DAVE BARKHOLZ

Geriatric brand? Buick strives for something more

David Barkholz covers General Motors Co. for Automotive News
MIAMI -- If I didn't know better, I would have guessed the sports sedan that Buick unveiled at a Miami night club last night was high-performance Pontiac muscle.

Maybe it was the 850 or so hip, beautiful Miamians -- most in their 20s and 30s -- who crowded into the free Regal Remix event that got me thinking that way. Whatever sparked it, my staid image of Buick as a geriatric brand started to melt away.

For a while now, it had seemed to me that in order to even enter a Buick showroom, you had to be a card-carrying member of the AARP. The average age of a Buick buyer is 65.

But this wasn't mom and pop's Buick. The 2012 Buick Regal GS on display cut an athletic stance with a lower ride height than its older brother, a unique grille and vertical air intake slots accented in a metallic finish. It was riding on 20-inch, 5-twin spoke polish alloy wheels.

The interior had similar racing-inspired appointments, to say nothing of the Ecotec 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and six-speed transmission capable of 255 hp and a 0-60 time under 7 seconds. It's due in showrooms the second half next year.

This isn't just happenstance. Buick -- with the new Buick Regal mid-sized sedan out since May and the GS and Buick Verano compact on the way next year -- is following a blueprint intended to dramatically reduce the average age of its buyer

Toward that goal, the brand wants to coax Pontiac owners orphaned when General Motors discontinued the brand through bankruptcy.

No doubt that Buick is changing. But there's comfort in knowing that some things tend to stay the same -- like the generation gap.

Most of the young people last night were anxious to see a set by the hot band that Buick brought in for the evening.

And today I can say that I've at least heard of the Plain White T's.

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