Buick will soon sport a new face. And that front fascia will be based on none other than the Buick Avenir concept, a large rear-wheel drive vehicle that itself has not been officially promised.
On Tuesday, Buick disclosed and Automotive News reported that the next generation Buick LaCrosse — due out in the second half of next year for the 2017 model year — will inherit the Avenir’s design. Further, that look will be fan out across the entire Buick line by 2018, creating a unified visage that is at once cutting edge as it is upscale.
The Avenir’s fascia is not a huge departure from the current Buick waterfall grille. But it provides an emblematic look with spears jutting out on both sides of the upper portion of the brand’s trishield insignia. Modifications to the front lighting assembly would include more forceful, yet elegant LED daytime running lights. Notably, the overall countenance would offer a broader presentation.
Jam, Glam & Slam to the US?
Last week, Auto Trends looked at Buick’s expanding line up, particularly its connection to Opel that will likely yield at least two new models. A third model is also planned, one based on the not-yet-released Envision crossover for the Chinese market.
Opel Adam City Car
Two more models may also make an appearance — a rear-wheel drive coupe based on Cadillac’s Omega platform and a possible third model from Opel. The third Opel model, however, could find its way to Chevrolet, but most likely will be sold by Buick. And that vehicle is the Opel Adam, a three-door city car that was introduced in 2013 and is consistently beating sales forecasts with strong month-over-month gains.
The Opel Adam would be a better fit for Chevrolet given its size. But, the Chevrolet small car line up is at its strongest yet with the Spark, Sonic and Cruze offering a 1-2-3 punch that the bow-tie brand has long wanted. Spark year-to-date sales through July are up 21.4 percent and it is also the lone model GM imports from South Korea. Although entirely different vehicles, Spark and Adam products sitting side-by-side in Chevrolet showrooms would dilute sales for both models.
For Buick, the Opel Adam does not seem to be a good fit at first glance. GM has been carefully transforming its premium brand to battle it out with select models from Acura, Lexus and Audi. And as BMW and Mercedes-Benz continue to push to the lower end of the market, Buick will be waiting. Cadillac, on the other hand, will maintain its luxury standards and push further upmarket.
Buick Adam, Opel Adam
There are two approaches that GM could take for Buick and Adam. The first would be to sell the hatchback as a Buick. That move would be consistent with what happens to Opel models when they arrive in North America.
A second approach would be to sell the model as the Opel Adam in North America as well. Just as Toyota has the Scion sub brand, Opel would stand in as the sub brand for Buick in North America only. No other models would need to carry the Opel name, just the Adam.
Adding another brand name is the last thing GM wants to do after shedding Hummer, Saturn, Pontiac and Saab following its 2009 bankruptcy and restructuring. Treating Opel as a sub brand would be a different approach and the Adam might be reserved for select Buick or Buick/GMC dealerships only.
Target: Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper
Internal wranglings aside, an Adam model under any name could find a loyal following, selling more models than the Fiat 500, but coming in below the Mini Cooper. Opel’s designers crafted a model that takes elements from both competitors such as the hatchback lines of the 500 and the contrasting roof of the Cooper.
Inside, there is room for four although as reviewed by Edmunds.com “…the rear seats in the Adam are as upright as dining room chairs,” providing enough room for children only. On this side of the Atlantic the 6-cubic-foot storage area is too small; folding down the rear seat solves that problem.
Jam, Glam & Slam
Opel put some funk and spunk in the Adam’s design, creating three trim levels: Jam, Glam and Slam. Multiple body colors, three roof colors, interchangeable dashboard and door panels and more than a dozen upholstery options allow shoppers to select a vehicle that suits them.
US-spec models would need something a bit more powerful than the current 1.2- and 1.4-liter naturally-aspirated engines, a problem immediately resolved by selling the larger engine with a turbocharger as is now available in Europe (Adam S). That 150-hp model is paired with a six-speed manual. Maybe save a slushbox for the standard engines.
If it were my decision, I would sell the Adam as a Buick, but offer it in limited quantities only. Make that model an Adam S and let its scarcity draw people to the Buick brand. That isn’t GM’s typical approach to the low end of the market, but it could provide two bookend halo models with the Riviera holding sway at the top end.
Photo copyright Adam Opel, AG.
The Buick brand is 110-years-old.
Until GM killed off Saturn, Opel was the product partner for the planetary brand. With Saturn out of the way, Buick has taken over that spot with its Regal sedan representing its current and only Opel-derived offering. Yes, you can make a case for the Buick Verano, too, which is based on the Chevrolet Cruze platform, itself based on the Opel Astra.
Tapping Opel for Buick
GM is not satisfied with stopping at five model lines for the expanding Buick brand. Buick had retracted to just three model lines following GM’s restructuring and will most likely add a sixth model as early as next year when a compact crossover slots between the larger Enclave and the smaller Encore. That would give Buick three crossovers and three sedans for its customers, but there are still product line holes to fill, namely coupes that might bolster the brand.
Fortunately for Buick, GM chairman Dan Akerson likes what its European Opel division is serving up these days and has mentioned two models that would look “awfully nice in Buick showrooms,” reports Automotive News. The two Opel-supplied models plus one luxury concept might someday bring Buick’s product portfolio up to nine models.
The Cascada shares its platform with the Buick Verano and would be an attractive although pricey addition to the Buick line. This 2+2 convertible has been positioned to compete with the Audi A5 cabriolet, but its current engine line up including a 1.4-liter four cylinder engine would likely have to be upgraded for the American market. Perhaps nothing smaller than a 2.5-liter four would be appropriate as might the 2.0-liter diesel engine currently available in the Chevrolet Cruze. The estimated cost of a U.S.-spec Cascada is about $40,000.
Chevrolet has the Spark minicar and Buick could get a minicar of its own. The Spark originates from Korea, while the Buick would seemingly be based on the Opel Adam, that brand’s answer to the Fiat 500. This cute, three-door hatchback is powered by a family of small four cylinder engines, seats four and is expected to be joined by a convertible model within a few years. Just as the Mini Cooper is a profitable vehicle for BMW, a Buick Adam might do likewise for GM.
Buick Riviera Concept
That Buick enthusiasts want to see the flagship Riviera return is a given. The latest Buick Riviera Concept was shown at Auto Shanghai 2013, and was jointly designed by Shanghai and PATAC design teams. It is a halo model with gull-wing doors and will at the very least provide inspiration for future Buick models. What would keep GM from investing in a high-end Buick? That would be Cadillac, its luxury brand, one with its own aspirations for a six-figure signature sedan. GM’s financial picture has vastly improved, but perhaps not to the point where both models would be supported.
Celebrating 11 Decades
GM has been touting Buick as a “modern luxury brand” in recent advertisements, muddling its position in the GM line up. Clearly, Cadillac is its sole luxury brand with Buick fitting squarely between Chevrolet and Cadillac. The brand is marking its 110-year anniversary this year and its future is certainly much brighter. Indeed, sales this year are up 16 percent, outpacing GMC and Chevrolet.
Our internal auto trends has Buick adding at least one coupe over the next few years. As progressively tighter fuel economy standards weigh in, the Opel Adam might be a fitting addition to the Buick line.
Photos courtesy of General Motors Company.