Can the LaCrosse bring sexy back to Buick?

Posted by: Venessa Wong on November 25, 2009

2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS.jpg

Design thinking helped to shape Buick’s 2010 LaCrosse, it seems.

Seung-il (Sean) Lo, lead designer at GM’s Global Brand Strategy Studio in Warren, Mich. says the idea was to make the brand relevant to American consumers again-especially to young drivers. Buick’s prestige has gradually faded as other autos claimed greater market share. (In the first half of 2009, the top five best selling cars were: the Ford F-series, Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Silverado, Honda Accord, and Toyota Corolla.)

Lo, who has worked at GM for nine years, graduated from Korea’s Hongik University in 1995 and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. in 1999, both highly regarded design schools. He fell in love with sketching cars as a kid, but says (in the tone of a design thinker) that his role at GM now has more to do with strategy than aesthetics.

Today, most of Buick’s consumers are over 40 years old, but Lo, 39, wants to attract young professionals. The new LaCrosse was designed by teams not only in the U.S. but also China, now Buick’s biggest market, by far. In the first ten months of 2009, Buick sales in China jumped by 52% to 352,950 units. Sales in North America are only one-third this volume.

The design teams' user-centered approach, involving focus groups in both countries, resulted in a $27,000 luxury sedan that doesn’t look much like a conventional Buick at all. They preserved some of Buick's signature elements such as the waterfall grille and portholes, but reviewers flatteringly compare it to a Lexus. It has ice blue ambient lighting—inspired by jade—and is equipped with satellite radio, OnStar emergency and security service and other eye-catching technology. The six cylinder vehicle gets about 27 miles per gallon on the highway and 18 mpg in the city.

Lo says the company faces an uphill battle, but he is committed to understanding consumers' needs to rejuvenate the brand. “Americans like a comeback story,” he says.

Reader Comments

Louis2

November 27, 2009 11:23 PM

Give me a luxury car like the buick but with fantastic gas mileage over 30mpg and give me the option for fold down rear seats so I dont have to choose between a luxury car and an SUV/crossover.

Though frankly, I cant wait until the hybrid crossover comes out from buick.

My preference would be for a luxury car in the front but with more flexibility in the rear.

ps

November 30, 2009 4:25 PM

The soon to arrive Regal is also a head turner. The biggest issue is the Buick name having geriatric connotations. Too bad. If they stay the course (like Caddy) and dont re-invent themselves every 6 months (the GM disease) they have a shot. Lucerne LaCrosse and (soon) Regal positions them nicely.

Steve

November 30, 2009 4:35 PM

Looks like a slightly modified Camry; you might even be generous and say it is better looking than the Camry. However, let’s look at it from a buyers perspective – you can get a Camry for under $20K and with better gas mileage.

Not shown, the Buick LaCrosse CXS, the upscale version of the LaCrosse is $37.5K ...very pricy in today's market.

Jimmy

November 30, 2009 9:30 PM

This car is NOT your fathers Camry.

Srinath

December 1, 2009 4:02 PM

True, it is pricey for today's market, but I guess that's the appeal of a brand like Buick. I'd say the LacRosse is better poised to take on the market than other cars solely because of the brand. For example, Lexus is soon to come out with the LFA, which is touted by them as a spectacular machine. The catch though, is thats it is going to cost much more than a Lamborghine Murcielago. If I could shell out upwards of $500k for a car, I'd rather be seen in a Ferrari than a Lexus, nevermind the 'supreme driving experience'.

David

February 7, 2010 3:21 PM

love it. i would definatly buy this car. buick has turned around. id like to see a v8 pushing 350 hp though. rwd too.

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What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.

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