After Years of Neglect, Buick Is Back on the Front Burner at GM

After Years of Neglect, Buick Is Back on the Front Burner at GM

  • GM is showing a legitimate effort to prioritize Buick as an important near-luxury brand that occupies the gray space between Chevrolet and Cadillac.
  • Well, the four-car lineup includes crossovers (with the all-new Enclave three-row to be unveiled next week). The new compact Envista, with its unique roof rack, is selling well.
  • “We’re breathing life back into the Buick design,” GM President Mark Reuss told reporters this week. “I’m excited about what the brand is becoming again.”

Several things were done years ago to make Buick an isolated brand in the United States: Parent company General Motors was concentrating resources on profitable trucks and SUVs at Chevrolet and GMC, while spinning its wheels trying to keep Cadillac challenging BMW and Mercedes-Benz for the luxury position. . And GM’s overall strategy to pursue a battery-electric portfolio in recent years has largely focused on Chevrolet and Cadillac.

It seemed that Buick was being overlooked—even overlooked—while other brands were getting more attention. For years, Buick had been doing well enough in China as GM’s most popular brand that it might be natural that this 1903 business would end its long run in the US and focus on the Chinese market instead.

But non-local brands aren’t doing well these days in China—the Wild West of 250 automakers, where Buick’s sales have dropped from more than 1.2 million units in 2016 to half a million in 2023.

All of these themes set the stage for what is seen today as GM’s legitimate effort to position Buick as an important, almost luxury brand that occupies the gray space between Chevrolet and Cadillac. For years, the position was hinted at but without tangible evidence on the product side.

But that is changing. The brand has a new cover with a strong “New Face” styling language inspired by the sleek, battery-electric Wildcat concept from 2022 (which is the fifth Wildcat concept in Buick’s history).

Well, the four-car lineup includes crossovers (including the three-row Enclave), and none are quite as dramatic as the Wildcat. But the new Envista, with its coupe-like roofline, is uniquely beautiful and found its way onto nearly 10,000 roads in the first three months of this year.


2025 Buick Enclave design sketch. Check back next week to see the paper.

It’s also understandable that GM is leaning toward Buick now that its entire portfolio has internal combustion engines when overall demand for battery-powered vehicles has slowed and GM and other automakers have pushed back their EV market launches.

Sales success on the ICE side improves GM’s bankroll as the unpredictable EV market twists and turns. And Buick sales in the United States are increasing: 44,385 units in the first quarter (up 16.4%) and 167,030 vehicles in 2023 (up 61% more impressive than 2022).

Buick is preparing to introduce its first battery-electric car in 2025. We’re waiting for details on the car, but Buick in China already sells two electric cars: the Electra E4 and E5. A US production launch—if that happens—will qualify as a Buick EV for a $7500 federal tax credit.

Mark Reuss saw the Wildcat concept and said, “Why not build it and show it to the public?”

This is a big week for Buick news. In addition to unveiling the new Envision two-seater, Buick hosted a media event at the brand new General Motors Design West studio at the Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, to highlight the brand’s new Exceptional by Design tagline.

The brand’s chief designers have drawn inspiration from legendary Buicks from the past, such as the Wildcat II and the 1938 Buick Y-Job, which stands as the industry’s first concept car from the industry’s first rockstar designer, Harley Earl .

“Harley Earl’s greatest work at GM was on behalf of Buick,” Bob Boniface, director of Global Buick Exterior/Interior Design, told reporters visiting the new design studio, where clay models are created by hand and by precise robotic sculptors. .

In addition to covering the exterior design of the four current Buicks (Encore GX, Envista, Envision, and Enclave), Buick’s design team has included interior features, such as perforated leather, contrasting stitching, more compactness and a higher-quality finish. . materials, and a “superior sensory experience” to put your Buick a step above your Chevrolet.

“We’re breathing life back into Buick design,” GM President Mark Reuss told reporters during a tour this week of the design studio. “I’m excited about what the brand is becoming again.”

It’s hard to discern the deep design similarities between the Y-Job and Wildcat II and modern Buicks years later. But Boniface says the current four Buicks—including the soon-to-be-revealed 2025 Enclave—all share the low, wide lip (or grille) and high-beam headlamps with old concepts. But the old round lights have been replaced by narrow, narrow bars that resemble the business end of a spear.

2024 Buick Envista Beach


The Envista features Buick’s “New Face” design.

And another feature of Buick’s “New Face”—inspired by the recent Wildcat concept—is a gently sloping hood that descends to a sharp line running across the front, separating the high-top headlights from the wide-mouth grille. below.

Buick designers began working on the Wildcat concept in 2018, and Boniface says it was intended as an in-house design exercise. But Mark Reuss saw it during a studio tour and had a different idea. “Reuss saw it and said, ‘Why don’t I build it and show it to the public?'” Work began in earnest.

When the latest Wildcat concept was unveiled around June 2022, fans may have envisioned a sedan or coupe joining the Buick lineup. (How hard could it be to revive Regal?)

But Duncan Aldred, global vice president of Buick and GMC, cautions against such assumptions. He says Car week that Buick customers are not asking for sedans, coupes, or convertibles. He referred to the LaCrosse and Regal as “good cars … but that market was lost.” The LaCrosse was discontinued in 2019, followed by the Regal in 2020.

Besides, he says the new lineup of crossovers is increasingly appealing to Buick customers for their performance and spaciousness. “Once people get into these (crossovers), they don’t go back” to sedans, Aldred says. Car week.

For now, Buick management will continue to build the brand not on luxury but as a “premium” player that “just touches luxury,” as Molly Peck, Buick’s chief marketing officer, explained. “Buick should be for those who want the services of a luxury brand without traditional stereotypes,” he says.

architect drawing the buick trishield logo


Buick’s new triple shield logo.

This strategy is not a sure bet for Buick’s long-term future. Several other players trying to take on this near luxury position—namely Acura, Mazda, Volvo, and to a lesser extent Lincoln, Infiniti, and Genesis—have struggled to find their place in this area.

But Reuss is encouraged by how the newer Buicks are being received by consumers. “People are giving Buick a chance,” he says.

You have been careful Buick’s new design? If so, please share your thoughts below.

Header photo by Tom Murphy

Tom joined Autoweek in 2022 after nearly 25 years as an editor at WardsAuto, and 10 years as a columnist for the daily newspaper before that. He has been in metro Detroit all his life. His personal cars have been quite practical, and he’s happy to pay them off and enjoy several years of debt-free driving. The trickery of COVID prompted him to buy a 1953 Packard Patrician, in honor of his grandfather, who worked at the Packard factory until production ceased in the mid-1950s.