Buick, it seems, is taking a cue from its crosstown rival, Ford. With crossovers overwhelmingly dominating sales at General Motors’ premium brand, Buick is about to drop the last two conventional passenger car models in its line-up, meaning that it will be an all-SUV brand come the end of the 2020 model year.
A spokesman for Buick confirmed reports that the Regal sedan and TourX wagon are fast approaching the end of the road. They will follow the LaCrosse sedan and Cascada convertible models that the brand previously announced it was phasing out.
Come 2021, Buick exclusively will focus on crossover models like the little Encore, mid-range Envision and top-of-the-line Enclave.
That move likely shouldn’t come as any surprise considering current market conditions. Car-based crossovers and conventional sport-utility vehicles now account for about two-thirds of U.S. new vehicle sales, and despite some forecasts that the upward trend might begin to level off, it so far seems like sedans, coupes and other passenger car models will continue losing momentum for some time to come.
Buick buyers have been bitten even harder by the utility vehicle bug, the various versions of Encore, Envision and Enclave generating about 90% of the brand’s sales so far this year. From Jan. 1 through the end of November, American buyers purchased just 8,849 Regal sedans – which has been Buick’s best-selling passenger car nameplate. By comparison, the Encore, its top-selling CUV, racked up 73,905 sales during the same period.
If anything, the figures were likely to grow even more lopsided as Buick expanded its range of utility vehicle offerings. The new Encore GX will soon slot in-between the current Encore and Envision models.
Parent General Motors will continue to offer some sedans, notably in the Cadillac family where the all-new CT5 just recently joined the line-up. But the automaker is rapidly paring back those options. Among other once-popular models, the Chevrolet Cruze was abandoned earlier this year – along with the Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant that produced that model.
Some analysts anticipate GM could go virtually sedan-less within the next couple years if current trends don’t reverse.
“SUVs are king,” said the automaker’s global design director Michael Simcoe, appearing with Dan Sandberg, Brembo North America’s president and CEO, on the brake supplier’s podcast.
But Simcoe doesn’t appear ready to throw in the towel, also suggesting that he believes U.S. buyers will eventually begin moving back to sedans.
“When hatches and sedans stopped selling, CUVs took their place,” said Simcoe. “But I think there will be a cycle [back to sedans] in the industry. And again, then we go back to electrification, which will make people think differently.”
On the positive side, at least for Buick, the rise of the crossover has helped the brand reverse its long decline – which nearly led GM to abandon the century-old marque when it emerged from bankruptcy a decade ago, along with the now-gone Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer brands.
Pretty much everywhere you look, whether domestic or foreign, automakers are rapidly shifting their model-mixes to take advantage of the SUV boom. The Ford brand has abandoned all U.S. passenger car models but for the Mustang.
Hyundai reversed a several-year decline in demand this past year by introducing new models like the Kona and Palisade. That said, it is not only retaining familiar passenger car nameplates but taking steps to improve their appeal. Significantly, the 2020 Sonata is one of the three finalists for North American Car of the Year.
The U.S. has been the epicenter of the crossover boom, with European and Chinese buyers still not ready to abandon sedans, coupes and hatchbacks. But even abroad, the trend is taking hold, with more and more CUVs and SUVs grabbing an ever-larger share of the global market.