Buick's core lineup is great, now for something else.
February 18, 2013
By: Nick Saporito
No matter how you slice it, the Buick brand has seen a comeback. For extended periods of time last year the brand was the fastest-growing nameplate on the U.S. auto market, and more significantly, Buick was the only brand to see a decline in average buyer age. Now that Buick’s ability to attract new buyers is validated with youthful products, it’s time to expand the lineup with a few more.
Today Buick has two crossovers and three sedans; not exactly the epitome of excitement for a brand wishing to swindle the fragmented tastes of Gen Y buyers. Granted, all five vehicles are very good – we at GMI have few ill words to say about any of them, which is exactly our point. Buick’s core portfolio of volume products is really good, so perhaps the time has come to expand the brand’s appeal beyond those wanting classy family haulers.
Our wish list for Buick is relatively small – just three vehicles, actually. All three should be relatively feasible from a product development perspective in the sense that they could be built using existing hardware. We’re not experts on GM R&D, but a $150 Billion company should be able to manage all three in some capacity or another.
1 – Verano Hatchback
GM understandably does not disclose sales projections or expectations to the public about any of their vehicles, but from the vibe we’ve gotten, the company is pretty happy with the Verano’s sales performance. In its first full year on the market, Buick sold over 41,000 Veranos last year, and that’s largely without the new turbo model. According to Buick, it also has the lowest average buyer age of the brand (excluding Regal GS specifically).
So here we have a small Buick that has performed well both in media evaluations and with consumers. It’s attracting younger buyers, selling well with very little incentives and has beaten the Acura ILX in comparisons. Verano has accomplished all of that while only offering the car in sedan flavor.
What could Verano do if it was given three and five door hatchback versions?
Hatchback versions of the Verano already exist – in Europe. The Verano and Opel Astra share most of their underpinnings and sheet metal in sedan form and could very easily do the same in hatchback guise.
As Verano’s success becomes more objective, adding hatchback variants of the car seems more like an obvious business decision than a move to appease enthusiasts.
We’ll also add that—as of a few months ago—upwards of 40-percent of Chevrolet Sonic sales were of the hatchback.
2 – Riviera
Throughout Buick’s renaissance the discussion of utilizing former nameplates has been a constant, and outside of Regal the brand hasn’t leveraged names of yesterday. We think that should change with the addition of a much-needed coupe by bringing back the respected Riviera nameplate.
There are a lot of options to bringing the Riv back. It could be on the front-drive Epsilon platform or through GM’s Alpha rear-drive architecture. Regardless, Buick could use a really high-styled coupe. In fact, the GM lineup as a whole could use a coupe.
Using the Riviera concept car (pictured above) as a jumping off point would be a good start.
3 – Rear-drive Regal
We at GMI love the current Regal. It’s European roots make for a fantastic driving sedan, and the GS is even better. The problem is, the car doesn’t sell. Buick is quick to say that Regal’s low volumes were planned, which may be the case. Regardless, if a business case can be made around selling 1,100 Regal’s a month, perhaps one can be made for making the Regal more of a rear-wheel drive niche sedan?
Built upon the Alpha platform, the Regal could become a less pretentious rear-wheel drive offering within the GM stable. A car that is elegant and athletic, but not as hard-core of a performer as the Cadillac ATS. As the ATS proves itself and moves upmarket in price, the room may develop for a Buick sedan on Alpha.
Toss in a GNX performance version and Buick quickly grabs the attention of younger buyers. And maybe, just maybe, those younger buyers would end up buying a Verano Hatch in their price range.
Which vehicle do you want to see Buick roll out?