Buick Confirms Compact Sedan, "Baby Enclave," Death Of Trim Levels, More

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
buick confirms compact sedan baby enclave death of trim levels more

Buick has confirmed long-standing rumors that it will offer a compact (Delta II) sedan (likely a rebadge of the Opel Astra) and a subcompact (Gamma II) MPV “in the near future,” reports the Detroit News.With the Regal launching this year, these two vehicles will create a Buick lineup with twice the options of its current three-car lineup. That current lineup competes in only two vehicle segments, whereas by 2013, Buick expects to compete in 47 percent of market segments with a lineup of vehicles that will all be newer than the Regal. In other words, if you think Buick’s problem is product, GM agrees with you… and it’s revamping the brand’s entire lineup over the next three years.

But big expenditures at GM always have to be matched with big goals. Buick-GMC sales boss Brian Sweeney chops the sales just right and tells the DetN that

Buick is the fastest growing brand in the industry, and we expect to double our sales in the next few years.

In fact, according to Sweeney, all this growth is downright problematic:

We’re growing fast, but we don’t want to grow too fast

Because why would GM want to return Buick to its pre-2003 volume too soon? Selling 400k Buicks each year would just be a hassle. But will a Cruze-based sedan and an Aveo-based MPV really return that kind of volume to the brand? Based on earlier flirtations with compact and subcompact Buicks (and rebadged Astras), the answer would probably be no. And neither seem likely to improve Buick’s premium pedigree either, as the MPV will probably be built alongside the new Aveo at Orion Township, and the Astra will face tough in-house competition from the cheaper Chevy Cruze which will be available with GM’s most premium compact engine, the 1.4 turbo and new, upmarket interior options. But hey, either would be better than the previously-mooted “ Vuick” Saturn Vue rebadge.Besides, Buick has a strategy to improve its upmarket perception: getting rid of trim levels. Starting in 2012, Buick will ditch the confusing “CX,” “CXL,” and “CXS” trim-level designations because, as Buick-GMC Advertising honcho Craig Bierley tells Automotive News [sub]:It isn’t befitting a premium brand. No other premium brand has those designations. It implies a hierarchy — that there’s a cheap one, a middle-level one and a really, really nice one.Heaven forfend, right? So is Buick going Acura-style and making everything but navigation standard? Oh hell no. Take it away, AN [sub]:Instead, the brand will offer a few packages with increasing content levels that build on each other, Bierley told GM employees today at an event outlining the Buick brand’s positioning.

“When you get the second package, you get everything that’s in the first package, plus the second package,” he told reporters after the event. “You can’t go in and layer on the stuff that’s in the third package on the first package. You have to walk up the ladder.”

Customers will also be able to add select features to their package, such as sunroofs, navigation systems or larger wheels, he said.

Gosh, that sounds awfully hierarchical, doesn’t it? In fact, it sounds remarkably similar to the system that’s currently in place, only with more rules and no alphabet-soup nomenclature. But there is one other change that’s coming to Buick:The base models will likely include more content than they do today, Bierley said, including large, color displays for electronics. That would probably increase the price of base models, he said.

“It isn’t our stated goal to raise all our base prices over time,” he said. But “to give customers the content they want is absolutely key.”

So raising the price of entry for the brand that’s supposed to represent “luxury value” isn’t a stated goal, but it’s going to happen anyway? Maybe someone should tell Sweeney, who explains to the DetN that:Buick has “almost entirely dropped out of golf”… Instead, it will focus on more grass-roots campaigns and search for customers who shop at Whole Foods and Ikea and drink coffee at Starbucks. These are consumers who want luxury but don’t always want to pay luxury prices.Despite all the money, effort and PR GM is pouring into Buick, the more we hear about the brand and its new plans, the more confused we become. How do you rescue a brand from irrelevance if it’s supposed to all things to all value-oriented luxury buyers? Even Buick’s dealers can’t agree to update their facilities to a brand-uniform look, as Wards [sub] reports that only 400 of Buicks 2,054 dealers have signed on to the overhaul. If GM is serious about making this brand work, someone needs to grab Buick by the scruff of the neck and whip some focus, discipline and identity into it. Otherwise it will be out of the vague-and-ignored frying pan, and into the vague-and-ignored fire. But hey, at least then Sweeney won’t have to worry about “too much” sales growth.
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3 of 68 comments
  • Mjz Mjz on May 07, 2010

    Opels rebadged as Saturns were not successful because Saturn was NEVER a premium brand that would support it. Buick has always been a more upscale brand that people will pay extra bucks for. That's why the Buick Regal at $26,000-$30,000 will be more succesful than if it was marketed as a Saturn Aura. The new small Astra based sedan (please don't call it Excelle) looks good and will fill a niche for those looking for a more upscale small car that gets 40 mpg on the highway. If the Germans can do small can do small Audis/BMWs/Mercedes, certainly Buick can do the same. Regarding the trim levels, it's the same thing Lincoln is doing, their Premium and Ultimate packages.

    • Wagen Wagen on May 07, 2010

      Re: Buick doing the same thing as Lincoln . . . at least Buick seems to have the wisdom not to stick a badge on the car that says "Premium" or "Ultimate" as I remember seeing on so many Sables and Town Cars. Can you imagine if BMW did the same? Under the 535i badge on the trunk lid, one could have tons of badging bling: "Premium," "sport," "cold weather," "convenience," "dynamic handling," "driver assistance," etc.

  • Panzerfaust Panzerfaust on May 07, 2010

    "Buick has “almost entirely dropped out of golf”… Instead, it will focus on more grass-roots campaigns and search for customers who shop at Whole Foods and Ikea and drink coffee at Starbucks. These are consumers who want luxury but don’t always want to pay luxury prices." Looks like they're still chasing the 70-90 year old demographic.

  • Tassos Subaru really knows how to take fugly to ever higher levels, and sell every one of the (of course very few) it makes. As if the number of sales negates the fugliness.Don't hold your breath. I bet this will NOT be the vehicle James Bond arrives at the Casino in Monte Carlo with in his next flick. (if any)
  • ToolGuy Government overreach. Park the Ford in your air-conditioned garage on a maintenance charger and this won't be a problem.Here's some (old) general background if you are interested.@ILO, there are 3 Fords, and Ford Pro™ is the one with the bright future 🙂
  • ToolGuy No harm no foul (no one died), business is business, yada yada. Why must everyone pick on dealers?-this post dedicated to Ruggles
  • Hydrocrust Parts
  • ToolGuy The vehicle development process which gave the world the Neon was so amazing (according to the automotive press) that it prompted Rick Wagoner to hire Bob Lutz.Didn't work 🙂