NEW YORK -- General Motors believes the Buick Verano taps a fertile slice of the compact car market.
The Verano, which arrives in showrooms in December, will take on luxury compact cars such as the Lexus IS 250 and the Acura TSX. But with a starting price at $23,470, including shipping, the Verano goes for $6,000 to $10,000 less than those vehicles.
At the other end of the compact segment are such cars as the Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and GM's fast-selling Chevrolet Cruze. Those cars start below $20,000.
"We see white space there," Mike Danowski, Verano's product manager, said at a press event here last week.
The Basics: The Verano will be Buick's third all-new or redesigned entry to the U.S. market in the past three years, joining the Regal mid-sized sedan and LaCrosse sedan. GM already sells a version of the Verano in China as the Buick Excelle.
GM is emphasizing amenities and refinement to convince mainstream compact buyers that the Verano warrants a price tag that starts above $20,000 -- and to turn the heads of traditional import customers who would typically spend far more.
"Quiet" is the watchword for Buick marketers. GM says the Verano, packed with loads of noise-reducing features, has a quieter interior than the Lexus or Acura.
Notable features: A 2.4-liter Ecotec engine is combined with a six-speed automatic transmission and will get an expected 31 mpg on the highway. GM says a manual 2.0-liter turbo is planned for the 2013 model. The Verano is built on the same platform as the Cruze. Other standard features to set Verano apart include Buick's new IntelliLink infotainment system with 7-inch, high-resolution color display and a Bose sound system.
What Buick says: "The goal from the beginning was a baby LaCrosse," Danowski says. "It's for people who don't need LaCrosse's size but still want the amenities and refinement."
The Market: Buick is targeting both ends of the buying spectrum: 20-something professionals, as well as empty nesters who may want to downsize but still get a plush interior and smooth ride. But Some Buick dealers worry about overlap in a lineup that has three vehicles that start under $30,000.
The Skinny: IHS analyst Aaron Bragman says the Verano "has the refinement and feel of a luxury car. It feels substantial." He adds: "Its success will depend on how well they can sell Buick as a luxury brand."