Could Buick’s Avenir Line Cannibalize Cadillac Sales?

We spoke with a Buick representative about the relationship between GM's luxury brands.

In 2017, Buick started upping its luxury game with the new Avenir subbrand. Avenir is to Buick is what Denali is to GMC. The Avenir name (which is French for “future”) originated on a gorgeous award-winning concept sedan that made a splash at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. Of course, it didn’t make it to production, but its name did in the form of the top echelon of the Buick brand.

Avenir in its production form began with the newly updated 2018 Enclave crossover. Since the availability of the Avenir variant began, it has accounted for a significant 35 percent of all Enclave sales. Next in line for the Avenir treatment is the LaCrosse sedan which adds luxurious features, a fancy appearance package, and a few bucks on the price tag to the flagship sedan.

Moving Buick further upmarket begs the question; is there a chance the Avenir line could cannibalize Cadillac sales? General Motors, of all brands, should be particularly gun shy when it comes to cannibalization after the bankruptcy disaster of the 2000s partially caused by selling basically the same cars across all of its many brands. To figure out how the two luxury brands will coexist in GM’s portfolio, we reached out to Buick Avenir representative Arianna Kughn.

“In general, we do not think Buick Avenir will cannibalize Cadillac buyers for a number of different reasons,” said Kughn in an email to The Drive. “First, the LaCrosse trim mix usually runs fairly rich. 87 [percent] of LaCrosse buyers purchase one of the top two trim levels and we’ve seen the average transaction price increase 12 [percent] within the last year. These two things alone signal LaCrosse buyers are willing to spend more to get what they want in a vehicle.”

Eighty-seven percent is a huge take rate for the top two trims of the LaCrosse which are Essence which starts at $37,295 and Premium which starts at $39,595 (both in front-wheel drive form). Adding an Avenir variant on top of those is sure to be a hit with the folks who are in the market for a LaCrosse since they’re clearly looking for as much luxury as they can get in a Buick sedan. “Knowing that consumers continue to gravitate to the premium trims and additional packages, Avenir provides everything these customers want in one package with a unique look that subtly tells others they have the best,” said Kughn.

So there’s definitely a market for fancy Buick sedans, but how does that relate to Cadillac? “When looking at the Buick competitive landscape, Avenir makes sense to stay competitive with our main competition, like Acura and Infiniti,” said Kughn. “The LaCrosse Avenir pricing overlaps only when comparing Avenir, the ultimate expression in Buick luxury, with base trims or minimally contented Cadillacs.”

In other words, the nicest Buick sedan available is about the same price as a comparable base Cadillac. The LaCrosse Avenir will start at $45,795 which isn’t quite enough to get you a Cadillac CTS which starts at $46,495.

“Lastly,” said Kughn, “Buick and Cadillac buyers are very different with differing priorities when purchasing a vehicle.” She didn’t specify any further, but it’s not hard to imagine the difference in a Cadillac and Buick buyer’s priorities. The Buick appeals to a, shall we say, more mature crowd? The LaCrosse Avenir is a traditional Buick in the sense that it’s a big, spacious, comfortable sedan that’s easy to drive and easy to live with. A Cadillac sedan like the CTS, however, is more of a sports sedan competing with European rivals. Not only is it more high-end in its design and amenities, but it’s more performance oriented with a greater focus on the driving experience.

Say what you will about Buick, but the brand has done an excellent job staying relevant by delivering what its buyers want like an abundance of crossovers, big, comfy land yachts, and even a genuinely fun sports sedan.