Talks between General Motors and PSA group regarding the sale of Opel could affect Buick’s lineup. In recent years, Buick’s sales and product expansion has been driven by GM’s decision to incorporate platforms and vehicles from the Opel division into the brand’s lineup.
However, GM has already gotten more out of Opel for the Buick than the company ever would have imagined eight years ago, the last time GM nearly sold the German division.
In 2009, GM emerged from bankruptcy and executives tapped Opel to fill out Buick’s thin product portfolio. At that time, Buick’s product portfolio consisted of the LaCrosse, Lucerne sedans and the Enclave crossover.
Now, Buick’s lineup is up to seven vehicles. Of those seven vehicles, four models are derived from Opels: the Encore small crossover, Cascada convertible, Regal midsize sedan and Verano compact sedan, which ended its production for the United States in October.
Stuart Fowle, Buick spokeswoman, said it was too early to comment on the impact of the sale of Opel on Buick. “Right now, we’re moving forward as Buick, and we’ll cross that bridge if or when we come to it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dave Sullivan, an analyst with AutoPacific Inc., does not believe that the sale would have a heavy impact on Buick, as the brand’s focus has now 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.
Out of the Opel-Buick models, the most successful in the United States has been the five-passenger Encore, which is sold in Europe as the Mokka. The subcompact crossover blew past the company and analyst’s expectations, with GM having trouble to keep up with the demand for the vehicle. Last year, sales increased 16 percent to more than 78,500 vehicles sold. The statistics made the Encore Buick’s top-selling model last year, by more than 26,000 vehicles.
The success of the Encore shows that validation of GM’s gamble four years ago to be among the first automakers to introduce a subcompact crossover to the United States. The gamble has led the brand’s ongoing charge to utility vehicles, which accounted for nearly two-thirds of Buick’s sold in the U.S. in 2016.
That number is expected to grow with the arrival of the China-built Envision last year, an updated 2017 Encore and a redesigned Enclave for the mid-2017 and 2018 models.