Is Buick America's most daring mainstream car brand?

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Considering Buick as an adventurous automaker seems a little odd at first thought. But with little fanfare over the last several years, the marque is transforming itself from a brand often associated with elderly drivers to a nameplate willing to take chances in niche segments. The gamble is already paying off with 2014 sales up 11.4 percent in the US to 228,963 cars. Given recent product launches, this experimentation is only likely to continue.

The key to the transformation at Buick is its willingness to explore the so-called white space, according to Automotive News; the term refers to niches in the market without rivals as a challenge. In addition, the brand's position in the near-luxury space means that its products are cross-shopped by a large swath of customers. Without having a specific competitor, Buick has more room to experiment within its segment. "Designers love designing Buicks because it's not a paint-by-numbers brand," said Andrew Smith, director of design at Buick and Cadillac, to Automotive News.

The company's strategy of going where others haven't is best exemplified by the Encore. The subcompact, luxury crossover came to market early, and Buick found serious success with it. The tiny CUV was the automaker's fastest growing model last year with a 53 percent gain and 48,892 units sold. With the test a triumph, the Encore recently got a sibling in the US in the form of the Chevrolet Trax.

The upcoming Cascada is taking a similar approach. The non-sporty convertible segment is practically empty in the US, and this slightly redesigned product from Opel has the opportunity to become a leader in its niche.

Of course, Buick's biggest recent surprise was the Avenir concept at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. The car's swooping shape and use of materials earned it two EyesOn Design Awards against some tough competition. While the company's intentions for this flagship sedan aren't entirely clear yet, the vehicle does "test some of the future design language that will come on the next generation of Buicks," according to brand boss Duncan Aldred to Automotive News, which is definitely something to look forward to.

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