CHICAGO – General Motors Corp. will spend slightly more than $3 billion during the next five years to overhaul the Buick lineup, company executives say.

The investment includes the Buick Terraza minivan, which debuted last month at the Detroit auto show and the unveiling here at the Chicago auto show of the ’05 LaCrosse midsize sedan. However, the cash infusion does not include the Rainier midsize SUV, which went on sale in late 2003.

Bob Lutz: “Today’s Buick is something we want people to desire.”

The replacement for the LeSabre fullsize sedan, which will bow in early 2005 at the either the Detroit or Chicago auto shows, also is part of the lineup overhaul, says Bob Lutz, chairman-GM North America.

After making a splash in Chicago with the LaCrosse, Buick’s revival will make waves at the New York auto show in April, where the GM division will unveil a convertible concept called Velite, Ward’s learns. Several GM insiders confirm the plans

While Buick is profitable, GM is scrambling to reverse years of decreasing sales and market share by recasting its image, broadening its product lineup and expanding its appeal to younger consumers. “Today’s Buick is something we want people to desire,” Lutz says, noting the investment in Buick has just started to hit the marketplace.

“The Terraza was (a) very modest (portion of the $3 billion investment), because it’s basically a cosmetic makeover,” Lutz says. “It’s not a unique product for Buick. It (the products developed with the new investment) is what’s coming in the future. We’re talking all kinds of stuff. Some stuff that maybe Buick has never had before.”

Besides a replacement for LeSabre, Buick needs a more competitive offering in the cross/utility segment than the Rendezvous. Buick also lacks a performance car or a “halo vehicle.”

GM North America President Gary Cowger says vehicles likely to be added to Buick's portfolio are a rear-drive luxury car, another truck-like vehicle and an open-top car.

In addition to products, Lutz says the cash infusion also will be used for assembly plant upgrades and engineering operations. Buick investment is significant but less than the $4 billion Lutz says GM is spending to revamp its Cadillac luxury division.

bcorbett@primediabusiness.com