Buick line-up for the future
Automotive News has some details about the future Buick line in America, but there is reason to question whether their report is entirely accurate.
According to Mark LaNeve, vice-president of sales, service, and marketing at GM, the company believes the Buick line can be extended. “We think we’ve got room for expansion in the Buick lineup, and we see Buick over time hitting that space in the market where today Acura is, Volvo is - that’s its historic position, where it’s a cut above Dodge, Chrysler and Ford. It was always a near-luxury premium car," he said. (Of course, one of Acura’s executives said last week that his brand aims to be the equal in quality of Maybach and Bentley. Everybody, it seems, has aspirations.)
According to LaNeve, that means that the Chinese Buick line-up can be brought to the United States: “By leveraging some of the products that we’re going to be introducing in China over a period of years, we can augment the Buick lineup to really slot it in a very sophisticated place in the market above the mainstream."
Much of this is, in actuality, old news. That GM aims Buick at the upper medium price range is not new. That future Buicks are likely to come from China has also been rumored for some time, though LaNeve’s comments are the most official confirmation of that plan to date.
But Automotive News also claims that Buick will not get its own version of the Zeta platform developed by Holden which is the basis for the new Pontiac G8. Zeta is a rear-wheel-drive platform, in contrast to the front-wheel drive platform used in the Buick Lucerne that is currently Buick’s top of the line model.
According to Automotive News, Buick dealers “shot down” the idea of a Zeta platform Buick in fear that it would overlap the Lucerne.
That part of the report is very hard to believe. It has been previously reported that Buick dealers had said they didn’t want a rear-wheel-drive platform when asked by GM before the Lucerne was developed. But the Lucerne is currently viewed as being at a competitive disadvantage to their competition, which is predominantly rear-wheel-drive. Moreover, it has also been made pretty clear that the next full-size Cadillac will be rear-wheel-drive and it would not make sense to build the top-of-the line Buick on a different platform than used for the DeVille/DTS successor. Both the Cadillac and the top of the Lucerne line use the same Northstar engine.
In fact, LaNeve’s comments undercut the Automotive News prediction. To the extent that GM “leverages” the Chinese Buick line for production in the United States, a rear wheel drive Buick is far more likely than continuation of a front wheel drive model. What Buick makes for the Chinese market is rear wheel drive.