NEW YORK – The Super LaCrosse will be the first midsize Buick with a V-8 engine since 1987, says Buick General Manager Steve Shannon at a press unveil here.

Precise engine specifications were not revealed, but Shannon says the engine will generate more than 300 hp for what will be the most premium midsize Buick to date.

The sedan will go on sale in late summer or fall 2007, Shannon says, with larger tires and a suspension tuned for more nimble handling.

Based on the Velite concept vehicle that debuted in 2004, the Super LaCrosse has different front and rear body styling, with four portholes on each fender to denote V-8 power.

Shannon expresses confidence the Super LaCrosse and the Enclave cross/utility vehicle, scheduled to go on sale next spring, will help Buick sales.

But Buick is not targeting the kind of volume it enjoyed some years ago when sales ranged between 500,000-600,000 units annually. “That kind of volume is not in the cards for Buick now,” he says.

The Buick chief also says there will be no big expansion in the brand’s product portfolio. “Six to eight models is also not in the cards for us.”

Shannon says a portfolio of four or five models is a comfortable range for the brand (there currently are six models in the showroom). “Buick can be profitable in the (sales) range where we are now,” he says.

Overall volume likely will be down for Buick this year, he admits. “But retail sales will be up.” This is in keeping with GM’s commitment to reduce total fleet sales by 100,000 units. Buick’s share of that total has not been made public.

Value pricing has been positive for Buick, Shannon says, noting Buick’s residuals have gone up 1%-2% and incentives are significantly lower.

“Dealer reaction to this has been positive,” Shannon says. “We can’t be the incentive leaders.”

Shannon brushes away talk GM will drop the Buick and Pontiac brands, saying GM is totally committed to all eight brands. But he acknowledges Buick and Pontiac dealers are frustrated by such rumors.

Despite that, dealers are starting to ramp up a switch to a new facility design for Buick.

The brand has 2,600 sale points, of which 130 are exclusive Buick dealers. There are 800 stores that sell Pontiac, Buick and GMC brands. Another 1,500 stores sell a fourth brand, as well.

Shannon says in three to five years, stores that sell Buick, Pontiac and GMC brands will handle the vast majority of sales volume for the three brands. He does not have a target date for this to happen.

Shannon also says there is no conscious effort to reduce dealer points. He says small dealers in rural locations add strength for GM and that import brands are increasingly opening new sales points in heartland locations.