The 2012 Buick LaCrosse will be first with eAssist – Would you buy it?

Posted: January 22, 2011 in Buick, General Motors, Opel
Tags: , , , , ,

The 2012 Buick LaCrosse will come with an eAssist option package that is a pretty trick piece of engineering.  It starts with the combination of GM’s 2.4 liter 4-cylinder Ecotec direct gas injection engine and a Hydra-Matic 6-speed automatic transmission, then eAssist is added.  Here’s GM’s description of the system:

The eAssist system is a bundle of technologies that includes a lightweight and compact 115V air-cooled lithium-ion battery pack, integrated power inverter and 12V power supply—mounted just in front of the trunk but having a minimal impact on the trunk’s cargo space and still allowing the use of split-folding rear seats—and a liquid-cooled electric motor-generator attached to the LaCrosse’s engine in place of a standard alternator. Working together, this hardware delivers:

  • Enough regenerative braking power to provide up to 15 kW of electricity for charging the LaCrosse’s battery pack.
  • The ability to add up to 11 kW (15 hp) of electric power assistance when the car is accelerating.
  • Automatic engine shut-off functionality when the vehicle is stopped.
  • An aggressive fuel cut-off system that kicks in during deceleration.
  • Intelligent charge/discharge functionality for its high-voltage battery pack.

GM says the Buick LaCrosse eAssist will start at about $30,000 and is projected to get 25 mpg city, 37 highway. That’s damn good fuel economy for something best described as a “mild hybrid.”  Those figures are easily in diesel territory and the price is cheaper than a full hybrid.

My problem:  The Buick LaCrosse, based on the Opel Insignia, is a terrific car, loaded with technology but handicapped by too much bling and fake plastic wood. The Buick nameplate (in the US market) is tarnished from decades of neglect and abuse as part of GM’s notorious divisional system where crappy products ruled the day.  The average age of a Buick driver is now 65, down from 72 and the average age of a new Buick customer is 61 down from 64.   From the LA/So Cal perspective, I’d say those numbers are low and I don’t know anyone who wants to buy a Buick LaCrosse or Regal.  No one.

In Palm Springs, they still sell Buicks by adding landau tops and gold trim packages for the retired folks.  I claim no scientific sampling, but it seems that the Buick drivers in the desert cities are easily in their 80s.  In LA, Buick is still an airport rental. Note to GM: The constant dumping of these cars into rental fleets sucks the life out of retail sales.

I don’t have a good answer for this conundrum.  With Saturn, Oldsmobile and Pontiac gone, GM’s only “luxury” front drive brand left is Buick. I’d love to see the technology re-engineered to work on a rear-drive Cadillac, but I don’t think the “new GM” is willing to invest in that direction.

Yes, I admit Buick sales are “way up” but when you start from such a low number and dump two fresh new models into the market, the only direction to go is up.  It still boggles the mind that the Chinese think Buick is a super-premium brand — that’s the only reason Buick survived the bankruptcy. But it has a long way to go to attract U.S. buyers who aren’t on their last car.

Check out the video and see if you’d consider the 2012 LaCrosse with eAssist technology.

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