Buick Goes Upmarket With Avenir Sub-Brand, Toe-Stepping Be Damned
Buick’s stunning Avenir Concept from the 2015 North American International Auto Show will not reach production, but the concept’s Avenir nameplate will be used as a Buick sub-brand.
In the same vein as GMC’s upmarket Denali sub-brand, Avenir will become the high-end trim level “on three [Buick] models around the globe in the next 18 months,” Buick spokesperson Stuart Fowle told TTAC.
Although Buick has neither confirmed nor denied any mechanical upgrades for Avenir models, it has made clear the central tenets of the Avenir sub-brand: “three-dimensional” mesh grille, larger wheels, and unique trim finishes on the outside will be common across Buick’s particularly premium models.
On the inside, Buick says, “Avenir models will enhance the brand’s quiet, inviting environment with unique seat details, modern trim materials and Avenir script identification.” The latter component essentially clarifies that Avenir models will be differentiated from conventional Buicks by declaring that they’re Avenir models.
If you think all of this sounds like nothing more than a fancy name for a upper-crust trim, you’d be right. Partly. While Touring and XLE and Citadel mean little to the average buyer at Honda, Toyota, and Dodge, GM marketers have made hay with GMC’s 17-year-old Denali line.
Now Buick gets to play the same game with another name.
Incidentally, some of the same people who helped to make Denali more than just a trim level with a fancy name, Helen Emsley (now executive director of Buick global design) and Tony DiSalle (U.S. vice president of Buick and GMC marketing), are working to get Avenir off the ground.
There’s still good reason for Buick skepticism in North America. While Buick is a major force in China, the brand’s repositioning in the United States has seen dramatic sales reductions over the last decade, making progress even more difficult for a brand that was already perceived poorly by a younger demographic.
In that case, why does General Motors need Buick to move further upmarket, potentially into Cadillac’s territory? Here again, Buick points to the joint success of the Yukon Denali and the Cadillac Escalade — Fowle claims Buick is not worried about Avenir disrupting Cadillac’s portfolio.
Presumably, however, the higher prices associated with the Avenir sub-brand will only emphasize Buick’s built-in problem as the auto brand for the octogenarian?
“We don’t see that being the case on the GMC side,” Fowle told TTAC, once again directing our attention to the Denali movement. “The more expensive Denali models attract the same age or younger than other models.”
More specifically, “Sierra 1500 Denali buyers are actually younger than other Sierra 1500 buyers, 48 versus 47,” said Fowle. “We generally aren’t too focused on an age demographic, we just see it moving younger as an indicator that we’re broadening our appeal.”
Is it possible that in building Avenir variants of the Encore, Envision, Enclave, Regal, LaCrosse, or Cascada, the average age of Buick buyers could come down?
Hopes that the Avenir Concept itself would step in to broaden Buick’s appeal by becoming an actual production model — and not just the inspiration for upcoming Buicks — were lost in the very name of the car. Avenir, Buick says, is French for future. “That concept and this year’s Avista coupe concept — from which the new sub-brand borrows its grille pattern — have served as guideposts for designers sketching and modeling Buick’s,” wait for it, “future.”
In other words, the Avenir Concept car never stood a chance. The Avenir theme, on the other hand, 20 months after the concept car made headlines, lives again.
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