Eager for Avenir Cash, Buick Knows It Can't Go Full Denali Yet
Denali. It’s the Ford LTD of trims. Just take an existing model, add a dash of content and a sprinkling of chrome, and boom — a significantly inflated MSRP and legions of willing buyers. So impressed by GMC’s Denali sub-brand was Buick, executives decided it needed one of its own.
Enter the Avenir sub-brand, which serves as the top trim podium for the redesigned 2018 Enclave. Not only is Avenir designed to milk larger volumes of dollars out of existing Buick products, it’s also meant to draw more eyes to the brand — something Buick needs now, not later.
Still, despite its high expectations for the Avenir experiment, Buick knows it can’t come in too hot.
Denali now counts for 30 percent of GMC sales, but that wasn’t always the case. The name premiered on the range-topping Yukon in 1999, offering buyers Escalade-like levels of luxury for slightly less cash. Only recently has GMC expanded the Denali trim to every vehicle in its lineup, save for the Savana cargo van. Canyon Denali? No problem. Terrain Denali? Come get it.
According to Automotive News, executives realize the price premium buyers are willing to pay for a Denali only works when it has established itself in the marketplace.
“Avenir already seems to be capturing the imagination,” said Duncan Aldred, GM’s vice president for the Buick and GMC brands, during a Friday event. “It just seems to have something maybe in the same way Denali has something.”
The pricing of the Enclave Avenir shows Buick isn’t letting its enthusiasm get the better of it. Instead of the 43-percent markup over the cost of a base model as seen in GMC’s ranks, a top-flight Avenir ($54,410 after delivery) is just 33 percent pricier than the entry-level trim. The pricing gap between second-from-highest trim and Avenir is also narrower than at its truck-minded sister division.
Buick plans to gently ease those customers into the Avenir badge.
“We certainly didn’t want to price it too high,” Aldred said. “We weren’t going to overprice this to begin with, for sure.”
Where Buick takes the Avenir name from here likely depends on buyers. If consumers take to it, expect more Avenirs in the future. A year ago, Buick told TTAC that three Avenir-badged models would roll out over the next 18 months. We already know there’s an Avenir version of the full-size LaCrosse sedan on the way, but the third model remains a mystery. Buick could offer it on the two-row Envision crossover, but the midsize Regal “sedan” is another option.
Wherever it lands, Buick no doubt hopes it brings some attention to a flagging brand. With traditional passenger car sales tumbling, Buick has seen its year-to-date U.S. volume sink 5.9 percent. Buick sales sank 20 percent in the month of September. It’s doubtful a jazzier LaCrosse would do much to spread the new sub-brand’s name around, as few people actually consider buying one. (The model’s factory closes soon for the rest of the year.) The Avenir name would best be applied to something reasonably upmarket that sells in significant numbers.
Aldred dropped a hefty hint at Friday’s event, claiming the Avenir name would “play well in a midsize car.” In the short term, Buick plans to take a wait-and-see approach, gauging the public’s response to existing Avenir models.
“We’re not going to force it,” Aldred said.
[Image: General Motors]
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