StasisLAX From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 3320 posts, RR: 7 Posted (7 years 3 months 3 weeks 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 5306 times:
Rumors are running rampant in the automotive press that General Motors will expand the Buick model line-up and market a new Civic-sized sedan in the US that will be built by Opel at Opel's Russelsheim, Germany assembly plant.
The new compact Buick sedan was originally designed to replace the Chinese-market Buick Excelle, which itself is a Buick badged version of the Daewoo Lacetti. GM executives are said to be considering if a small Buick sedan should be offered for sale in the US market. Automotive press reports that Buick's US lineup will soon be the same as its model offerings in China. According to these new rumors, Buick dealers are lobbying for a well-equipped sedan that is much smaller than the just-introduced LaCrosse/Allure and that GM's other sedan alternatives (such as a Buick-badged version of the Aura/Malibu) simply doesn’t appeal to younger, highly affluent buyers that Buick needs to attract to survive in North America.
The new Buick sedan will be based on the front-wheel-drive "Delta 2" sedan platform, currently being utilized by the Chevy Cruze and the upcoming Volt. The new car (perhaps titled the Skyhawk or Skylark?) would be similar in size to the current Honda Civic. If given final approval by GM's North American management team, the car would most likely be built by Opel and imported from Germany.
I have serious questions as to whether a Buick sedan that's the size of a Civic and Cobalt would really appeal to "upscale" North American small-car buyers. Buick is supposed to be a "premium" brand, and I question if GM could pull this kind of "extreme make-over" off, along the lines of what they did to reinvigorate the Cadillac brand and make it relevant again to consumers. Your thoughts please, fellow motorheads?
[Edited 2009-02-01 16:42:01]
[Edited 2009-02-01 16:46:11]
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety!" B.Franklin
EddieDude From Mexico, joined Nov 2003, 8220 posts, RR: 42
Reply 1, posted (7 years 3 months 3 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 5218 times:
Thank you very much for the news and the link. It is a very interesting article.
I don't know where to start, so I will just drop some ideas. Sorry if my post is not as structured as I would like. Feel free to skip the paragraph immediately below as it is more of a walk down memory lane only.
First, I am not a big fan of U.S. cars, although I find some of them really worth considering. My first car was a 1987 Volkswagen Jetta, then I had a 1995 Mercury Mystique (I see it much more as European than American considering its Ford Mondeo-roots), then a 1999 Volkswagen Jetta/Bora, then a 2003 Saab 9-3 and I currently drive a 2008 Mercedes Benz C-280 Classic (called C-300 in the U.S., although Americans only get the Elegance and Avantgarde trims). As you can see, it is European and particularly German cars that gather my attention. However, I have a soft spot for Buick in my heart because my Dad had a 1990 Buick Century Limited with the 3.1, 2-valve per cylinder pushrod V-6 engine. The exterior was an awesome fire-red shade but the interior was an ugly burgundy. We had the car for about 7 years. My Dad stopped driving because of Parkinson's so my Mom kept it, and she ultimately replaced it with a 1997 Chevrolet Malibu (Motor Trend's Car of the Year). The Century was incredible. It was a plush and comfortable car that exceeded my parents' expectations. It was robust and well put together, very spacious and comfortable. Plus, when it was new, there were not many cars available for sale in Mexico, so the Century was actually a kind of luxury vehicle down here.
Anyway, Buick's smallest offering will be the LaCrosse, which by the way looks fantastic, and perhaps GM believes that Americans are now ready for a smaller car (recent fluctuations of the price of oil, the effects of the global crisis on the pockets of all Americans, including affluent ones, environmental concerns, etcetera). Particularly, GM perhaps sees room in their lineup for a car that is roomy enough to carry four adults around town or a couple of adults (with or without one or two kids) on a roadtrip and their luggage for the weekend, and that at the same time is more premium than the Chevy Cruze, which as nice as it will be, will be a mainstream product.
I personally think that a sub-Lacrosse Buick is a good idea, especially if GM will drop Saturn, sell Saab and downsize Pontiac. My fear is that if oil stays low for a while, Americans may forget that during 2008 gas reached a historic high and may feel tempted to go back to the thirsty SUV's, pick-ups, large displacement engined large sedans, etcetera that Americans tend to prefer. That would play against a sub-Lacrosse Buick.
Another issue that I think would be worth discussing is whether the new small Buick should be an all-new design or a reskin of, say, the next generation Astra. I suppose that to keep costs low and if GM indeed goes ahead with the demise of Saturn, GM will feel tempted to bring the Astra to the U.S. and give it some Buick design cues. I, however, think that Buick should get a slightly longer car (more like the Cruze, as the Astra is probably too short to be a compelling Buick in the eyes of Americans) and, as the article hints, be based on a recent Buick concept car design. On the subject of Buick concept cars, I really have to say that the history of cool concept cars is also one of the reasons why I have a soft spot for Buick.
Again, sorry for the long post. I look forward to the opinions of others.
Ken777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 9248 posts, RR: 10
Reply 4, posted (7 years 3 months 3 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 5131 times:
Over the years I believe that GM has blown their opportunities for using Opel cars.
Their most expensive FUBAR was not using the Open platform when developing the Cimmeron back in the 80s'. Holden (GM's Aussie unit) had taken the Opel and delivered a rather nice Commodore. It was a great size for upgrading to the Caddie that was to take on the MB/BWM crowd.
We were living in Perth at the time (and driving a Commodore) and I had to take an emergency trip by tot he US. While back here I saw the Cimmeron on a Caddie showroom. Didn't have to look inside the car or check out the sticker on the window to see a failure.
As for making a new small Buick I might actually look at it. I just hope that GM doesn't use the platform to throw and extra $6,000 gross margin on after spending an extra $500 on upgrading it.
Bill142 From Australia, joined Aug 2004, 8508 posts, RR: 8
Reply 5, posted (7 years 3 months 3 weeks 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 5112 times:
Quoting Ken777 (Reply 4): Their most expensive FUBAR was not using the Open platform when developing the Cimmeron back in the 80s'. Holden (GM's Aussie unit) had taken the Opel and delivered a rather nice Commodore. It was a great size for upgrading to the Caddie that was to take on the MB/BWM crowd.
And they've just canned RWD platform development again when they have a brilliant platform on which the Commodore is based.
PHLBOS From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 7634 posts, RR: 21
Reply 6, posted (7 years 3 months 3 weeks 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 5010 times:
Quoting StasisLAX (Thread starter): I have serious questions as to whether a Buick sedan that's the size of a Civic and Cobalt would really appeal to "upscale" North American small-car buyers. Buick is supposed to be a "premium" brand, and I question if GM could pull this kind of "extreme make-over" off, along the lines of what they did to reinvigorate the Cadillac brand and make it relevant again to consumers. Your thoughts please, fellow motorheads?
I guess you forgot about the Buick Skyhawks of the 70s and 80s. Both generations (75-81 RWDs and the 82-88 or 89 FWDs) had some sales success when they were initially launched. The marketing attempts back then were to lure small and/or sporty car buyers into Buick showrooms. The existence of the Skyhawk (along with the slightly larger Skylark) in Buick's lineup helped them in the CAFE department.
With the increase in CAFE standards being set in motion again, Buick's reasoning for bringing this Opel sedan into the U.S. market is rather obvious. The possibility of resurrecting the Skyhawk or Skylark badge for this new model would clearly be a sign of history repeating itself somewhat.
Quoting EddieDude (Reply 1): My fear is that if oil stays low for a while, Americans may forget that during 2008 gas reached a historic high and may feel tempted to go back to the thirsty SUV's, pick-ups, large displacement engined large sedans, etcetera that Americans tend to prefer. That would play against a sub-Lacrosse Buick.
Similar happened to sales of the fore-mentioned Skyhawk and Skylark cars during the late 80s and 90s.
"TransEastern! You'll feel like you've never left the ground because we treat you like dirt!" SNL Parady ad circa 1981
EddieDude From Mexico, joined Nov 2003, 8220 posts, RR: 42
Reply 8, posted (7 years 3 months 3 weeks 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 4976 times:
I remember that I always marvelled at the front end of the Buick Skylark of the early nineties. I thought it was so bold and daring for a Buick.
Anyway, the thing is that unlike what happens in Europe and Asia, the average American cannot seem to believe that a premium car can come in a compact size (unless it has a 335i or C350 badge). I have always liked small premium or quasi-premium products like the Infiniti G20 (of yore), the Volvo S40 and the Acura TSX, and I would really like to see Buick selling in the U.S. a sedan to sit below the LaCrosse. A longer-wheelbase Astra-derived sedan with Buick exterior cues and a high quality interior could help Buick increase sales. Whether such a car should be named Skylark or not is a different story.
Charles79 From Puerto Rico, joined Mar 2007, 1341 posts, RR: 6
Reply 9, posted (7 years 3 months 3 weeks 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 4941 times:
Quoting StasisLAX (Thread starter): The new Buick sedan will be based on the front-wheel-drive "Delta 2" sedan platform, currently being utilized by the Chevy Cruze and the upcoming Volt. The new car (perhaps titled the Skyhawk or Skylark?) would be similar in size to the current Honda Civic. If given final approval by GM's North American management team, the car would most likely be built by Opel and imported from Germany.
Interesting turn of events if they turn out as predicted here. I must admit that I'm a fan of small(er) cars so I applaud any manufacturer willing to downsize. The new LaCrosse does have sharp styling but Buick (or GM, for that matter) will probably never find me in one of their showrooms unless they offered a premium small car (hence why I just purchased a VW GTI). Although I ultimately went for the practicality factor of a hatchback I did consider the Volvo S40, so indeed if they could bring a direct competitor to the S40, Jetta, TSX, etc, with styling and packaging to match the A4/C-Class but with pricing closer to a well equipped Jetta then it may register in the radar of buyers like me. However, this is the car enthusiast side of me speaking...
...the MBA in me has to question their business case, though. First, the Saturn/Opel experiment has proven to be expensive, particularly if you bring the product from Europe (cheaper to build in NAFTA me thinks). Since we don't have access to their internal accountings it's hard to say whether the tooling/set-up costs of building in this side of the pond would negate any cost savings from doing the job here vs importing, plus it all comes down to what type of volume they are talking about and the price point...
...which brings point number two: price. Like I said, a product priced closer to the current Jetta stands a good chance but there's a big question mark on whether that price point would turn a profit. VW builds the Jetta in Mexico so their production costs are not as high vs manifacturing in Germany. Which puts Buick at a disadvantage. Moreover, Buick doesn't necessarily has a strong brand recognition among 30-somethings. I acknowledge that their cars are reliable (the brand has consistently scored high in JD Powers studies) and their dealers also receive high marks but their product line has been a haven for 50+ buyers for over a decade. This means that a) Buick won't be able to command a premium over "trendier" brands such as Acura or Volkswagen plus b) it will take a large capital investment to properly advertise and target the "young" demographics they are after.
GM is on a lifeline here and making the best decisions are vital to its survival. Buick can either continue to be what it is now and target the older (but often wealthier) drivers who can't be bothered with sport suspensions or complicated iDrives or go chasing after 3-Series drivers. If times were better I'd say they could go on a little experiment and try their luck with the younger audience but right now it's not the best time to start something new. I would seriously consider putting this project in the back burner if I were GM.