Buick: The new Pontiac?

Buick Regal GS

The average age of a Buick customer is north of 60 years old.  While that has kept Buick from becoming a part of GM’s history like Oldsmobile and Pontiac, it isn’t enough to sustain itself as part of the new GM.  The most obvious course of action would be to lower that average age to somewhere closer to 30 years old.  The big question then is to ask how a car company can accomplish this, especially given GM’s current lack of funds to do a lot of research and development.

Buick LaCrosse CXS

As I predicted a couple of years ago, domestic car companies would have to import tooling and designs from their European subsidiaries, and Buick is the most recent division of GM to do just that, and it looks like they have a couple of big winners on their hands.  The Buick LaCrosse has already begun the transformation, with good reviews and decent sales, even in our current economy.

Buick LaCrosse CXS

With strikingly good looks and the right driving dynamics, the new LaCrosse is looking to compete with Japanese and European luxury sedans.  Great design, both inside and out, backed up with top-notch materials, has made the LaCrosse one of Buick’s biggest sellers, and it’s only going to go up from there.  It’s based on a car created by Opel, one of GM’s European subsidiaries.

Buick Regal

The second part of GM’s master plan is to add some real “driving excitement,” to borrow a page from Pontiac’s book.  The semi-retired Regal nameplate is going to show up again on our shores soon.  Another Opel design, in pre-production test drives, several automotive news outlets have actually proclaimed it a competitor to such cars as the BMW 3-series, as well as other German automobiles.  Handling, steering, brakes, and engine have all been praised.

Buick Regal GS

This week, some of the pundits were proven correct when GM announced the Regal GS was coming to the States.  Basically a rebadged Opel Insignia OPC, the Regal GS will even feature a manual transmission, something not seen in a Buick for quite some time!  The Insignia OPC is a high-performance variant of the Insignia which is mostly sold in Europe, but due to some clever design work by GM, the American-market parts will bolt right up.  These market-specific parts are required due to stringent US safety standards.

With a more powerful engine, available manual transmission, and a platform which can keep up with the best from BMW, the Regal and Regal GS promise a lot, and from the looks of it, may just deliver.  I’m going to make another prediction:  Buick’s average customer will drop to below 50 in the next 2-4 years, as less expensive but better cars take over where Pontiac left off.  I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a Pontiac G8 look-a-like with a Buick grille on it.

by John Suit

Source: GM

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