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First Drive: 2011 Buick Regal

Reinventing a stodgy old brand.

by on Jun.01, 2010

Once written off for dead, the launch of the 2011 Buick Regal could continue rebuilding the brand's momentum.

There were plenty of surprises when General Motors made it through bankruptcy, last year, including not only the demise of the Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer and Saab divisions – but the decision to keep Buick.

Founded in 1899 as the Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company, it was sold, in 1903, by David Dunbar Buick and his partners to the company that would become GM.  Today the oldest surviving Amerian auto brand, the once-powerful Buick is but a shadow of its former self, sales plunging 90% over the last two decades.

Yet there have been recent signs of life, new products such as the Enclave crossover and LaCrosse sedan not only surging in sales but bringing in the sort of young, affluent buyers who long steered clear of the stodgy old marque.  Could Buick be hip again?  The real test is likely to come with the launch of the 2011 Buick Regal.

Ironically, the new midsize sedan wasn’t originally supposed to be a Buick.  What’s now badged Regal was originally a joint development pairing GM’s European brand, Opel, and North America’s Saturn.  When the latter division was abandoned by GM, the sedan got a new nameplate and grille, much to Buick’s good fortune.

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While the American sedan is just getting ready to roll into showrooms, the European version has been on sale for the better part of a year under the Opel Insignia badge, and has been winning rave reviews and plenty of new buyers.  If our first long drive of the 2011 Buick Regal is any indication, the same thing may soon happen here.

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