Amid the rush of big reveals this week at the Paris Auto Show, Buick has decided to bring it all back home by going, well … French. The brand has done a very good job lately of bridging the divide between Chevy and Cadillac. You could almost argue that it’s done too well; sales in the U.S. have been up, and the brand is wildly popular in China. And as it’s continued to define itself, Buick has inched ever closer to the luxury segment. Now, it’s planning on smashing through the barrier with the Avenir sub-brand.
If the name rings a bell, that’s because it comes from the brand’s beautiful 2015 concept car, which largely informed the striking redesign of the 2017 LaCrosse sedan. That big, rear-wheel drive car isn’t in the works; instead, the name (which means “future” in French) will be used for a sub-brand that moves Buick’s current lineup even further upscale. Per the brand’s press release:
“Through the first half of 2016, Buick has been the industry’s fastest-growing major international brand, and Avenir is key to future growth and delivering on the high expectations of new customers coming to our showrooms,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global Buick Sales, Service and Marketing. “Avenir will be Buick’s signature. The highest expression of the luxury experiences we’re delivering now and in the future.”
This isn’t a return to GM’s golden era, when it had six brands to satisfy American buyers. Instead, the move is similar to GMC’s Denali trucks, an upscale trim line that will extend across the entire lineup, giving it an even wider appeal to buyers.
The Avenir cars (and crossovers/SUVs) will have a unique, three-dimensional grille, unique wheels and exterior trim, and more upscale interiors. And the move makes sense; according to Buick, 90% of its mid-size Enclave SUV buyers already opt for the top two trim levels. Its new Envision crossover and aforementioned LaCrosse are already upscale models, but for buyers who want something more, and don’t want to make the jump to Cadillac, Avenir sounds like a pretty good option.
The big question now is how well Avenir will be received in the market. GMC is in a unique position with its truck and SUV lineup, and the Denali line has been an important part of their portfolio for a long time. But Buick’s Avenir models won’t just come into competition with GMCs, but also offerings from European luxury brands. A fully-loaded, all-wheel drive LaCrosse can already cross the $50K mark with all the options ticked — any higher and it would be in Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series, or even Cadillac CT6 territory. It’s been a long time since Buick was just a half step behind Cadillac. We’re interested to see if it can pull it off.
It wouldn’t make any sense for GM to go back to a system where you had at least three tiered brands separating Chevy from Cadillac, but Buick is now filling the role that itself, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac shouldered for decades. Having a wider range of vehicles to cover that ground is by no means a bad thing. And besides, Avenir is cheaper and less risky than launching an all-new model or an entirely new brand. Luxury segments are continuing to grow, and Buick has already been reaping the benefits of it. It may be bold for Buick to aim higher, but it makes plenty of sense to us.