented cars to monied women. How is a high-end minivan not something for that target demographic?

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Sorry, in my world “upscale” and “minivan” are mutually exclusive.  Buick dilutes their brand if they go there.  I don’t hate minivans, I just can’t see them as upscale no matter whose emblem is on the grill.  I don’t know if there are many people who agree with me or not, that’s what market research is for.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    The real question is if GM needs a minivan. The answer is yes.
     
    Since the answer is yes, GM will pick the wrong answer (no).
     
    Therefore, you won’t be getting a GM minivan any time soon.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Ford are bringing out their mini minivan called the C-Max (in Europe the FOcus Grand C-Max). Eseentially a 7 seat equivalent to the Mazda 5. All the main brands in Europe have a mini-minivan so GM could easily reenter the minivan market but at a smaller size point.

  • avatar

    I could answer that question if I knew what the point of keeping Buick was.

    John

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Would anybody even notice? Slap a Toyota badge on it along with a Toyota grille and we would be none the wiser.

  • avatar
    ash78

    What would you put in the back? Duffel bags full of Canadian prescription meds? Oxygen tanks? A Hoveround? Your dealer’s cash rebate which you have demanded in $1 bills?

  • avatar
    carguy

    While an upmarket minivan would be cool and would most likely sell better than the R class, the cost of development would be too high. There really isn’t a readily usable platform to base it on and developing a product from scratch would just be too expensive for a niche product.

  • avatar
    tbhride

    I would think that a minivan would be the last thing Buick needs, what with the “Old People drive Buick’s” stigma that GM is trying to quash.

  • avatar
    thebeelzebubtrigger

    Buick already has a minivan — it’s called the Enclave. Yes, they like to call it a “crossover” or “CUV” or something, but it’s obviously a minivan and no-one is fooled…
     
     

  • avatar

    these fools will build a Buick go cart before they build what a Buick really is supposed to be…full size automobiles, powerful and distinctive, elegant and mature. a Roadmaster sedan and Widcat coupe would sell in excess of 100,000 units easily.

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      Buickman, with all due respect, selling 100,000 units of such cars to individual buyers in the U.S/Canada would require a 50+% market share once you subtract out the taxis and cop cars.

    • 0 avatar

      consider Mercury leaving and Lincoln vulnerable and add in how many of these would sell beyond current estimated demand. people would come out of the woodwork to buy these, guaranteed.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    It’s true, the Lambdas are a big hit, especially for Buick. But (and I’ve said this before)…but, the Odyssey, Sienna, Grand Caravan and Town&Country continue to sell well. Minivans are not going the way of the station wagon or personal sport coupe. And they never will, because they’re too darn useful.

    Instead of offering only an alternative to the sliding-door minivan, abdicating ALL minivan demand to Toyota/Honda/Chrysler, why wouldn’t GM offer customers at least the choice?

    Considering the success of the existing Top Dog minivans, there is clearly a market out there. GM is capable of making a much better minivan than all of its previous attempts. It may already have one in the new GL8.

    Crossovers are great and all (I guess), but minivans are not going away, period. GM has sat out this segment far too long. Offer a real minivan and they will come, GM.
    FWIW, the “lightning-bolt” beltline works much better on the Buick than the Honda IMO, and I think it’s because the “kink” doesn’t occur right at the seam of the rear door, but rather in the middle of said door.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Considering how long the Chevy Astro soldiered on, you’d think they’d just make a new one rather than giving the small white van business to Dodge & Ford, along with the minivans to Honda & Toyota.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    If Buick really needed a minivan, GM probably should have just bought Chrysler during the carpocalypse.  By the time Buick could domesticate the Chinese minivan, it will be 2013-2014, and the world will be a lot different than today.   It would be cool to have a Buick minivan with second and third row seats that can face each other, like Chrysler Swivel & Go, but with enough legroom to make it worthwhile (unlike Chrysler).  this would require either an 8 inch to foot longer minivan or one with a much more compact engine bay.  You have to keep the length at about 202″ to fit in the average garage, so the length would have to come out of the engine bay.  This means you’d have to engineer the vehicle from scratch to use something like a 2.0 liter GDI turbo engine.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      You’re right about the difficulties of overly long vehicles.  My Freestyle is 200 inches long and is long enough that it only goes into the carport the night before a snowstorm.

  • avatar
    ixim

    Don’t laugh – I say, bring back the Rendezvous, the minivan-based crossover replaced in 2007 by the porkier, thirstier, costlier Enclave. Don’t get me wrong – I think the Enclave is a terrific vehicle, if that’s what you want. But the Rondy had the cargo space of a Tahoe with the footprint of a [last generation] Camry. With 7 real adult seats, when asked. Imagine if the Lambda drivetrain were towing the 1,000 pound lighter Rondy. Presto! The best crossover ever for versatility, plus 30+ mpg! Never happen, I know….

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      Wasn’t the Rendezvious an Aztek with chrome?

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      ixim: For a shortened U-van, the Rondy was a pretty decent vehicle. IIRC, the 3.6 V6 was shoehorned in to the last two years of Rondy production. My mother in law had one, we routinely got 6 people in that thing, and it tackled the hills of Pittsburgh just fine. A decently sized car, like you note. Good fuel mileage and packaging. But, Buick needs a minivan like I need a higher cholesterol count. Leave the low end minivan stuff to Chevy.
       
      @ Sherborn Sean: Same chassis, different body and interior, worlds apart in execution. If I had to choose one or the other today, definitely the Rondy. I love Pontiacs, but the Rondy made more sense.

  • avatar

    They could; if Buick can execute the same formula as with the new Regal and Enclave (power, styling etc) then I say they should.  Unfortunately with GM’s history of minivans…who knows.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Someone needs to build a no excuses high end minivan. Buick should go for it, as long as they do it right!
     

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Someone did: Honda and Toyota.
       
      The Oddy Touring and Sienna XLE Limited are really quite impressive inside.  I’d add the Mercedes R (and especially the R63 AMG), but it does lack sliding doors.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Those R63s are rare as hen’s teeth. I’m in SoCal and have only seen on in the past 6 months.

      The R-class doors are ridiculously long. *Hate* them with a vengeance. If they’re going to be a couple of barn doors, make them sliders!

  • avatar

    Yes! Of course Buick should! That way TTAC can would have subject matter for three solid blog posts:
    1. Editorial on how stupid GM is for bringing back the minivan
    2. Editorial o how stupid Buick is fro bringing back the minivan
    3. Obligatory review of the minivan not involving kids and cargo, but focusing on the body roll when taking corners at 70% and the problematic hard-plastics in the interior.
    TTAC. you guys are unbelievable. When you’re done beating a dead horse, you’re dreaming about bringing out another one to flog.
     

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Actually, I agree with your ‘three solid blog posts’.  GM should not bring back the minivan.  They abandoned the market years ago – along with Ford – because their products were bad, boring, and a poor value.  It’s an uphill climb to re-enter that market, and GM ought to stick with trying to make money instead of being ‘me too’ in a market that others own.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Hard to predict if it would be a good, or bad, idea…there’s been cars out there that I thought would outright bomb (i.e., the clown car like Honda Element), yet they did alright.  One thing it would have going for it is the huge side sliding doors, that’s a plus in vehicles converted for limited mobility users.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Giant crossover / SUV doors suck in the world of ever-narrowing parking spaces.

    • 0 avatar
      ixim

      SVX, That’s just my point – build a well-done 7-passenger hauler with the two SUV features lacking in minivans – high seats and extra ground clearance [as good as AWD for most conditions], and keep it short – maybe 20 inches less than those 205 inch Odysseys, et. al. Personally, I prefer real doors to sliders, unless cargo hauling is job 1.


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