By on October 30, 2017

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir - Image: Buick

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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27 Comments on “Eager for Avenir Cash, Buick Knows It Can’t Go Full Denali Yet...”


  • avatar
    el scotto

    “We’re not going to force it,” Aldred said. Translation: Lots of cash on the hood to tempt a not very interested public. Deep in the bowels of the REN CEN: “Oh please just 2 or 3 conquest sales out of a 1000 from the Lexus ES”.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    They’ve got the ability to develop GM platforms into competitive products. I had my first drive of a current LaCrosse over the weekend — a well-equipped but not loaded Premium. It was a great drive, particularly for a big FWD car; the driving dynamics were in another class from an ES350, with little if any sacrifice in comfort (the only complaint being a slightly too loud exhaust note for the class). Despite what people may tell you, the HiPer front suspension, suspension tuning generally, and luxury-grade tires made it a significantly nicer experience than an Epsilon Impala. The interior was old-school Buick comfortable and the roomy back seat made it easy to deal with the two big child seats.

    My question is if they are willing to expand that product development acumen into segments anyone cares about.

    The Enclave is a good start, but they need to be expanding this to the Envision and Encore pronto, instead of spending so much time and effort futzing around with the LaCrosse and Regal.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I think GM has genuinely competitive cars these days. Had a Malibu 1.5T for a rental last week, and it was entirely adequate and nicer to drive and sit in than any Camry of late. Or the Avalon I had the same week, for that matter. Just a normal, boring, but not in any way offensive inexpensive car. I assume they are fairly cheap. My gripe with the Lacrosse is that you can’t see out of it.

      However, I would never pay for the gussied up version of such. I would rather have the most basic verion of an actual premium car than the most loaded version of a beigemobile. Tinsel and toys do very little for me.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        “drive and sit in than any Camry of late. Or the Avalon I had the same week, for that matter”

        This was most certainly NOT my experience with a rental 1.5 Malibu LT this summer. Mind you, it wasn’t BAD, just perfectly adequate/mediocre with some interior design elements that left me scratching my head. Not particularly fuel efficient with that 1.5T either. I would literally take any of the other midsizer rentals I’ve had over the Malibu (Optima, Sonata, Camry, Fusion, Passat). The Passat 1.8TSI in particular is a standout that I’d point to as the nicest driving (and most efficient) of the bunch.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “I had my first drive of a current LaCrosse over the weekend”

      DDP equipped?

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Yep (the tell is Sport mode). Unusual thing to find in your local Executive Aisle. Makes up for the Sonata SE I had to put up with as my last rental.

        HiPer = essentially zero torque steer.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Not sure if they just rename the Envision Premium ll as it has just as much in tech and options as does the Enclave. An upgraded leather package and adjustable suspension is about that is left to add. This lode little cuv is really the sweet spot, not too big, not small, with very good handling and braking.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Top trim models are driven by lease payments. For “just a few dollars more” one can lease the top trim verses a lesser equipped vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      Buick & Volvo owners usually keep their cars the longest (7 years on average) Probably not thinking about leasing or resale.

      *Full disclosure I own a 2016 Regal GS w/ 27,000 trouble free miles. Still in Love

  • avatar

    Seems like the Regal is the natural third pick, as it’s their only midsize. However, I also feel the Regal is on its last legs as it’s not a hot seller, and is part of Buick-Opel that’s going away.

    Almost makes me think they could put something in with Malibu production (cheaper, easier, bit larger, same platform), and come out with a new Century or what have you.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I have seen both the Regal sedan and the Regal wagon (TourX??) out in the wild here in Detroit. Wow, sharp cars. Sign me up for either if they don’t sell in decent numbers and come with cash on the hood. Secretly hoping that is the case because …..Im selfish :(

      Maybe Aviner Regal Wagon?, seems like Aviner sedan would be one too many trim levels with the GS already on the way.

      Personally, once I have the equipment I “Really” want, Im not usually willing to pay much more for additional option packages. GM is pretty good though at only offering things like fog lights or HID headlights in option packages adding 10-20% markups over the base trim level cost. I hate that practice. Cruel, and greedy. Watch the Aviner trim is the only one that comes with something that would be desirable on any trim level like fog lights.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    unless performance-focused, a sub-brand for a luxury nameplate is dumb. “Avenir-grade” should be standard on all Buicks.

    GMC gets away with Denali because traditionally GMC isn’t thought of as a luxury brand.

    by introducing Avenir, the implication is that a stock Buick is just a Chevy, just like Mercury was just like Ford.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Avenir means nothing to me, literally. A silly made up name with none of the imagery associated with Denali. And if they’re trying to make their cars stand out maybe Buick shouldn’t have ditched their “dollar grin” grille in favour of that anonymous Opel-like thing!

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      Avenir is French word for future in the sense of better things to come, so hardly made up if you look at it from the PR POV. Better than XLP-74C or other alpha numeric.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Sure, but what did Denali mean to you in 1998? I’m not saying it will be successful, but is there any harm in trying?

      • 0 avatar
        1500cc

        “Sure, but what did Denali mean to you in 1998?”

        The name of a mountain? It’s as good as any other geography-based name.

        I think Avenir has a semi-sophisticated ring to it, and is actually a pretty good name for a vehicle.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    I think they should only go with their top tier SUV and sedan as Avenir models first. So the Lacrosse and Enclave should be the only cars to get the Avenir treatment before trickling down to other models. Otherwise, I think they’ll dilute the sub-brand early on.

    It took years for Denali to trickle down to other models and when it did, it didn’t hurt the most precious Denali of them all, the Yukon. In fact, if you told someone you have a GMC Denali, as blasphemous as that sounds, they’d assume you own a Yukon Denali.

    Buick needs that with the Avenir. If they green light an Encore Avenir or even Envision from the start, it won’t ever have the same brand recognition that Denali has.

  • avatar

    As long as they sell in China….

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Avenir. Every time I see that name I think of the old comic strip Lil’ Abner.

  • avatar
    deanst

    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.)

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      Meet me tomorrow at midnight. (Strictly platonic)

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Midnight is different in different time zones. I’m sure the west coasters know this country awakes with the sun on the east coast.

      Or a large portion of the Buick owners are military and know there is no midnight on 24th our clock.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Uh, no; midnight is 12:00 AM no matter what time zone you’re in. 12:00 AM is midnight in Moscow, London, New York, or LA. Kinda like; do they have the fourth of July in England? 0000 is midnight in military time. There some old salts who argue that 0000 doesn’t exist, the day goes from 2359 to 0001. It’s also called midnight because it’s really dark. This is the opposite of “noon” where it is daylight. I’m quite sure that if the US Navy contracted GM’s BUICK Division to install blue digital clocks on the bridges of all its ships this would all work out by itself; because BUICK. I’ve stood a few midwatches in my day. The BUICK site says they’re available until midnight eastern standard time. That takes care of time zones. Unless your watch has been trifecta tuned.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        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.

  • avatar
    bd2

    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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