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Why GM's Buick brand is on a roll

Buick Enclave sales are on a record pace. Buick sold 52,837 Enclaves through November, an 8 percent boost from the same period last year.
Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

Once scorned for unimaginative vehicles, General Motors' Buick brand is on a roll these days.

Here's why.

The Buick Verano was a finalist in Motor Trend's recent Car of the Year competition. In fact, I heard the Verano missed the coveted award by a hair. If a more powerful engine was available -- and it's coming in 2012 -- the car likely would have captured that title.

The Verano is a compact sedan that shares a platform with the Chevrolet Cruze. Beyond that, the car has unique exterior and interior styling, powertrains, and there's a wide range of quiet tuning.

My prediction is the Verano will be a hit, but it's too early for a sales analysis -- four cars were sold in November as production was winding up.

Enclave's sales are on a record pace. Here's a crossover that is bucking conventional wisdom. The vehicle debuted way back in 2007 and has changed little since its introduction. Sales should be in a downward spiral. Instead, they are headed for Buick's record book.

So what's going on? Is the sales boom linked to a heavy incentive blitz? No. Simply, the styling remains appealing. Credit the upswing in the market for taking Enclave with it. Buick sold 52,837 Enclaves through November, an 8 percent boost from the same period last year.

And the brand's overall sales are up 18 percent this year. Through November, 162,659 Buicks rolled out of dealerships -- and that's without Verano sales and its new crossover.

Speaking of Buick's crossover, these eyes have seen the Encore, that's the name of the new model. Sales should keep GM's accountants happy. The compact is attractive, and, as previously reported in Automotive News, the crossover is based on a platform evolved from the Chevrolet's Sonic. Here's a news flash: It's bigger than the Sonic.

The Encore will debut at the Detroit auto show. Production kicks up in November or December.

GM, still 32-percent owned by you, me, and the rest of the U.S. taxpayers, needs to show its many stakeholders and Wall Street that it can surprise and delight buyers with new products. That means reinventing its brands. With the Verano and Encore, it looks like Buick will hold up its end of the deal.

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