Buick Poised to Become GM’s Greenest Brand – If the Public Wants It

2018 Buick Regal TourX - Image: Buick

The General Motors division, known for past land yachts like the Electra 225, Roadmaster, and Riviera, will become the automaker’s cleanest in the years to come. Whether that holds true in the United States market depends on a lot of things, including whether lobby groups succeed in saving the marked-for-extinction EV tax credit.

Duncan Aldred, vice-president of sales and marketing for GM’s Buick and GMC divisions, claims the near-luxury Buick badge will appear on the company’s future electric vehicles. However, given the shaky state of the EV market in America, new Buicks will head to greener pastures first.

Speaking to Wards Auto, Aldred said “Buick will play a huge part” in GM’s plan to roll out 20 electric or fuel cell vehicles before 2023. Two of those EVs are expected within 18 months of the company’s October 2nd announcement.

Chevrolet’s Volt may have paved the way for longer-ranged plug-in vehicles, as well as this year’s all-electric Bolt, but the Buick brand is expected to field the lion’s share of future EV offerings. In July, a report arose of a California focus group being presented with an electric Buick crossover based on the Bolt. Possible competitors included the Kia Niro plug-in and Hyundai Ioniq line. Interestingly, the source claimed participants were asked if this vehicle changed their perception of the Buick brand.

Such a crossover, likely sized similar to the Encore, is rumored to appear in 2019.

The Bolt is already sold in Europe under the Opel badge, and in China as the Buick Velite 5. It’s China that stands to see next new Buick EVs, not only because of the country’s thirst for the “status” brand, but for its electric vehicle mandate. Even with the EV tax credit, selling EVs is a tough go in the America. It’s difficult to say how severely the potential loss of the tax credit incentive would impact the segment, but it certainly wouldn’t do anything good for it.

Due to the uncertainty, the newness of the segment, the fledgling infrastructure, and non-punitive regulations, the U.S. market will get electric Buicks when — and if — GM feels it’s ready. In the meantime, Buick will leverage its brand strength in China.

“A lot of the electrification adoption will be driven by legislation,” said Aldred. “There’s a race already in China, because they are putting out some very strict (emissions) criteria for manufacturers to meet.”

The executive promises “multiple entries in a fairly short period of time,” in that market, but wouldn’t go into details on what bodystyles or powerplants to expect. He did say the brand’s electric push would include “a number of different technologies,” which surely implies mild hybrids, plug-ins, and full-electric vehicles. If it looks like the U.S. buyers are willing, one or more of those vehicles could travel across the Pacific.

Two things an electric car has going for it could benefit Buick’s image. First off, electric powertrains are nearly silent, adding to the already library-like ambiance in some Buick vehicles. Secondly, thanks mainly to Tesla, electric vehicles carry some premium cachet, potentially bolstering the brand’s near-luxury image.

At the end of the day, it’s sales, sales, sales that determine what offerings buyers get. EVs might be the future, but right now the brand needs to sell more sedans and crossovers in its home market. U.S. Buick sales fell 4.5 percent, year-over-year, in October 2017, with sales over the first 10 months of the year coming in 5.7-percent lower than in 2016.

[Image: General Motors]

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