A prime example was the car sitting alongside the Avenir on stage: the Buick Cascada convertible, which will join exactly zero competitors when it arrives in early 2016 as a sporty, front-wheel-drive droptop, likely priced in the mid-$30,000s. With the Cascada, Buick is yet again targeting "white space," marketing jargon that translates as vehicle positioning -- size, body style and price -- that no rival occupies.
The term also aptly describes the last two nameplates that were added to the Buick lineup: The Verano, launched in late 2011, sits alone as a premium compact sedan that starts in the mid-$20,000s, thousands below its competitors. The Encore small crossover, which arrived in early 2013, has enjoyed a two-year head start on a slew of diminutive crossovers just now rolling out.
"You could really argue that Buick is a white-space brand," AutoPacific Inc. analyst Dave Sullivan says.
Buick executives cite Acura and Infiniti as competitors in the near-luxury or premium space. But research shows that consumers shop Buick against a wide range of competitors, from mainstream to luxury. So rather than scrutinizing the lineups of archrivals, Buick has the flexibility to experiment with entries in ways that its sister brands can't.
For example, Cadillac chief Johan de Nysschen acknowledges the "obvious gaps in our product range" relative to Mercedes, Audi others. He's not able to drop, say, an electric vehicle or convertible into the Cadillac portfolio anytime soon because he's playing catch-up on core entries, such as a small crossover.
Buick's U.S. lineup also is benefiting from GM's strategy to more closely align the brand with Opel so that essentially the same vehicle can wear either badge and be sold in Europe, China and the U.S. The Encore, for example, was developed in Korea, is built on three continents and is sold across China, the U.S. and Europe (badged as the Opel Mokka).
Buick's U.S. portfolio "has become a nice way for GM to get incremental value from their global products," Sullivan says.