Criticism of General Motors' choice to can the Pontiac brand while keeping Buick ran rampant in the days following the announcement last summer, but as the brand's new image becomes clearer, it makes more and more sense. After all, Buick does have some exciting new products in the pipeline, such as the European-influenced LaCrosse and Regal sedans.

However, with only four models currently in its fleet Buick definitely has room to expand. We know that a new compact sedan based on the Chevrolet Cruze will join Buick’s lineup by the 2012 model year, and back in May Buick confirmed that a compact crossover positioned below the Enclave would also arrive around this time.

Now, Buick marketing manager John Schwegman has revealed to Automotive News that a hybrid version of the LaCrosse is also possible. This model is under strong consideration for the 2012 model year, coinciding with a mild facelift of the standard LaCrosse as well.

Also expected for 2012 will be the production version of the sporty Regal GS concept unveiled back at January’s 2010 Detroit Auto Show. This model will come with a 255 horsepower four-cylinder engine, a sophisticated all-wheel drive system with an electronic rear differential, and a conventional six-speed manual as standard. A Regal wagon could also be launched around this time.

Cruze-based Buick compact sedan patent

Cruze-based Buick compact sedan patent

As for the new Cruze-based compact car, it will arrive as the 2012 Buick Verano and will be manufactured at either GM’s Orion Township plant in Michigan or Lordstown plant in Ohio.

Moving forward to the 2013 model year, Buick will launch the aforementioned compact crossover, which is expected to go by the name Encore. The Enclave crossover, meanwhile, will undergo a major facelift and receive a downsized 3.0-liter V-6 in place of the current 3.6-liter unit.

The current Buick Lucerne is expected to bow out at the end of 2011.

Sadly, there’s been no mention of plans for a new coupe model based on the Regal platform. A two-door version of the Regal’s European cousin, the Insignia, is expected to go into production and it’s hoped that this model could also be sold in the U.S. The model has been hinted at in the past and we even have a computer-generated rendering previewing the car, which you can view by clicking here.

[Automotive News, sub req’d]