In this exploratory piece, we discuss where the potential Buick Enspire could fit within the brand’s lineup, what vehicles it would compete with, potential pricing and other intricacies.
It All Starts With A Trademark Application
The speculation surrounding the Ensure name started when GM filed two trademark applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office — one for Envision and the other for Enspire.
Now, we already know about the Envision: the compact crossover has been on sale in China for a year as of this writing, and is rumored to make its way to North America in the second half of 2016. But the Enspire is a different story, since GM has not shared any details on a vehicle by that name whatsoever.
Now, a trademark application doesn’t automatically confirm plans to launch a product — in this case, a vehicle — by that name. But trademark applicants no longer frivolously attempt to register trademarks “just to have it” due to a requirement to prove to the USPTO how the applicant will use the mark in a real-world product or service. Even more interesting is the fact that GM filed both trademark applications for Envision and Enspire on the same day. So, keep all that in mind as we continue.
Where Would Enspire Fit In The Lineup?
Currently, Buick has two crossovers in North America: the subcompact Encore and full-size Enclave. The vehicles are doing rather well in the marketplace: in the first ten months of the year, Encore sales are up 35 percent to 55,918 units while Enclave sales are up a less eyebrow-raising 1.6 percent to 51,487 units, a respectable amount considering the age of the Enclave (the crossover launched seven years ago in 2008).
We already know that the compact Envision will join the lineup in 2016 in North America and fill in the space between the tiny Encore and huge Enclave, leaving room for one more crossover of midsize proportions to slot between the Envision and Enclave.
|Segment:||Subcompact CUV||Compact SUV||Midsize CUV||Full-Size CUV|
|Current or potential Buick name:||Encore||Envision or Anthem||Enspire||Enclave|
|GM platform:||G2XX||D2XX||C1XX regular wheelbase||C1XX long wheelbase|
|Potential length (in / mm):||170 / 4318||180 / 4572||190 / 4826||205 + / 5207|
|Potential starting price:||$25,000||$30,000||$38,000||$45,000|
|Opel-Vauxhall equivalent:||Mokka||Next-generation Antara||Unknown||Rumored flagship CUV|
|Key Competitors Based On Size|
|Mercedes-Benz:||GLA-CLass||GLC-Class (GLK)||GLE-Class (ML)||GLS-Class (GL)|
|Lexus:||vehicle not offered||NX||RX||vehicle not offered (upcoming)|
|Acura:||vehicle not offered||RDX||MDX||vehicle not offered|
|Infiniti:||vehicle not offered||QX50||QX70||vehicle not offered|
|Volvo:||vehicle not offered||XC60||XC90||vehicle not offered|
|Lincoln:||vehicle not offered||MKC||MKX||vehicle not offered|
|Key Competitors Based On Price|
|Lexus:||None||NX||RX||vehicle not offered|
|Acura:||Potential Acura crossover based on Honda HR-V||RDX||MDX||vehicle not offered|
|Infiniti:||None||QX50||QX70||vehicle not offered|
|Volvo:||None||XC60||None||vehicle not offered|
|Lincoln:||vehicle not offered||MKC||MKX||Aviator (rumored)|
“Ok, the crossover market is hot and all, but is there really enough room for four crossovers?”, you might ask. And we’d say that there is. Let’s have a look at the U.S. crossover lines of some other luxury brands for the sake of perspective:
- Mercedes-Benz: currently has five crossover lines. Take out the niche-market G-Wagen luxury offroad, and you’re left with four lines of crossovers that expand to six models, when you consider “coupe” variants of the base crossovers. The range goes from subcompact (GLA-Class) to compact (GLC-Class, née GLK) to midsize (GLE-Class, née ML) and then to full-size (GLS-Class, née GL).
- Audi: currently has three crossover lines that are rumored to expand to four, not counting upcoming coupe variants.
- BMW: currently has three crossover lines that, with their coupe variants, expands to five crossovers. With the addition of the forthcoming full-size X7, that will grow to four lines and six models.
- Even Lexus, with its rather outdated body-on-frame GX and LX SUVs, has four utilities in the family, as does Infiniti.
So yes, there is room for four Buick crossovers, as long as they are positioned correctly.
Think of it this way: Buick currently has three car lines:
- Compact Verano
- Midsize Regal
- Full-size LaCrosse
Follow the ongoing alignment of Europe’s Opel-Vauxhall with Buick far enough into the future, and we can see a Buick version of the Opel Corsa arriving in the not-too-distant future. As such, the four-crossover strategy would simply emulate the Buick sedan lineup from subcompact to compact and from midsize to full-size.
Key Enspire Attributes
Were it up to us, we’d position the Enspire as a midsize luxury crossover with these key attributes:
- Midsize crossover with two rows of seating for five occupants
- Generous cargo space is a must, though a third row with for two additional passengers could be made optional at the expense of cargo room
- Exterior length of roughly 190 inches (4,830 mm)
- A healthy amount of standard features and high technology
- Priced to start in the high $30,000 (we’d shoot for the $38,000)
- Key rivals: Lexus RX, Acura MDX
- Based on upcoming midsize and full-size C1XX platform shared most directly with new Cadillac XT5
The vehicle would essentially be Buick’s version of the Cadillac SRX, which is about to be replaced by the 2017 Cadillac XT5.
The Sweet Spot
Talk to those who have shopped the Encore and Enclave but did not buy one, and you will hear things like, “One is way too small and the other is way too big”. With the compact Enspire and midsize Envision, Buick would essentially be covering the sweetspots of the crossover segment while leaving the Encore and Enclave to cover the more drastic outlying segments.
Enclave Moves Up… Way Up
Based on the Lambda platform, the full-size, three-row 2016 Enclave has a starting price of $39,065. But the Envision and speculated Enspire would allow the Enclave to move upmarket not only in equipment, features and refinement, but also in price, increasing Average Transaction Prices (ATPs) and attracting new, more affluent customers to the brand.
In addition to expanding the Buick lineup, the Buick Enspire would also give GM’s Opel-Vauxhall brands a much-needed crossover range outside of the Mokka, currently the brands’ only CUV after the Antara was discontinued in 2014. The brands are rumored to get some crossovers jointly developed with Peugeot-Citroen, but those will only last for a single generation, if that.
For those uninitiated on Buick’s relationship with Opel-Vauxhall, GM is aligning the three brands into a pseudo-global marque.
Ultimately, the four-crossover strategy of Encore, Envision, Enspire, Enclave would allow GM and Buick to accomplish several objectives:
- Reach a significantly larger luxury car audience at the sweet spot of the crossover segments
- Increase unit sales volume
- Grow Average Transaction Prices (ATPs) to an an all-time high
- Compete directly in the biggest segments with its true market rivals, most notably Lexus and Acura
- Pump much-needed crossover products into Opel-Vauxhall product lines
We envision the Buick USP (unique selling proposition) of approachable/attainable premium/luxury vehicles to continue shining through this proposed four-crossover strategy by offering more for a bit less, while Cadillac takes the prestige luxury space.
But as academic as we can make it, all things related to the rumored Buick Enspire are simply speculation at this point, and we’ll just have to wait and see if any of this becomes a reality.