GM Bringing Back Buick Brand To U.S., China Markets

Five decades after the last Buicks were sold, GM will roll out new models, mostly geared to the older consumer.

DETROIT (AP) – General Motors Corp. said Tuesday it is bringing back its ''Super'' line of Buicks, about five decades after the premium models last were sold, as it makes broader efforts to reinvigorate the 104-year-old brand in the U.S. and grow in China.

Buick General Manager Steve Shannon said the automaker soon will unveil the ''Super'' line, last used in 1958. For now, he said, it will include versions of the LaCrosse and Lucerne sedans.

''These vehicles will elevate in terms of design, power and performance,'' Shannon said during a presentation to the Automotive Press Association in Detroit.

The line comes amid a push of new vehicles, including the Enclave luxury crossover sport utility vehicle in North America and the Park Avenue sedan in China, that Shannon says will help better define the brand –reflecting a focus on design, comfortable and quiet interiors, and quality.

''We think we can develop great products jointly that can do well in both markets,'' Shannon told reporters after the event, adding there aren't plans to build Buicks in China for the U.S. market.

After bringing out a fresh face for Cadillac and Saturn, GM is turning more attention to Buick, which traditionally is known for its appeal to older drivers. Longer-term, Shannon said there will be a focus on rolling out fewer – but better – Buick models to keep the brand profitable for Detroit-based GM.

Nearly all of Buick's new vehicle sales are in the U.S. and China. Buick's worldwide sales rose about 3 percent last year to more than 567,000 as sales in China jumped 25 percent to about 304,000.

Buick's U.S. sales, however, were down nearly 15 percent in 2006 to about 240,650. GM's effort to cut low-profit sales to rental car companies, as well eliminating aging models such as the LeSabre sedan, accentuated the drop.

Michael Robinet, vice president of global forecast services for CSM Worldwide, an auto industry consulting company based in Northville, said future Buicks will be designed to more clearly reflect the brand.

Robinet said GM has had success with its Cadillac and Saturn revivals, helping set the brands apart, and will carry those lessons over to Buick.

''They understand that the brand needs to stand for something,'' Robinet said.

As of last year, Buick still attracted the oldest buyers of all automotive brands in the U.S., according to an analysis by Power Information Network, a division of J.D. Power and Associates. Its buyers were 64 years old on average, compared with 55 for GM's Cadillac and Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln and Mercury brands.

Shannon said the average Buick car buyer is about 67 years old, while the average Buick SUV driver is about 53 or 54. That has its benefits, he noted, since older buyers tend to be loyal to the brand and typically are more financially stable.

''Over time, with the products we have, we will probably get a little bit younger,'' Shannon said. ''Getting younger is not an objective, per se.''

With the help of golf superstar Tiger Woods, Buick has tried to reach out to younger drivers and golf enthusiasts. Shannon said Woods, who helped unveil the Enclave in person last year in California, will be a bigger presence as the brand's pitchman.

Buick models in the U.S. this year include the LaCrosse and Lucerne, the Rainier mid-size sport utility vehicle and the Rendezvous SUV, as well as the Terraza, Buick's minivan. And the Enclave is scheduled to reach dealer showrooms this summer.

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