Eager for Avenir Cash, Buick Knows It Can't Go Full Denali Yet

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Deanst Deanst on Oct 30, 2017

    Had to laugh at the Buick website - where you can talk to a "lacrosse expert" from 8 am to 11:59 pm. I have to assume they think the average Buick customer is too stupid to realize that 12 am is midnight. (And also that GM is too stupid to just list the time as 12 midnight.)

    • See 3 previous
    • El scotto El scotto on Oct 31, 2017

      @NormSV650 No, the rest of the country doesn't "awake with the sun on the east coast". People adjust their sleep/wake patterns to the time zone they're in. " I’m sure the west coasters know this country awakes with the sun on the east coast." Why would people on the west coast wake up at 3:30 AM? We do not have a universal wake up time for the country. Few, and mean very few, military members drive BUICKS. They have to pass intelligence tests to get in and are monitored for mental stability during their careers. Veterans can insert "Crazy Larry" stories here. Understanding the difference between GMT and local time is a small but crucial test military members have to pass. Knowing the time difference between where you're deployed and what time it is "back home" is a handy skill to have. So yeah; this time "stuff" is difficult for some people. Ship's chronometers and railroad schedules played huge parts in this "time" thing.

  • Bd2 Bd2 on Oct 31, 2017

    Kia has done pretty well with its SXL trim here and Ford has expanded its Vignale line beyond the Mondeo after its initial success across the pond.

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  • Jkross22 The contrived, forced, overproduced jokes and antics were fun 15 years ago, but it's been the same thing over and over since. The last few years of Top Gear were heading this direction and the 3 were phoning it in. They should have either done something completely different and tried something new. Instead they played it safe.
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