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Two General Motors cars due in showrooms next year must be hits to help the automaker turn around sales and pay back its debt to taxpayers.

The Buick Regal midsize sedan and Chevrolet Cruze compact face stiff competition and other obstacles to success.

GM is counting on the sleek-looking Regal sedan to claw out a new market for the once-stodgy Buick, now the official brand of bingo night at the senior center.

Buick has been absent from the tough midsize market since 2004, while the Cruze was recently put on hold because GM wasn't happy with how it drove.

Executives have high hopes that the Regal, much of it designed by GM's Opel engineers in Ruesselsheim, Germany, can help bring younger buyers to Buick, crucial to the brand's long-term growth. The median age of a Buick customer is about 68, but GM is targeting new models for those in their 40s and 50s.

Buick sales this year are down 33 percent from last year, worse than the overall U.S. market, which is off 25 percent.

Midsize cars such as Toyota's Camry, the perennial sales leader, are attractive to young families and baby boomers who are downsizing their vehicles.

GM has no margin for error with the Regal or any other new vehicle, said David Koehler, a marketing professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"Their success in the future is riding on these new launches," he said.

The Regal is designed to compete with the sporty Acura TSX, made by the Honda luxury brand, and the Volvo S60.

Pricing wasn't announced, but it will be between the mainstream midsize Chevrolet Malibu at $21,325 and the $27,835 base price of a larger new Buick, the LaCrosse, aimed at luxury buyers.

Koehler said even more is riding on the smaller Cruze, which must sell in larger numbers than the Regal because of its lower profit margins.

The Cruze will be targeted at younger, entry-level buyers, as well as those seeking fuel economy. It's supposed to get about 40 mpg on the highway.

source: indystar

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