Alfred P. Sloan would approve of Avenir.
Mr. Sloan, of course, was the General Motors CEO who created the concept of the annual model year change and planned obsolescence, along with the “ladder of success,” the alignment of makes within GM that allowed car owners to move from everyman’s Chevrolet to Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac, each make a step up the ladder.
More recently, of course, with Alfred long out of the way, GM pulled a couple of those rungs, as well as adding Saturn…and removing it. But even Sloan givethed and took away, with LaSalle as a budget Cadillac between 1927 through 1940. The lesson of LaSalle was that people don’t want to buy a down-market offspring of a particular make.
It’s one of the reasons Toyota pulled the plug on Scion. Its younger audience grew up and wanted to move up to a Toyota-branded model. No more Mr. Justoutofcollege. On the other hand, Honda, Toyota and Nissan successfully went upscale back in the 80s with whole new brands, Acura, Lexus and Infiniti respectively, and just this year, Hyundai promoted Genesis from model to brand. The jury’s just been empaneled on that one so far.
Meanwhile, General Motors grew the Denali trim line into a major sub-brand of its GMC truck division, and Denali has proven so popular that one in five GMC trucks rolling off dealers’ lots wears the Denali badge. So why not go back to that well again?
And so General Motors has, this time with Buick and a sub-brand called Avenir. French for “future,” Avenir will bring a “high-end experience and premium quality” that new Buick buyers are said to expect. Half of new Buick owners are coming from competitive brands, with a marked increase in female buyers. And with 90 percent of the Buick Enclave crossover buying one of the top two trim levels already, Avenir seems like a good idea.
“Through the first half of 2016, Buick has been the industry’s fastest-growing major international brand, and Avenir is key to future growth and delivering on the high expectations of new customers coming to our showrooms,” Duncan Aldred, vice president of Buick’s global sales, service and marketing, said in a Buick release. “Avenir will be Buick’s signature. The highest expression of the luxury experiences we’re delivering now and in the future.”
What this means in where the trim meets the body panels is a three-dimensional mesh grille, inspired by the Buick Avista concept car, plus “large-diameter wheels.” Inside, according to Buick, “Avenir models will enhance the brand’s quiet, inviting environment with unique seat details, modern trim materials and Avenir script identification.”
Specifics will be announced later, but essentially, Avenir becomes Buick’s Denali. And if that’s good enough for one in five GMC owners, it should be good enough for Buick.
We can even hear Alfred P. Sloan say, “Well played, Buick. Well played.”