Despite GM's best effort at putting on a straight face and telling the financial world everything's fine, the reality is that the collective brass at GM drank the grape Kool-Aid. While some parts of the company are in acceptable shape, other parts are literally on a financial respirator, and none are in such bad shape as Buick. If Buick is to avoid the same fate as Oldsmobile, it will have to design and build cars that ignite a passion for driving while reinforcing Buick's long-standing tradition of affordable luxury.

It's clear from Buick's current offerings that somewhere between the impassioned plea for strong product and the actual end product, Bob Lutz's dream of exciting Buicks has evaporated. The new LaCross looks utterly forgettable, and has the performance to match. There's nothing in the Buick stable that remotely serves as a halo car and you can forget about performance, too. Incentives are high, inventory is stagnant compared to industry standards, and the import brands are circling like sharks in the water. What Buick needs is a GNX.

Our '08 Buick GNX can be the first step toward bringing Buick back to its former glory, or at least make Buick a sustainable part of a combined Buick-Pontiac-GMC product channel. We've based it on the new Zeta platform, giving it a fully independent four-wheel suspension, rear-wheel drive, a six-speed automatic transmission, and a 400hp LS2. It could be built on the same Holden assembly line that currently builds the GTO; with a slightly more upscale trim than the GTO it would cost about $1,500 more.

That's a worst-case scenario, but if GM decides to build the Zeta platform in the U.S. (as it had planned until late-March 2005), Zeta-based Buicks could be more than just a limited-edition halo model. If the U.S.-built Zetas were a reality, Buick could offer a base-model LS with a 3.5L 250hp V-6 for around $22,000, a 5.3L 300hp V-8 in GS trim for $27,000, and the granddaddy of them all--the 6.0L 400hp GNX for a transaction price of around $33,000. If you want to spank Chrysler, that's what it's going to take price-wise and performance-wise.

And the turbo? Forget about it. A major redesign of an available V-6 or V-8 engine (needed for a turbo) would cost too much and drive the price right into the stratosphere.

Buick used to stand for affordable luxury. Today, entry-level luxury buyers seek out Chrysler, BMW, Lexus, and Infinity while Buick is relegated to rental fleets and retirees. GM can change that: take the rebates off the table, use the money to build the U.S. Zeta plant, and then price the cars right up front!