Buick is betting big on SUVs as it completes its shift away from the sedans and coupes that long defined the brand, the automaker offering a first sneak peek at the major refresh coming with the flagship Enclave model for 2022.
Buick officials offered few details about the upcoming Enclave update – which was pushed back by a full year due to the coronavirus pandemic. But executives, including brand boss Duncan Aldred did provide more insight into the complete makeover of the 2021 Buick Envision crossover during an online media webinar on Thursday afternoon.
They also provided some insight into how the “premium” marque has been faring through its transition to become an all-SUV brand. For one thing, 72% of Buick customers last year were “conquested” from competitors, noted Aldred, well above the 58% industry norm. That, he said, is a strong indication that Buick’s strategy is working.
Like its competitors, General Motors has been struggling to figure out the right formula for today’s rapidly shifting market. With Cox Automotive forecasting sedans, coupes and sports cars will account for just 21% of all U.S. sales this year, some manufacturers are effectively pulling out of the passenger car segment. While GM will still produce products like the Chevrolet Malibu and Cadillac CT-5, Buick pared back from a mix of eight passenger cars and light trucks to just four SUVs at the beginning of the 2020 model year.
The numbers could change going forward, Aldred hinted — specifically pointing out that with GM absolutely committed to an all-electric future … Buick will absolutely be a part of that.” During a CES keynote presentation by CEO Mary Barra last week, GM executives suggested that at least two Buick battery-electric vehicles are in the works. For his part, Aldred declined to add any details but TheDetroitBureau.com has been advised both are likely to be crossovers and they could debut in China – now the brand’s largest national market, before coming to the States.
For at least the next several years, however, the Buick product line will continue to rely on internal combustion engines. That includes the 2022 Enclave. Originally planned for 2021, the big SUV will feature updated fascia and lighting, front and back, among other things going all-LED. Even details like the Enclave’s exhaust will be updated. That reflects plans to launch a new Avenir version.
Avenir is quickly becoming the Buick equivalent of the high-line Denali trim offered by the marque’s sibling GMC division. Newly released pics show the 2022 Enclave Avenir will get a unique grille and other details including dual trapezoid tailpipes.
Look for the seven-seat 2022 Enclave to debut late this year, Buick chief Aldred confirmed.
The coronavirus pandemic created headaches for the entire industry. At GM, it pushed back development of some products, like the Enclave, while throwing production schedules into chaos. The Buick Envision is a case in point. Completely made over for the 2021 model year, it is only now beginning to reach showrooms in any significant numbers.
The 2021 Envision is a top-to-bottom makeover, starting with a switch to GM’s all-new E2 platform. The move is significant in a number of ways. It’s stiffer and allows the wheels to be pushed further out towards the corners. That translates into improved passenger and cargo space, among other things, and enables a switch from a four- to five-link rear suspension.
That results in “a fantastic compromise of smooth handling and body control,” said Anthony McCormack, the 2021 Envision’s chief engineer, during the Thursday webinar. A quieter ride is another benefit, he said.
The new Envision has a lower and wider stance, “a more expressive design for Buick,” added Exterior Design Manager Christine Cheng. It also introduces a new take on the familiar Buick grille — which is, like the upcoming Enclave, framed in all-LED lighting.
The new Envision also will have a new Avenir trim for upscale buyers, and a Sport Touring Package that will introduce 20-inch wheels. Depending upon the model, the Buick infotainment system can be run through either an 8-inch or 10.2-inch touchscreen. Buick has also added built-in Amazon Alexa functionality, along with the available wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto technology.
Power, meanwhile, comes from a 280-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4, the only engine available on the Envision.
The SUV’s makeover comes as the next step in the brand’s shift to all SUVs, said Aldred, its price tag actually dropping to a base $31,800 for 2021, down from $33,500 last year. That, the brand boss predicted, should help conquest even more buyers for Buick – at least once there are enough of the new Envision models in showrooms late this winter.