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Is Buick next in line for Opel's new convertible?

The Cascada is an Opel Astra variant and shares a platform with the Verano compact sedan, launched in the United States in late 2011.

GENEVA -- Could the Opel Cascada convertible unveiled at the show here today be headed to Buick showrooms in North America?

General Motors Vice Chairman Steve Girsky wouldn't say for sure, but offered this grist for the rumor mill:

"The Cascada is dynamite -- it looks great. That's what [GM CEO Dan] Akerson said also," Girsky told Automotive News after the soft top's unveiling. "He says the Buick dealers would really like that in their showroom."

GM is rumored to be mulling the addition of a coupe or convertible to Buick's U.S. lineup under the Verano nameplate -- or maybe even badged as a Riviera. The Cascada is an Opel Astra variant and shares a platform with the Verano compact sedan, launched in the United States in late 2011.

Unwrapped today by Girsky and new Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann, the two-door, four-seat Cascada has a folding soft top roof that can be opened in 17 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph. It will be offered in Europe with a new 1.6-liter turbocharged gasoline engine and later a 2.0-liter diesel.

Pricing will start at 24,945 euros, or about $32,500.

Buick dealers are happy that GM has covered its bases by filling the lineup in key segments with entries such as the Verano and the Encore small crossover. Now many would like to add a little spice with a variant or halo car.

But Girsky tempered expectations for a U.S. berth for the Cascada, which is Spanish for waterfall.

"It was designed for Europe. Could there be some other markets for it? Yes," he said. "But it's a low-volume vehicle. It's a halo vehicle. It's expensive. It would have to be amalgamated for the U.S., which adds cost and complexity."

In Europe, Girsky believes the Cascada, which will be launched in April, will offer a viable competitor to the Audi A5 convertible "for more than 10 thousand euro cheaper."

The Cascada is longer than the Audi A5 convertible. Pricing will start at 24,945 euros, or about $32,500.

"I was driving this thing around a month ago when it was freezing outside. I had the heat going full blast on my face with the heated seats going and the top down," Girsky gushed. "Everybody was looking at me like I was on some other planet. It couldn't be more fun."

You can reach Mike Colias at autonews@crain.com

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