DETROIT –Corp. didn’t need a federal loan to jumpstart its recovery, says Susan Docherty, North American vice president-Buick-Pontiac-GMC.
“We needed (the money) to finish it and bring to reality vehicles that haven’t come out yet,” she says.
Docherty makes her comments after the unveiling of the redesigned ’10 Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac SRX cross/utility vehicle at the North American International Auto Show here
The all-new LaCrosse sedan is the first vehicle using a new, lower-cost global midsize front- and all-wheel-drive platform created by collaboration between GM designers and engineers in the U.S., China and Europe.
Docherty says while Chevy and Pontiac buyers typically finance or lease a vehicle, “Buick buyers save for what they want and typically pay cash, so they buy even in a down economy. If (LaCrosse) was a $40,000 car, I’d be concerned. But prices will start under $30,000.
“We expect consumer confidence to get better by this summer, in part from the loans working to keep the auto makers going and from a new (White House) administration that has set economic recovery as a priority.”
The average age of Buick buyers was 70-plus a couple years ago. Today, the average Enclave midsize CUV buyer is 49 to 60, Docherty says. “And (the) LaCrosse now is aiming at 30-50 year olds who own a domestic or import car, have family incomes of $75,000 and have never given us a look previously.”
In doing so, the LaCrosse is trying to make the Buick brand relevant again. “We made some inroads with (the) Enclave, but our research shows consumers consider Buicks as old, boxy and sensible. We want them to know that now we aren’t,” she says, adding “sensible” means bland, not taking any risks.
Under its latest recovery plan, GM told the government product-development dollars will be focused on its core brands: Buick, Chevy, Cadillac and GMC.
But Docherty says it’s too early to tell if that means more Buick offerings are coming, as GM has promised to reduce its total number of models from 48 now to 40 by 2012. “In 2005, we had eight Buick models, now it’s three. How many will we end up with? We’re doing our homework on that now.”
Pontiac, on the other hand, will become a niche player. “We have nine models now, (and) we may end up with two or three,” she says. “We don’t know how many yet, but future Pontiac models have to be youthful, sporty – and cars,” which is the reason the Pontiac G8 ST sport truck won’t be offered in the U.S. next year as originally planned.
A Pontiac G3 version of the B-segment Chevy Aveo arrives this spring, while the Pontiac Torrent SUV is phased out in a few months and replaced by a GMC Terrain CUV later this summer or early this fall. The G3, approved when gas was at $4 a gallon, only will be offered a short time.
“It will be around for a couple of years, but we haven’t figured out all we are going to do yet,” Docherty says. “We have to provide full details of our recovery plan to Congress in the first quarter of this year. We’re working on that as we speak. Stay tuned.”