DETROIT -- Every car marketer wants to attract younger buyers. But few have more work to do than the marketing team for the 2017 Buick LaCrosse.
Buick says its current LaCrosse customer base has an average age of around 60. Survey data from research firms AutoPacific Inc. and Strategic Vision put the average at around 70. Either way, Buick hopes to persuade some younger people to take a look at its stylish redesigned sedan when the car begins arriving in showrooms this month, with loads of connectivity and a sporty ride for a large sedan.
The stakes aren't as high as they might have been a few years ago, when the LaCrosse routinely was Buick's top-volume nameplate. That distinction now goes to the Encore subcompact crossover, which outsold the big sedan nearly 3-to-1 over the first seven months of the year, an example of how consumers' tastes are gravitating to the versatile, SUV-like body style.
Still, owners of the current-generation LaCrosse, on sale since 2009, "love large sedans. They are committed to that segment," Molly Peck, Buick's marketing director, told reporters last month at a LaCrosse media drive.
Peck said Buick hopes to retain the 350,000 people who now own a current-generation LaCrosse, as well as turn the heads of owners of other large sedans, including the Toyota Avalon, Chrysler 300, Lexus ES 350 and Lincoln MKS.
Buick is betting on interior refinement and sophistication. Ron Arnesen, GM executive chief engineer, calls the redesigned LaCrosse the "quietest Buick ever." It also features a raised, "floating" console with electronic gear shifter that frees up storage below and massaging seats on the highest trim level. Connectivity features include 4G LTE wireless Internet and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which enables features such as Google Maps and hands-free texting.
Arnesen said the LaCrosse was engineered to be more fun to drive than most large sedans. A five-link rear suspension is standard. A high-performance strut front suspension system on higher trims reduces torque steer.
Arnesen, who oversees several of GM's midsize and large sedan programs, believes big-sedan sales will "stabilize" and could even rebound if gasoline prices rise. If the segment stays sluggish, though, rivals could decide to abandon it.
"If they get out," he said, "our plan is to have the best car left."