DETROIT - Buick will take a sales hit this year as General Motors slashes fleet sales of the Regal and Century.
GM needs the production capacity for the Pontiac Grand Prix, which is being moved into the Oshawa, Ontario, plant No. 2 that makes the Regal and Century.
Buick spokesman Pete Ternes says fleet production will be trimmed in April.
He says Buick sold about 50,000 Regals and Centurys to fleet last year. That represents about one-quarter of Regal and Century sales of 204,493 units in the United States last year.
Though sales will dip, the hit to Buick profits will be less, Ternes says.
"We are getting out of the fleet business in those models because for GM it's more profitable to sell retail," he says.
The availability of Regal and Century to dealers should not be affected, he says.
Buick dealers are ordering extra vehicles to cover them when the plant slows down for the Grand Prix conversion. Volume after the plant ramps up should cover retail demand, Ternes says.
Consumers bought 13,820 Centurys in January, up from 5,047 in January 2002, and 1,298 Regals, down from 1,479 a year ago.
Getting rid of fleet sales will help Buick prepare to sell the redesigned Regal, expected for the 2005 model year.
Buick is expected to drop the Century at that time, serving that segment with a less expensive Regal model.
The 2004 Grand Prix will be the first car on GM's updated W architecture.
The other W cars, which are all built in Oshawa - are the Regal and Century and the Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo. GM dropped one W car, the Oldsmobile Intrigue, this year.