Report: GM plans to kill Buick Verano sedan next year – USA TODAY

General Motors is planning to discontinue sales of an upscale midsize sedan, Buick Verano, in the U.S. next year, according to media reports, as Detroit’s automakers continue to pare back passenger car production in the U.S. and place a greater emphasis on crossovers and SUVs.

GM will to continue to produce and sell a new version of the Verano that debuted last year in China, but will stop selling the older version of the Verano in the U.S. next year, according to a report by Automotive News. The plan is part an overall shift in resources towards the development and production of crossovers and away from cars.

Buick spokesman Stuart Fowle called the report “speculation.”

“We have no plans to announce regarding the future of that model. We’re focused on selling the car we have in showrooms today,” Fowle said.

The plans raise further questions about Orion Assembly, which produces the Chevrolet Sonic and the Verano. GM laid off about 500 workers at the plant last fall as it eliminated a shift. GM is investing $245 million at that plant and said last year it would hire 300 people to build the new Chevrolet Bolt electric. Production of the Bolt is expected to begin later this year.

The Verano debuted in 2011 when gas prices were higher and premium brands were rushing to introduce smaller, lower-priced cars as a way to entice buyers to their brands. At the time, the Orion Assembly plant was held up as a model for how the Detroit Three could produce small cars in the U.S. and still make a profit.

But low gas prices, attractive designs for new crossovers and the improved fuel efficiency for crossovers has changed the landscape. Sales of passenger cars are falling and automakers are struggling to keep up with demand for small and mid-sized crossovers.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is phasing out production of its Dodge Dart compact car and its Chrysler 200 midsize car so it can increase its production capacity for Jeep SUVs and Ram pickups. Meanwhile, Ford has said it will no longer produce its Ford Focus compact car in the U.S. after 2018.

Last year, as the U.S. automotive industry recorded its best year ever, sales of the Verano fell 27% to 31,886.

Meanwhile, Buick’s compact Encore crossover now serves as the brand’s most effective entry-level offering. Sales of the Encore rose 38% in 2015 to 67,549 and it has become Buick’s most popular vehicle. Buick unveiled an updated version of the Encore at the New York Auto Show in March.

Sales of the Encore and the larger Enclave crossover now account for about 60% of Buick’s sales and are turning the General Motors premium brand into more of an SUV and crossover brand than a car brand.

This summer, Buick plans to introduce the Envision, a crossover it will import from China, in the U.S.

Duncan Aldred, vice president of Buick sales, said in March that he expects sales of crossovers to account for 75% of Buick’s total sales after the Envision is introduced.

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