Wednesday, January 20, 2010

First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse looks to breathe life into old brand

Make no mistake, the 2010 Buick LaCrosse is the most important vehicle launched by the brand in decades. Buick, nearly consigned to the dustbin of history a few short years ago, is now one of General Motors’ four remaining “core” brands. And if it weren’t for the Chinese market’s love affair with the marque, there’s little doubt Buick would’ve followed Oldsmobile into the afterlife. Instead, GM is attempting to (once again) refashion the brand as a serious competitor to Acura, Lexus and Volvo, and the LaCrosse is the opening salvo in the battle for hearts, minds and market share – not to mention pocketbooks.

Technically, the “New” Buick was born two years ago when the Enclave debuted, but in reality, that was simply a new segment for the brand. In contrast, the LaCrosse marks the initial transformation of Buick’s future. CEO Fritz Henderson has stated that new Buicks (and actually all GM vehicles going forward) must be more than competitive – they must be superb. They can’t merely match the competition, they have to surpass them in every quantifiable way. So the launch of the LaCrosse couldn’t be more fortuitous or fraught with risk. Developed before bankruptcy, bailouts and government intervention, the LaCrosse is what GM envisioned for the future of Buick over two years ago. But is it good enough to revive the marque? Time to find out.

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