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Detroit Auto Show: GM shows off new Buick Verano

January 10, 2011 |  8:41 am

Hoping to broaden the appeal of its Buick division to younger buyers, General Motors Co. unveiled its new Buick Verano compact car at the North American International Auto Show on Monday.

GM sees the new compact as a key component to reviving the Buick brand, which, thanks to new vehicles such as the large LaCrosse sedan, the Enclave SUV and mid-sized Regal sedan, was one of the fastest-growing lines among major automakers in the U.S. last year. Verano

Buick sales rose 52% in 2010 to more than 155,000 vehicles, the division’s best performance in years. Its share of the U.S. auto market grew to 1.3% from 1% in the prior year.

Although the brand has developed a reputation for building reliable vehicles, Buick has struggled for years with an aging customer base. Only in the last year has it seen the average age of its buyers decline.

 GM is counting on the sporty Verano sedan to bring younger buyers into the Buick showroom, customers who also might be considering imports such as the Volkswagen Jetta or even the more expensive Lexus IS sports sedan but are attracted by the Verano’s European feel and its price, lower than luxury compact sedans. The Verano is based on GM’s German-designed Opel Astra, a popular European car.

The Verano also rounds out Buick’s lineup.

"Our Buick lineup was too narrow. We need to appeal to a broader customer base," said Tom Stephens, GM’s vice chairman.

He said the Verano should help Buick continue to grow sales and market share.

A year ago, when the brand was selling the Enclave, the LaCrosse and the low-volume Lucerne sedan, Buick had vehicles in segments that made up just 14% of the U.S. auto market. The Regal, introduced in 2010, doubled Buick’s breadth to about 28%. The Verano will increase Buick’s reach to more than 40% of the market.

“We wanted it to present a muscular, athletic look,” said Jim Federico, GM’s chief engineer. Although the Verano’s closet relative is the Astra, the vehicles have different sheet metal and some different components.

It will come standard with 17-inch alloy wheels and a 2.4-liter, 180-horsepower, four-cylinder engine that is rated at 23 miles per gallon in city driving and 31 on the highway. Buick also will offer a speedier turbocharged engine that will produce 220 horsepower and 258 foot pounds of torque.
“This will be like a sporty European Opel but with a quieter ride,” Federico said.

In October, GM said it would pump $145 million into its factory at Lake Orion, Mich., to produced small cars for the North American market, including the Verano.

Other Detroit Auto Show news:

VW looks to new Passat to lead sales charge

Chevrolet Volt wins car of the year

Ford unveils electric strategy

-- Jerry Hirsch in Detroit 

Photo: Buick Verano. Credit: General Motors