|By RICK KRANZ
AND DAVID GUILFORD
DETROIT - General Motors is considering a car for Buick's lineup that is smaller than the Regal and Century.
If approved, the car likely would not go on sale until about the 2007 model year.
A GM manager, who asked not to be identified, said Buick "has been looking for products in a number of areas, and that is one of them. But there is nothing approved. There are no funds committed" for the car.
Two industry sources said the projected annual sales for the proposed small Buick would be 65,000.
It would be developed off the global Epsilon architecture for mid-sized vehicles.
The architecture can be used to create a wide range of models, including front-drive sedans and convertibles and taller all-wheel-drive vehicles. The architecture's flexibility allows for six wheelbases.
So far, GM has announced that Epsilon will be shared by Chevrolet, Pontiac, Saturn, Opel and Saab. Worldwide, 14 models will be created.
The first vehicles to use the new architecture are the 2003 Opel Vectra and 2003 Saab 9-3. Due next year are the 2004 Chevrolet Malibu and Malibu Maxx, a long-wheelbase hatchbacklike vehicle. Also on the schedule is the 2005 Grand Am and a Saturn to replace the L series no earlier than the 2006 model year.
Long term, Buick will have a core portfolio of three cars and three trucks, "and other products will come and go," said a source familiar with Buick's strategy.
Under Buick's product plan, the automaker will add a sport-utility, the Rainier, in 2003. GM is scheduled to redesign the LeSabre and Regal in 2004. A minivan is coming no sooner than 2006. The Rendezvous will be restyled in approximately 2007.
What has not been decided is whether Buick's flagship sedan, the Park Avenue, will be replaced. Some minor styling changes are planned for the 2004 model year.