Buick to end Verano production, sales in U.S.

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. will end production of its compact Buick Verano sedan in October, as the brand shifts its investment priorities toward the growing SUV market, the company confirmed Thursday.

The Verano, which debuted in late 2011 as a 2012 model and helped bring new customers to the brand with an entry sedan, is built at GM’s Orion Assembly Plant in Orion Township.

Sales of the Verano are down 11.7 percent through April this year compared to the same months a year ago. Verano sales last year totaled 31,886, down more than 27 percent from the year before.

“When we’re thinking about where we’re investing for the future, with the whole market moving toward SUVs, that’s where we want to put our investment,” said Buick spokesman Stuart Fowle.

No job losses are expected at the Orion plant due to Verano production ending, Fowle said. Workers in the plant and dealers were told about GM’s decision Wednesday, he said.

The Orion plant employs about 1,100 workers, including 950 hourly employees represented by UAW Local 5960. Representatives from the local union could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The Orion plant was idled as part of GM’s 2009 bankruptcy. It had been slated to close, but reopened in 2010 after the union agreed to significant labor concessions. A second shift at the plant was cut earlier this year due to sluggish sales of the Chevrolet Sonic and Verano.

Workers at Orion Assembly on one shift also build the subcompact Sonic and later this year will begin building the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, a 200-mile range pure electric vehicle that will be available nationally with a price of about $30,000 after a federal tax rebate.

Last month, GM confirmed it was pulling a planned $245 million in investment for an unnamed vehicle from the Orion plant in favor of it being built at GM’s Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kansas. Orion was to have added 300 new jobs. GM has not confirmed the vehicle, but analysts expect it will be a new small Cadillac SUV.

But it’s possible the Orion plant will receive a vehicle. In February, a German magazine reported GM would bring a new Opel battery-electric car, the Ampera-e, to the Orion. A GM spokesman then would not confirm nor deny the report. GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra announced in February that the five-door, five-passenger car would join the Opel lineup in 2017.

Fowle said 2016 Verano production will end late this summer and the company will run a short production of a 2017 Verano into October. The Sonic is receiving a facelift for the 2017 model year.

Buick builds a new version of the Verano in China, which will continue. GM has no plans to bring it to the U.S., Fowle said.

“We still see a lot of value in sedan segments, but the market’s going toward SUVs, so we’re aiming to be a little bit stronger there,” Fowle said.

The Orion plant employs about 1,100, including 950 hourly employees represented by UAW Local 5960. Representatives from the union local couldn’t be reached for comment.

Buick last year lowered starting prices of the Regal and Verano to boost sales.