Buick revealed three new sedans today in New York, two of which induced little excitement.
The third, however, was more interesting.
The heyday of Buick on American roads is gone. The big market for the brand is now in China (where the Verano, sold as the Excelle, was the number one passenger car in 2011).
But General Motors isn't ready to let Buick give up on the US just yet, and the brand is doing pretty well lately.
It was named Best Value Luxury Brand for 2013 by Kelley Blue Book. Sales are trending upward, with three consecutive years of growth, close to matching pre-2008 levels.
At today's reveal, ahead of the New York Auto Show, which opens to the press Wednesday, Buick rolled out the 2014 Lacrosse, Regal, and Regal GS.
The LaCrosse held no surprises: It's a simple, low-end luxury car, built to be comfortable and quiet. "Library quiet," said Jeanne Merchant, the sedan's chief engineer.
It will come with the various newfangled safety and entertainment features that are the minimum for any new car, especially one billed as luxury. It seems like a fine, unexciting car.
The second car, the Regal, was also relatively unexciting. Phil Zak, exterior director of design, called it "the athlete of the family," but it didn't stand out.
Then Buick brought out its third new car.
The Regal GS (Gran Sport) is the performance version of the somewhat sporty sedan, and was the most impressive of the three.
Tony DiSalle, vice president of marketing for Buick and GMC, brought up the terms "responsiveness" and "dynamics" — a welcome break from the "quiet and comfort" mantra used to describe the LaCrosse.
With 259 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of peak torque, it's more powerful than any four cylinder midsize sedan.
Like Cadillac and Lincoln, Buick has long been a brand enjoyed by elderly Americans. To generate growth, those brands have reinvented themselves, offering sporty, high-performance sedans.
Buick is bolstered by the huge Chinese market, and so doesn't need to rely on coaxing the shrinking numbers of young American car buyers to dealerships. But if it does want to grow here, especially among young buyers, the GS is a solid horse to bet on.
We drove the 2013 Regal GS last year, and declared it a car that "might actually be a Buick for young people." Even without anything ground-breaking to put it as the top of its class, the new GS could generate pretty decent sales.
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