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Auto blogWed, 31 Oct 2012 16:21:00 EST
Buick is taking a gamble with its 2013 Encore. General Motors' near-luxury brand has enjoyed great success attracting conquest buyers to its larger Enclave crossover, but it has never offered something quite like this small CUV.
Very early signs suggest that the gamble might be working. According to Mark Reuss, President of General Motors, the automaker expected about 1,500 initial orders from its dealers for the Encore, but it's tracking closer to 9,000 units. Alluding to the fact that historically, Buick has shared similar products with GM's other brands, Reuss says that Buick dealers are "thrilled to have an exclusive." The automaker already markets almost identical models in other markets as the Opel/Vauxhall Mokka and Chevrolet Trax, but The General's other brands won't offer a twin to the new baby Buick.
The new Encore is based on the Gamma architecture that underpins the Chevrolet Sonic, and it shares the economy car's available turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine. With standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive, GM says its Encore will be pitted against competitors like the BMW X1 and Audi Q3, both of which are much more expensive but also much more powerful.
People are a weird sort. Even after registering over 70 recalls through the first three-quarters of 2014, General Motors saw its best Q3 results since Jimmy Carter was in the White House, registering over 2.4 million global sales between June and September on the back of strong results in the US and China.
US sales were marshaled by good results for GM's pickups, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, which bumped the manufacturer's truck market share to 35.6 percent, up nearly three points from Q1 2014. Buick has seen healthy growth as well, with the Encore dominating its segment for the sixth month running.
It was China, though, that really bolstered GM's sales, as the company's efforts to top last year's record-setting 3.16 million units continued apace. Small SUV sales saw massive growth, with Encore, Chevrolet Trax and Captiva figures jumping 90 percent in Q3. Brand-wise, Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick all saw sales gains in the PRC, with each recording double-digit year-over-year jumps. Cadillac sales alone were up 63 percent compared to the first nine months of 2013.
Buick may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of performance automobiles, but fans of the brand know what letters to look for. If you believe the reports, there's a new GNX and Grand National on the way, but in the meantime, Buick may offer more GS models to fill the void.
Currently, the Regal is the only model available as a GS (pictured above), packing the same 259-horsepower turbo four as the Regal Turbo but enhanced with key suspension, brakes and rolling-stock upgrades. As Car and Driver notes, similar upgrades could easily be applied to the Verano and LaCrosse, although maybe not the Encore or Enclave crossovers. Of course, Buick would still have to steer clear of Cadillac's Vsport line, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a little room to play.