Buick No Longer Taking Back Seat to Opel | Edmunds

Buick No Longer Taking Backseat to Opel

Just the Facts:
  • Buick will have a voice in vehicle development instead of taking a backseat to Opel, according to a new GM strategy set for implementation in about two years.
  • GM Chairman Dan Akerson told an investors meeting that the product-development teams for the Buick, Opel and Vauxhall brands will work more closely together.
  • A source told Edmunds that the redesigned 2016 Buick Regal likely will be the first Buick model developed from this new strategy.

DETROIT — While General Motors' German subsidiary Opel has been the engineering source for most Buick models, Buick for the first time will now have a voice in vehicle development, too, a source familiar with the strategy tells Edmunds.

The first Buick reflecting this strategy could arrive in about two years.

The Buick Regal, Verano and Encore were developed by Opel and intended to be sold by Saturn. But with the demise of Saturn in 2009, vehicles originally planned for Saturn were shifted to the Buick lineup.

"Buick was getting hand-me-down cars because they were originally designed to be Saturns," Jim Hall, an auto analyst with 2953 Analytics told Edmunds. "Now they have an active word in the development of the cars."

As a result, future Buick models are expected to be more premium.

General Motors Chairman Dan Akerson last week told attendees at an investors meeting that the product development teams for the Buick, Opel and Vauxhall brands will work more closely together, according to a media report. However, he did not provide specifics. No timetable was given as to when the first model developed with Buick under this new strategy will go into production.

Hall said the redesigned 2016 Regal likely will be the first Buick model developed from this new strategy.

Adam Opel AG, is based in Russelsheim, Germany. Vauxhall's models are rebadged Opels that are sold in the United Kingdom.

The new development strategy is part of a plan to reduce vehicle development costs and to create Buick models for customers in North America, Korea and China that provide a more premium experience. GM also wants to improve Opel's image.

"There is a strong argument, if you want Opel to be more than Fords in Europe, you have to find some reason for it to be more than a Ford, in the same way that Buick has to be more than a Chevy and less than a Cadillac," said Hall. "Actually, the alignment of the two brands makes a lot of sense."

Future Buicks will share engines and continue to share Opel vehicle platforms and models, but the models are expected to be engineered to compete with more premium brands. Saturn was engineered and priced to compete with such mass market brands as Ford, Honda and Toyota.

With the exception of the Buick LaCrosse and Enclave, the entire Buick model line is composed of models engineered by Opel that were originally intended for Saturn. The Regal is essentially the Opel Insignia sedan with a Buick grille and badging. Before the demise of Saturn, the previous-generation Insignia was marketed here as the Saturn Aura.

The 2011 Regal was the first Opel-based model in Buick's product line. That was followed by the 2012 Verano sedan, a version of the Opel Astra. This past February Buick dealers started selling the subcompact Encore crossover, which is based on the Opel Mokka.

Edmunds says: Buick is about to gain more clout when it comes to product development.

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