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General Motors Co.’s Buick brand said Friday it will introduce the Avenir sub-brand, representing the highest expression of Buick and will become the brand’s top trim.

Buick, which annually sells more than 1 million vehicles globally, said Avenir will include concept car-inspired models that will join its global portfolio for the 2018 model year. The GM brand will roll out Avenir — French for “future” — on three models globally in the next 18 months, spokesman Stuart Fowle said.

Avenir vehicles will include a three-dimensional mesh grille, large-diameter wheels, and trim finishes that are unique to the sub-brand. In the interior, Avenir models will feature special seat details, modern trim materials and Avenir script.

Buick said the Avenir sub-brand was inspired by the brand’s changing customer base, including quickly growing with female buyers and customers from competing brands. For example, 50 percent of the Buick’s customers come from other brands and are expecting “a high-end experience and premium quality.”

Buick said 90 percent of its Enclave SUV buyers already purchase one of the top two existing trims.

“Through the first half of 2016, Buick has been the industry’s fastest-growing major international brand, and Avenir is key to future growth and delivering on the high expectations of new customers coming to our showrooms,” Duncan Aldred, vice president of global Buick sales, service and marketing, in a statement. “Avenir will be Buick’s signature.”

Buick revealed the surprise Avenir flagship concept sedan in January 2015 ahead of press days for the North American International Auto Show.

GM has said it has no plans to produce the four-seater Avenir, but has used modern design cues from the Avenir’s grille and three-color red, silver and blue tri-shield crest in Buick styling. It also has used some elements of the head-turning Avista coupe concept, shown at the 2016 Detroit auto show, in the Avenir sub-brand.

Buick’s U.S. sales are off slightly through August, down 0.4 percent to 148,845 but globally sales have topped 900,000 and are up 20 percent from the same time in 2015. In its largest market, China, Buick had a record August and its sales through the month this year top more than 740,000, up 26 percent year-over-year.

Buick is taking a play from the highly successful GMC Denali sub-brand. GM has sold more than 950,000 Denalis since it introduced Denali on the 1999 Yukon. Denali now is offered on seven models. An estimated 25 percent of GMC retail sales are Denali and 29 percent of sales in August were Denali.

And Denali sales command higher transaction prices. A J.P. Morgan research note Thursday said Denali retail ATPs are $56,299. It estimated Denali retail revenue is about $6.4 billion, higher than the Land Rover brand and nearing Audi.

“Buick lives in a unique space in the market between mainstream brands and more expensive luxury brands. We’ve been seeing a lot of success with Encore bringing new customers up from the mainstream,” Fowle said in an email. “We think Avenir will give customers a natural step into our space if they’re dissatisfied with their luxury car purchase.”

Buick said additional Avenir details, product information and pricing will be announced later.

mburden@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2319

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