That might seem like a suicide mission, but Buick could be closer than you think.
First, after years of steady improvement, Buick tied Lexus in this year's J.D. Power and Associates' 2007 Vehicle Dependability Survey. The survey was based on cars sold three years ago and, since GM products have been getting better initial quality scores since then, there's no reason to think Buick can't reach its ultimate goal of squarely beating Lexus reliability.
Second, there's the Buick Enclave SUV. With each successive product introduction, Buick cars and SUVs have been getting closer to offering a no-compromise alternative to Japanese luxury. A few years ago, when GM executives said you could put a Lexus badge on the Buick LaCrosse and you'd never know the difference, that was a stretch.
Of course, you can't put a Lexus badge on the Enclave and get away with it either. But that's just because the Enclave is so clearly a Buick with dramatic lines and chrome vents on the hood. In comfort, quietness, ride and handling it leaves nothing to Lexus. And, as always, it offers more room for the money.
For Buick to be a true Lexus fighter, future Buick products will have to meet the standard set by the Enclave.
From now on, GM's design team in China will get a bigger role in the look of Buick vehicles. Buick is huge in China. In the second quarter of this year, while GM sold almost 53,000 Buicks in the U.S., it sold almost 75,000 there.
While Buick will be rounding out its line-up, it will remain mostly front-wheel-drive. Even in its new "Super" line of cars, the emphasis is on comfort rather than performance, and it's going to remain that way.