Buick Seeks Younger Drivers With New Cascada Convertible

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Buick, seeking to shed its image as a maker of big sedans for retirees, is introducing a convertible called the Cascada in the U.S. market.

General Motors Co. will reveal the full-sized convertible, its first such car in 25 years, at the Detroit auto show today. The new vehicle will offer a lower-priced competitor to Volkswagen AG’s Audi’s A5, said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Buick. While Buick hasn’t disclosed the price, the Audi A5 starts at about $40,000. Buick sees the Cascada as part of an effort to replace a staid image with something more modern, even though it anticipates lower sales volume given the type of vehicle, Aldred said.

“It’s designed to generate excitement for the brand,” Aldred said in an interview. “Our advertising has challenged the old perception of what people think the Buick brand is. That gives us an opportunity to bring in a car that can act as a halo to the brand.”

Buick’s recent television ads have poked fun at how drivers view the brand. In one spot, an elderly woman points at the LaCrosse sedan and says, “sure doesn’t look like a Buick.” At the end of the ad, a voice says, “Five expectation-shattering models from Buick.”

The Cascada, Buick’s first convertible since the Reatta, will seat four and comes with a 200-horsepower turbocharged engine and a Wi-Fi hotspot. As a so-called 2+2 seater, the two rear seats will be small, making it more of a fun purchase than a practical vehicle.

‘Good Move’

The car may help reinvigorate the brand, said John Wolkonowicz, an independent automotive analyst in Boston. And since GM already sells an Opel Cascada in Europe, it’s easy to add the car to the lineup and sell in the U.S.

“It’s a good move,” Wolkonowicz said in a phone interview. “They won’t sell a lot of them, but it’s an image builder and since Opel sells the car, it’s not an expensive thing to do.”

Aldred declined to say if Buick will sell the model in China, where the brand sold 919,582 cars last year, a gain of 13.5 percent, according to a GM statement. Buick sales grew 11.4 percent in the U.S. to 228,963 cars and the brand sold 1.2 million vehicles globally.

Buick also showed off the Avenir concept car, a long and curvaceous luxury sedan that would be the brand’s centerpiece if GM builds it.

The car is meant to show Buick’s future design direction. GM could build the car, said Mark Reuss, executive vice president of global product development.

“It’s feasible,” Reuss said. “We’ll gauge reaction and decide from there.”