DETROIT — Buick’s sales success and product expansion in recent years have been driven by General Motors’ decision to incorporate platforms and vehicles from GM’s Adam Opel subsidiary into the brand’s lineup.
If talks between GM and PSA Group lead to the sale of Opel, Buick’s lineup would likely be affected. But GM has already gotten more out of Opel for Buick than many would have imagined eight years ago — the last time the automaker nearly sold the German subsidiary.
After GM emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, executives tapped Opel to fill out Buick’s thin product portfolio, which consisted then of the LaCrosse and Lucerne sedans and the Enclave crossover. Buick’s U.S. lineup now has seven vehicles, including four derived from Opels: the Encore subcompact crossover, Cascada compact convertible, Regal midsize sedan and Verano compact sedan, which ended production in October for the U.S.
Buick spokesman Stuart Fowle said it was too early to comment on the potential impact of an Opel sale because no deal has been announced. “Right now, we’re moving forward as Buick and we’ll cross that bridge if or when we come to it,” he told Automotive News.
Dave Sullivan, an analyst with AutoPacific, sees little impact on Buick if a sale goes through because the focus for the brand has shifted to China.
“I don’t think we’re going to feel it here in the U.S. in terms of product life cycles because I think China has taken the lead on Buick development,” Sullivan said.
The most successful Opel-Buick for the U.S. has been the five-passenger Encore, sold in Europe as the Mokka. The South Korean-built vehicle blew past company and analyst expectations, with GM having trouble keeping up with demand. U.S. sales last year increased 16 percent to more than 78,500 vehicles, making the Encore Buick’s top-selling nameplate by more than 26,000 units.
The Encore’s success is validation of a gamble by GM four years ago to be among the first automakers to introduce a subcompact crossover to the U.S. It led the brand’s ongoing charge to crossovers, which accounted for nearly two-thirds of Buick’s 229,631 U.S. sales in 2016.
That share is expected to continue growing with the arrival of the Chinese-built Envision last year, a freshened 2017 Encore and a redesigned Enclave expected to arrive in mid-2017 as a 2018 model.
The next-generation Regal could be affected by a deal with PSA. GM recently released photos and some details of the Opel and Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport, on which the Regal is based. The Insignia, up to 385 pounds lighter than the current version, suggests that the Regal will become slightly wider and lower, with a longer wheelbase.