He predicts inconsistent sales while Buick continues working to shed its image as "a brand for older customers" and takes on the look and feel of "something much, much younger and more image-conscious."
If there's still an image of Buick as a dowdy, older-people's brand, it's not among younger buyers, Bowsher says. "People under 30, it's OK. The stigma is in the middle (age) group. I'm selling 20-year-olds Buicks right and left," he says.
Here are elements in Buick's makeover:
•Small vehicles, illustrated by the Encore.
DiSalle says that's not an overall brand aim. "I wouldn't suggest that Buick is about smaller cars."
Yet its most important new models are down-size, especially by Buick's traditional big-car standards. Encore is based on a subcompact car. Verano, loosely speaking, is Buick's take on the Chevy Cruze compact. Regal is midsize.
"It might be confusing to consumers," many of whom still regard Buick as a traditional, big-car brand, Kim says.
Particularly the coming Encore, which has been previewed on the auto-show circuit. Encore "is really, really small; based on the (Chevrolet) Sonic. It'll be incumbent on Buick to educate consumers on why this is a good idea," Kim says.
•LaCrosse, the only traditional Buick.
Sales of the full-size sedan are up, the average transaction price is rising, the version of LaCrosse with eAssist mild hybrid system is popular in import-loving California — what's not to like, DiSalle wonders.
How about: It took an average 72 days to move one off the lot last month, vs. an industry new-car average 53 days, says Ivan Drury, industry analyst at car-shopping site Edmunds.com.
And its biggest rivals seem to be other Buicks, eroding chances of stealing sales from non-GM brands. Shoppers who considered LaCrosse also seriously looked at Regal or Verano a combined average 26% of the time in March, April and May, Edmunds.com data show. Another 5% weighed LaCrosse against the leftover Lucernes still on lots.
Meanwhile, Toyota's Camry and Avalon combined — often referred to as "Japanese Buicks" — were considered by LaCrosse shoppers only 14.6% of the time, Edmund.com data show.
When people do cross-shop LaCrosse against Camry, the Toyota is "a formidable opponent," Drury says: Camry's price is thousands of dollars less, and its fuel economy is within 1 mpg of the LaCrosse eAssist mild hybrid.
Worse, Toyota shoppers generally don't see LaCrosse as an alternative: Fewer than 2% of Camry shoppers also considered it and an average 9% of Avalon shoppers did, Edmunds.com says.
Never mind Toyotas. Buick's challenging Audis, BMWs and the like, in Bowsher's view: "There's nothing but high-line imports in my (customer) parking lot. We're getting a swing at a brand new customer." The trick, he says, isn't so much attracting them, but providing the service and treatment they expect: "After we get them sold, we need to step up" the level of treatment.
Good news, and less-good news.
By using shared basics to create cars for those markets as well as North America — LaCrosse's interior was done in China; Regal's almost entirely a German Opel Insignia — costs are spread across more units.
But is each resulting car truly suited for each market? That's been the challenge of "world car" design: common enough to cut costs, specific enough to suit different markets and buyers.