By on November 6, 2017

2018 Buick Regal TourX - Image: Buick

The General Motors division, known for past land yachts like the Electra 225, Roadmaster, and Riviera, will become the automaker’s cleanest in the years to come. Whether that holds true in the United States market depends on a lot of things, including whether lobby groups succeed in saving the marked-for-extinction EV tax credit.

Duncan Aldred, vice-president of sales and marketing for GM’s Buick and GMC divisions, claims the near-luxury Buick badge will appear on the company’s future electric vehicles. However, given the shaky state of the EV market in America, new Buicks will head to greener pastures first.

Speaking to Wards Auto, Aldred said “Buick will play a huge part” in GM’s plan to roll out 20 electric or fuel cell vehicles before 2023. Two of those EVs are expected within 18 months of the company’s October 2nd announcement.

Chevrolet’s Volt may have paved the way for longer-ranged plug-in vehicles, as well as this year’s all-electric Bolt, but the Buick brand is expected to field the lion’s share of future EV offerings. In July, a report arose of a California focus group being presented with an electric Buick crossover based on the Bolt. Possible competitors included the Kia Niro plug-in and Hyundai Ioniq line. Interestingly, the source claimed participants were asked if this vehicle changed their perception of the Buick brand.

Such a crossover, likely sized similar to the Encore, is rumored to appear in 2019.

The Bolt is already sold in Europe under the Opel badge, and in China as the Buick Velite 5. It’s China that stands to see next new Buick EVs, not only because of the country’s thirst for the “status” brand, but for its electric vehicle mandate. Even with the EV tax credit, selling EVs is a tough go in the America. It’s difficult to say how severely the potential loss of the tax credit incentive would impact the segment, but it certainly wouldn’t do anything good for it.

Due to the uncertainty, the newness of the segment, the fledgling infrastructure, and non-punitive regulations, the U.S. market will get electric Buicks when — and if — GM feels it’s ready. In the meantime, Buick will leverage its brand strength in China.

“A lot of the electrification adoption will be driven by legislation,” said Aldred. “There’s a race already in China, because they are putting out some very strict (emissions) criteria for manufacturers to meet.”

The executive promises “multiple entries in a fairly short period of time,” in that market, but wouldn’t go into details on what bodystyles or powerplants to expect. He did say the brand’s electric push would include “a number of different technologies,” which surely implies mild hybrids, plug-ins, and full-electric vehicles. If it looks like the U.S. buyers are willing, one or more of those vehicles could travel across the Pacific.

Two things an electric car has going for it could benefit Buick’s image. First off, electric powertrains are nearly silent, adding to the already library-like ambiance in some Buick vehicles. Secondly, thanks mainly to Tesla, electric vehicles carry some premium cachet, potentially bolstering the brand’s near-luxury image.

At the end of the day, it’s sales, sales, sales that determine what offerings buyers get. EVs might be the future, but right now the brand needs to sell more sedans and crossovers in its home market. U.S. Buick sales fell 4.5 percent, year-over-year, in October 2017, with sales over the first 10 months of the year coming in 5.7-percent lower than in 2016.

[Image: General Motors]

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21 Comments on “Buick Poised to Become GM’s Greenest Brand – If the Public Wants It...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    They don’t.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      We should not limit ourselves to just the US of A for public demand. Buick may be hot, hot, hot…… in China. Especially, if they are the Greenest Brand.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I haven’t dealt with Zhongguoren from China recently, but the ones I know here are just as apathetic as the rest of us. Tesla is the new aspirational Cadillac for the well heeled. Regular folks can’t afford the $30K Fusion new and they are not crunching numbers on $40K golf carts I promise you (when living beyond means they are buying mortgages on ye old pickups, not Leafs).

  • avatar
    ajla

    The 3800 was the first gasoline engine the EPA listed as SULEV and all it needed was iron and 12 valves. Plus it was actually engineered by Buick.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    just do it like Lincoln with its MKZ…..on every Buick model you get to choose either the “performance” engine, or for the same price you get the hybrid.

    No more base 2.0 turbo. push those people into hybrids.

    • 0 avatar
      sgtjmack

      Push people into anything they don’t want and they’ll push the doors open on the other dealerships that offer them a choice. We aren’t a communist country that only offers one piece of cheap car to the population, we are a free market that offers many choices.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    BUICK POISED TO BECOME GM’s GREENEST BRAND

    That’s fine – paint ’em all green.

  • avatar
    karonetwentyc

    This has me wondering if Buick isn’t the marque that GM is willing to stake a failure on if the Greenest Marque Of Them All strategy doesn’t work out. They’re not as shaky as, say, Oldsmobile or Saturn were, but given its growth in China the badge could live on there while possibly being removed from the domestic stable (and its products built and sold under other GM brands).

    Option two is that Buick’s greenification is intended to gradually trickle up or down to other vehicles in the GM stable, and perhaps Buick’s target demographics (who may or may not be similar to current purchasers) are more likely to purchase hybrids, EVs, etc.

    Then again, I could be completely wrong. Part of it is that I don’t understand who exactly is buying Buicks, though I do see them around fairly regularly. That said, the ones that I see by far the most of are Encores – which has me wondering if the person driving it would have spent their $25K-$30K on anything else like it that came with attractive finance options, and being ‘green’ is a non-factor for them.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Volvo called and said they want those 7 sales they lost back.

  • avatar

    Sexy shaggin waggin. Can I have it with V8 and 7 speed manual rear transaxle?

  • avatar
    slap

    Good looking wagon. I’ll have to go to a Buick dealer and check it out.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    I’m fine with the Chinese being the test pilots for Buick’s green fleet. After all, we’ve all been doing the quality control for their products for years.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Chinese Buick buyers might want electric Buicks, but American Buick buyers don’t.

    Do these focus groups mention the fact that a long-range EV needs a home-installed charger, and that driving an EV requires you to plan each and every trip according to range?

    Do they account for the fact that the American Buick demographic is looking for *more* security in life, not less, and that an EV isn’t really poised to provide that security?

    I say this as someone seriously contemplating another EV purchase.

    By the way, “Buick” is really two different companies. I’d bet nearly all US Buick buyers have no idea their brand sells 4X the US volume in China, and therefore the US brand is really not a priority.

    • 0 avatar
      Asdf

      Now that GM has sold Opel to PSA and lost its main source for vehicles it may rebrand as Buicks, expect future Buicks to be made in China, which will make American Buick buyers abandon the brand in droves. So in the end it’s only the Chinese Buick buyers that matter.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        Now that GM has sold off Opel and Vauxhaul in Europe and closed down Holden in Australia, I expect that they’ll ultimately take the opportunity to consolidate their brands worldwide which is desirable anyway. It will take time, money, and effort, but GM would be wise to use the Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac brands worldwide as their mainstream, upscale, and luxury brands respectively.

        • 0 avatar
          karonetwentyc

          What you’re proposing re: using global marque names makes sense, but GM’s recent efforts in that regard didn’t go well. Consider the following:

          – Chevrolet Europe was effectively GM’s rebadge of Daewoo. It lasted for about eight years before being almost completely scrapped; the Corvette and Camaro are now the only two models sold under that name. Having them as halo cars for a bread-and-butter range is a strategy that, while generally OK in North America, may not work well in other parts of the world.

          – Buick, as a name outside of North America, is really only recognisable in China. That’s not to say that it couldn’t be developed elsewhere, but it would take some not-inconsiderable effort to do so.

          – Cadillac… There’s a marque with baggage attached, especially in Europe. Their cars, traditionally, just haven’t suited European (or rest-of-world) conditions. Design aesthetics and build quality have also held up poorly against established luxury marques. That is changing, but the question is whether not not it can change in the right ways.

          What always surprised me about GM was that they never really seemed to grasp the opportunity that they had to truly take advantage of their global presence. Different regions making different varieties of vehicles – many of which had sales potential outside of their native regions – should have led to an approach of, say, seeing what was on the drawing board in Russelsheim that might have worked in Detroit, then designing it from the ground up to suit a variety of conditions around the world rather than undertaking a programme of overextensive adaptation after the fact – or spinning up a new marque (Saturn) to essentially replicate work that was already being done elsewhere in the world.

          Brand strategy only goes so far. That GM is in another round of killing or selling them off globally tells me that it hasn’t been a very good one.

      • 0 avatar
        NN

        This is the writing on the wall. The Envasion will continue and all Buicks will be designed, engineered, and built in China. Sales in the US will continue to decline as American consumers don’t understand the constant flux of the Buick brand (from “the Doctor’s Car” to traditional American to old people only to German/Polish imports to Chinese SUV’s to Chinese electric). This is the least consistent brand image in the business, and it will suffer from it. In the US, Buick will become ultra niche like Fiat ultimately as they pursue this line. On the greater balance sheet of GM it might still work out, as the current lineup competes with other GM brands, importing from China will provide a profitable way to sell electric cars, and they will keep the brand alive at a massive loss in the US no matter what anyways in order to support the brand where it matters (China).

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I like the look of that wagon! It’s amusing that everyone who writes about them, gives green cred to the Chinese for mandating EVs. The reality is a little less noble. China has Japan’s problem, but orders of magnitude greater: relatively paltry indigenous petroleum resources. China continues to build coal-fired electric generating plants at a very high rate, and one of the purposes of these is to wean its motor fleet off of petroleum. China’s economy is becoming, once again, a “managed economy,” and reliance on foreign sources for key industrial inputs is perceived as increasing uncertainty, anathema to managers. Given the news from the most recent Party Congress, any non-Chinese company that stakes it’s future on selling into the Chinese market is taking a very big political risk. Here’s looking at you, GM!

  • avatar
    MLS

    Rumor has it that FCA has similar electrification plans in store for Buick’s erstwhile competitor Chrysler.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Buick isn’t really targeting North America anymore. North America is not even why Buick exists. Buick is all about China, and the volumes are massive. We’re already seeing in vehicles like the LaCrosse that the Chinese design language overrides what Americans want, and we’ll see more of it.

    China has mandated 20% of vehicles are electric or alternative fuel by 2025, that is just 1-1/2 to 2 design cycles away. Because of GM’s strength, and Buick’s strength as an “it” brand in China, you bet your bippy they are going to electrify.

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