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Buick and Opel to Share Design

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Buick and Opel to Share Design

Buick Could Get Opel Design: Latest Strategy is Fluid, like GM's Future

By Todd Lassa

"Just before the Detroit Three presented their loan guarantee/bailout proposals to Congress, Motor Trend learned that General Motors would shift Opel's design language from Saturn to Buick. Now we know why."

I suppose this would indeed be why we are getting the new Buick Regal in the U.S. instead of a new Saturn Aura. At anyrate, for Saturn, why were the names changed to begin with? Why was the Aura a G6 in drag and not the genuine German Opel? Will the Regal be dumbed down compared to the German engineered car it appears to be identical to?

This fan hopes not and hopes as well that GM will experience a renaissance.

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The Motor Trend article is not entirely accurate if you examine GM China's brand websites (unless the websites are somehow inaccurate or don't reflect all the models available in China). The only rebadged Opel that Buick currently sells in China is the Insignia based Regal. Rebadged GMDAT vehicles currently comprise the compact Excelle line for Buick in China (better known to us in the U.S. as the Suzuki Reno, Suzuki Forenza sedan, and Suzuki Forenza wagon). Opel currently sells the Astra hatchbacks, Astra sedan (Astra A+), Astra TwinTop, Astra GTC, Zafira, and Vectra sedan in China. As far as I can tell from the websites, the Corsa is not currently available in China under any of GM China's brands.

I think using rebadged Opel products to complete Buick's lineup is an excellent idea. It appears as though Buick will be positioned in the same midmarket premium segment that GM is trying to place Opel, so using rebadged Opel products to give Buick some premium smaller vehicles seems like a logical move. I could definitely see GM adding the next gen Astra sedan and wagon (Skylark), the current gen Insignia sedan and wagon (Regal), the next gen Meriva (Centieme), the next gen Zafira (Terraza), and the Antara crossover (Rendezvous) to Buick's lineup. If RWD is not the future for Pontiac, I can see that brand being positioned as a sort of sporty entry premium sub-brand to Buick and possibly carrying the Corsa 3-door/5-door, the Astra 3-door/5-door, the Tigra TwinTop, and the Astra TwinTop; for some reason the Pontiac twin-nostril face seems more appropriate for these vehicles than the Buick waterfall grille.

There are a few questions that I have if rebadged Opels are to be used to complete Buick's lineup in the U.S. and China:

1) What will Opel's role and future lineup be in China? Will Opel be phased out in China in favor of Buick or will Opel's lineup simply be reduced to include products that Buick won't carry?

2) What will Saturn's role and future lineup be in the U.S.? Will GM shut down the brand, possibly sell the brand, merge it with B-P-G and give it the Opel products that Buick won't carry, or take it in an entirely new direction (which GM really doesn't have the funds to do at the moment, if ever)? Another possible option would be to keep the Saturn dealership network intact, return Saturn to a quirky small vehicle brand, and give them the Corsa hatchbacks, the Astra hatchbacks, the Meriva, and the Zafira; Buick would still get the Astra sedan/wagon, the Insignia sedan/wagon, and the Antara crossover while Pontiac could still receive the Tigra/Astra TwinTops. If GM decided to pursue the last option, then it would still need to place Saturn in some B-P-G dealerships to give the brand some presence in markets where it still is not accessible.

3) Will Opel receive a rebadged version of the upcoming LWB Eps II based LaCrosse as a sort of flagship sedan positioned above the Insignia in Europe? An AWD version with a turbocharged 4-cylinder would make an interesting flagship for the Opel brand in Europe. Chances of this happening are probably slim to none, but it is an interesting idea.

Whatever direction GM decides to take, the results will be interesting. I just hope the corporation can hang on long enough to make things happen. The only thing that is guaranteed is that if the corporation survives its current struggles, its decisions regarding the future will surely aggravate and frustrate some group of enthusiasts somewhere.

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Yeah, this should work I guess.

When you really sit back and look at GM as a company, and then look at their competition, you can clearly get a sense that GM was really confused over the last 10 or 12 years on how to adjust to their losing market share. Its really no wonder that they've lost quite a bit of respect with the car buying public.

This is a pretty big strategy shift, it's almost like they're shifting midstream and not really following through with their original idea about Saturn, kind of par for the course for this company in recent times. Although I can kind of understand why they think they could have charged a premium for Saturn, and started selling re-badged Opels here as Saturns (and turn Saturn into the "VW" of General Motors), I always had this suspicion it really wouldn't work out. Saturn, for most of its life, has been better known for small, cheap, no frills cars (lets face it, other than those who are die hard car nuts or GM fans know about Saturn's transformation, or care). Most people still think Saturn is basically plastic SL-1s. I applaud the Saturn lineup, I think it's good (I bought a 2008 Vue myself), but GM probably should have done this lineup over at Buick (with Buick styling of course) all along. Even though 30 and 40 somethings may perceive Buick as an old person's car, they still probably look at Buick as more of a "luxury" marque than Saturn ever was. I think it would have been an easier sell.

But it doesn't matter. As long as GM continues going along, living in a vacuum and running awful commercials and not knowing how to kiss up to the mainstream media (better PR) so that they stop bashing the company in every single article they write about them, they're doomed. Again, I've said this before - the product is pretty good now, what GM really needs is incredibly smart and professional marketing and PR people to go balls to the wall - and in this area, I think they're horribly out of touch. They need to go right for the juggler with Toyota, Honda, BMW and Lexus, but for some reason, they just simply don't know how to do it. They will NEVER get back your standard issue, college educated professional making $80k a year, driving an Accord, 3 Series or Camry who lives in the South or on the Coasts with the dismal PR and marketing people they have now. NEVER. They could have the best rebadge German Opels ever, and nobody would even realize it because the company does a terrible job at getting the word out on their current product. They have to completely re-think they way they come off as a company - and do it in a smart way (think Apple Computers). Until then, they will continue to lose market share.

Edited by gmcbob
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Yeah, this should work I guess.

When you really sit back and look at GM as a company, and then look at their competition, you can clearly get a sense that GM was really confused over the last 10 or 12 years on how to adjust to their losing market share. Its really no wonder that they've lost quite a bit of respect with the car buying public.

This is a pretty big strategy shift, it's almost like they're shifting midstream and not really following through with their original idea about Saturn, kind of par for the course for this company in recent times. Although I can kind of understand why they think they could have charged a premium for Saturn, and started selling re-badged Opels here as Saturns (and turn Saturn into the "VW" of General Motors), I always had this suspicion it really wouldn't work out. Saturn, for most of its life, has been better known for small, cheap, no frills cars (lets face it, other than those who are die hard car nuts or GM fans know about Saturn's transformation, or care). Most people still think Saturn is basically plastic SL-1s. I applaud the Saturn lineup, I think it's good (I bought a 2008 Vue myself), but GM probably should have done this lineup over at Buick (with Buick styling of course) all along. Even though 30 and 40 somethings may perceive Buick as an old person's car, they still probably look at Buick as more of a "luxury" marque than Saturn ever was. I think it would have been an easier sell.

But it doesn't matter. As long as GM continues going along, living in a vacuum and running awful commercials and not knowing how to kiss up to the mainstream media (better PR) so that they stop bashing the company in every single article they write about them, they're doomed. Again, I've said this before - the product is pretty good now, what GM really needs is incredibly smart and professional marketing and PR people to go balls to the wall - and in this area, I think they're horribly out of touch. They need to go right for the juggler with Toyota, Honda, BMW and Lexus, but for some reason, they just simply don't know how to do it. They will NEVER get back your standard issue, college educated professional making $80k a year, driving an Accord, 3 Series or Camry who lives in the South or on the Coasts with the dismal PR and marketing people they have now. NEVER. They could have the best rebadge German Opels ever, and nobody would even realize it because the company does a terrible job at getting the word out on their current product. They have to completely re-think they way they come off as a company - and do it in a smart way (think Apple Computers). Until then, they will continue to lose market share.

+1

Although I agree with you that Saturn was the wrong choice as a U.S. outlet for Opel products, the advertising GM has given the division since its transformation certainly hasn't helped matters. Saturn was given a sophisticated killer lineup which was accompanied by the same dorky commercials that the brand received in the past. Not exactly the most brilliant way to change public perception about a brand. Saturn's transformation, although misguided, was also a halfhearted process that was terribly mismanaged by GM.

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+1

Although I agree with you that Saturn was the wrong choice as a U.S. outlet for Opel products, the advertising GM has given the division since its transformation certainly hasn't helped matters. Saturn was given a sophisticated killer lineup which was accompanied by the same dorky commercials that the brand received in the past. Not exactly the most brilliant way to change public perception about a brand. Saturn's transformation, although misguided, was also a halfhearted process that was terribly mismanaged by GM.

Absolutely. The Saturn commercials really didn't do the "new" lineup justice. They were sort of a nice break from the typical GM advertising, but it just wasn't quite right. They were trying to sell you a $28,000 Aura by marketing the brand in a very Kia sort of way.

I'm not sure if this would have worked either, but what if GM would have just focused Saturn on being super nice, affordable small cars only? For example, have the Astra still, but also have a nice small 4 door sedan like the Civic and maybe an even smaller car, like the Corsa? Then market those small cars in a very Honda Fit sort of way - try to capture the Apple Computer, Bay Area types that buy Fits and Yaris'. I think a few of us on this site could have easily thought of some clever ways to do that - but I think GM management in Detroit doesn't think quite out of the box enough for that. Move Saturn showrooms in with Chevy or BPG and market this new group of small Saturns to the hip young crowd (like Scion does). Pack the cars with awesome technology too (NAV screen, blue tooths, etc, etc). Also, make the cars highly customizable too (with stuff right from the dealers). Do the Trek Mountain Bike giveaways (or Wii or PS3 giveaways). Saturn could potentially get the right type of crowd into a GM showroom with clever thinking I believe.

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What's that I hear? The sound of Saturn flatlining?

Yep. Euro-looking Saturns aren't selling so great, I don't know if Euro-looking Buicks will do any better. Buick has pushed American image and look for years, now they want to pull a 180 on that, doesn't make a lot of sense.

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It's not going to happen...that has to be the most retarded thing I've heard in a while.

And while Opel design gets old, every company will have moved on but GM......

Edited by daves87rs
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Yep. Euro-looking Saturns aren't selling so great, I don't know if Euro-looking Buicks will do any better. Buick has pushed American image and look for years, now they want to pull a 180 on that, doesn't make a lot of sense.

I think Buick still has enough premium mojo left that it could be more easily transformed into a cool premium brand than GM's attempt with Saturn (which has traditionally been a somewhat dorky, cult-like affordable brand). GM will need to fully commit to making it happen and execute it correctly (two things it obviously didn't do with Saturn's transformation). I know GM already tried to make Buick appear hipper by bringing in Tiger Woods to endorse the brand; the only problem with that strategy was that Buick and Mr. Woods were trying to peddle the same type of outdated, geriatric Buick products (LaCrosse and Lucerne) that it had carried in the past. To fully transform Buick into a relevant and cool premium brand, GM needs to simultaneously give it cool, modern products (led by the next gen of rebadged Opels beginning with the Insignia as well as the Enclave and next gen LaCrosse) and cool, inventive marketing/advertising (which could effectively be achieved without the costly celebrity endorsement of Mr. Woods). Personally, I could care less about whether a certain celebrity drives or endorses a product; that is only a superficial and limited attempt at cool. My greater concern is whether the product is properly executed and appropriately supplied with the features/technology that will enable the product to make a lasting and sizable impact in its intended segment. The process consists of two basic phases that GM has overlooked in the past with both Saturn and Buick. First, the product must be tailored to support the brand's image and appeal to the target demographic. Second, the advertising must be properly executed to effectively attract the attention of the target demographic to the product and the accompanying brand. Trying to do one without the other when attempting to transform a brand is a guaranteed recipe for failure (as I hope GM has finally learned).

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I think Buick still has enough premium mojo left that it could be more easily transformed into a cool premium brand than GM's attempt with Saturn (which has traditionally been a somewhat dorky, cult-like affordable brand). GM will need to fully commit to making it happen and execute it correctly (two things it obviously didn't do with Saturn's transformation). I know GM already tried to make Buick appear hipper by bringing in Tiger Woods to endorse the brand; the only problem with that strategy was that Buick and Mr. Woods were trying to peddle the same type of outdated, geriatric Buick products (LaCrosse and Lucerne) that it had carried in the past. To fully transform Buick into a relevant and cool premium brand, GM needs to simultaneously give it cool, modern products (led by the next gen of rebadged Opels beginning with the Insignia as well as the Enclave and next gen LaCrosse) and cool, inventive marketing/advertising (which could effectively be achieved without the costly celebrity endorsement of Mr. Woods). Personally, I could care less about whether a certain celebrity drives or endorses a product; that is only a superficial and limited attempt at cool. My greater concern is whether the product is properly executed and appropriately supplied with the features/technology that will enable the product to make a lasting and sizable impact in its intended segment. The process consists of two basic phases that GM has overlooked in the past with both Saturn and Buick. First, the product must be tailored to support the brand's image and appeal to the target demographic. Second, the advertising must be properly executed to effectively attract the attention of the target demographic to the product and the accompanying brand. Trying to do one without the other when attempting to transform a brand is a guaranteed recipe for failure (as I hope GM has finally learned).

I agree again on this. Really coming through and executing on good product and marketing at the same time has proven a very difficult thing for GM to master in recent years, unless its a full size truck. The Japanese have really ate their lunch when it comes to this. I think if they're going to keep Buick as a front wheel drive brand, they need to basically copy what Honda has done with Acura in recent times (in terms of comfort, styling, execution, marketing, etc, etc).

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Like this was a suprise?

I and several other have posted this was the most likley move for Buick.

They already are going to sell the Inisignia in China and we already knew this car was gone from Saturn.

We also kne there was a snow balls change it was going to become the G6.

THis is the logic that told why Buicl was spared vs Pontiac or Saturn.

Folks it is one world today. What we have they will have and they have will also be ours.

If it can't be sold in other countries it will not be sold.

GM can cut their world wide products in half along with the cost of developing so many different models for no reason.

Before it is all said and done most everyting will be FWD except for the Vette and Cadillac. WIth the new CAFE laws the entire industry will go this way to save weight.

As for the new Opel it is not Euro looking it is world looking. This is a car that will look in place no matter if it is London, Denver or Shanghi. Good up to date looks know no borders.

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What's that I hear? The sound of Saturn flatlining?

Are you suggesting a new trim level for Saturn? Red Line, Green Line, Flat Line? :deathwatch:

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Considering the recent Opels have had a more flowing, organic design, it fits right in with Buick's design language.

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I think this makes sense. Opel is a solid brand between Chevrolet & Cadillac. Buick is too (much more so than Saturn is or ever will be.)

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Aside from the Insignia/Regal I'm not sure what Buick and Opel "sharing design" means. Opel's lineup consists mainly of hatchbacks with a smattering of wagons and vans (none applicable to North American Buicks) whereas Buick's lineup consists mostly of notchback sedans. OK, maybe the Antara/Vue becomes a Buick?

Other than that, what is Motor Trend talking about? China?

BTW, I hope Buick will still mean roomy comfort whatever design direction is taken.

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I think this makes sense. Opel is a solid brand between Chevrolet & Cadillac. Buick is too (much more so than Saturn is or ever will be.)

It seems to me as well. Even if only in China, Buick does seem set to expand and here in the states as well, especially with two new products and others ( ? ) on the way.

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Buick is at the point now they can market to the younger affluent middle class.

Before they were too worried about offending the snow tops that had Le Sabre's that they left the car to rott. Most of the snow tops went to Camry's anyways and Buick failed.

Now they can make cars for the younger people with money and not have to worry about the old and dead. Opel cars can do this for them.

You can sell an old man a young mans car but you can never sell a young man an old car. Check how many older drivers are in CTS's when few young sain driver's apire to a DTS.

The cars in China are the cars Buick should have been offering here. They started off with the old crap we had but they replaced it with product that is attractive to a younger group.

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The cars in China are the cars Buick should have been offering here. They started off with the old crap we had but they replaced it with product that is attractive to a younger group.

I still don't quite understand the fascination with Buick's lineup in China. I do agree that the Zeta based Park Avenue and the recently introduced SWB Eps II Insignia based Regal are great products (that I would love to see here in the U.S.), but the rest of the current lineup (except the Enclave, which started its exceptional lifespan here in the U.S.) doesn't look all that superior or like anything that would have changed the brand's fortunes or demographic in the U.S. at all. China's version of the current LaCrosse doesn't look any better or more upscale than the U.S. version (at least the exterior; I couldn't find any pics of the interior); in fact, it looks more like a Camry/Accord/Altima competitor than a true premium segment player. China's current Excelle line is based on outdated GMDAT vehicles that didn't experience any overwhelming success in the U.S. when Suzuki sold them here (Forenza sedan/wagon and Reno). In fact, I think the Forenza sedan faired quite poorly in crash tests if I remember correctly; not exactly something that GM would want to offer in the premium segment. The GL8 minivan looks like just another tired variation of the GM minivans (Venture/Uplander, Montana, Silhouette, Relay, and Terraza) that didn't exactly set the segment on fire here in the States either. I know that both GM and Ford have robbed the U.S. market of great products that were available overseas in the past, but I don't find that to be entirely true in Buick's case. I say bring over the Zeta based Park Avenue and new Regal, but leave the rest of the garbage (current W-body LaCrosse, GMDAT based Excelle line, and GL8 minivan) in China.

I do believe that GM has lost possible U.S. sales by not offering some of their overseas products in the U.S. as Buicks (and Pontiacs), but the dropped ball lies more with Euro Opel than Buick of China. The current Astra sedan and wagon would have made great small products for Buick in the U.S. and would have maybe attracted some younger buyers to the brand (just like the current Corsa/Astra hatchbacks and Tigra/Astra TwinTops would have made great small products for Pontiac). The current Excelle line offered in China would have just served to further damage the premium perception of Buick in the U.S.

If all the speculation I have read online is true, Buick has a great future. The Enclave was the first giant step in the brand's revitalization and the upcoming LWB Eps II based LaCrosse (hopefully rechristened "Invicta" for North America) is an awesome followup. If GM follows through with the hearsay about using Euro Opel products to fill in the rest of the brand's lineup, then the brand can truly be transformed into a first rate and relevant premium player.

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