Buick teases a second concept in as many years. Will GM’s premium brand build it?
GM’s Buick marque finds itself in a unique position among premium brands. Its two closest domestic competitors for years were Mercury and Chrysler, but the former brand is now defunct and the latter brand has been demoted to common status. Chrysler now competes with Chevrolet and Ford, leaving Buick to go after near-luxury buyers who aren’t quite yet ready for Cadillac.
GM likes to call Buick a “luxury brand” but that honor belongs solely to Cadillac. What Buick does right is to battle the luxury brands at the lower end of the segment, by taking on models such as the Lexus ES, Acura TLX and Audi A3, to name a few.
Buick Sales Surge
Last month, Buick had its best July since 2006 as its sales rose by 8 percent. Buick sales year to date are up by almost 12 percent, outpacing GMC, Chevrolet and Cadillac. The subcompact Encore crossover utility vehicle and the Regal midsize sedan are providing the most significant lift for Buick. A redesigned Verano is waiting in the wings, what most certainly will help fuel sales growth moving forward.
The big money for America’s automakers has always been full-size pickup trucks and big SUVs, segments that Chevrolet and GMC represent well. Most dealers sell both Buick and GMC products, giving them a wide selection of trucks, SUVS and sedans to market.
GM, though, plans to continue to distinguish Buick from GMC by offering additional models. Apart from GMC, its five-vehicle line up is fairly thin and is in need of new product. We see the following changes coming Buick’s way through 2018:
Before GM’s bankruptcy, Saturn was the brand that was slated to source new product from Opel, GM’s European subsidiary. That soon changed when the new GM emerged with Saturn gone. Today’s Buick Regal is sold as the Opel Insignia and will continue to share its platform with its European stablemate.
Opel has another car that Buick would love to receive, but GM has been mum about its North American release. And that vehicle would be the Opel Cascada, a beautiful 2+2 convertible that some in GM management have insisted will not be imported.
Well, last December Opel registered a pair of names with the US Patent Office: Cascada and Calibra as reported by Motor Trend. The Cascada rides on the same platform that underpins the Buick Verano. The Calibra could serve as a two-door Regal. If it came down to one or the other, the Cascada would seem to have the edge.
The Buick lineup has two crossovers: the subcompact Encore and the much larger Enclave. The gap between the two is filled by the GMC Terrain and Buick is not getting a variant.
What Buick may get is the Envision, a small crossover designed and built for China’s market. Based on an all-new platform, the Buick Envision would fill the slot between the Encore and Enclave and would be separate from the GMC Terrain. GM hasn’t committed to a US introduction for the crossover, but it seems likely that we’ll see such a model.
Riviera Luxury Coupe
Cadillac may have the luxury market, but Buick most likely will be given its own slice when the Riviera coupe bows in 2018. The vehicle remains unannounced and its future is tied in with the destiny of the full-size, rear-wheel drive Cadillac LTS that has been rumored for several years, but is expected to debut by next April in New York.
The LTS will ride on GM’s new Omega platform. That platform will underpin other GM products, but it will not produce a host of badge-engineered models. Instead, the Riviera would be sold as a coupe and have shorter overhangs if not a shorter wheelbase. The style may be based on the Buick Riviera concept that made its debut at the 2013 Shanghai Auto Show.
An Expanded Model Line
Three new models would bring Buick up to eight, giving the brand a much more significant footprint in the premium market. Buick plus Cadillac would also give GM a strong 1-2 punch among premium and luxury vehicle shoppers with the combined sales of the two brands outpacing Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus, for customer sales.
A monthly gathering of car enthusiasts in Cumberland County, NC.
What a difference a day makes. Friday was wet and cold, with snow mixing in at times. Saturday started off cool, but quickly warmed up with an assortment of cars descending upon Millstone Town Centre for Cars and Coffee Fayetteville (NC), a monthly gathering of car enthusiasts and their rides.
I was joined by my two teenage sons, Thomas and Andrew, lured out of bed early with the promise of breakfast on the road and a few bucks for helping Dad out with pictures and notes.
Taking us there and back was a 2014 Dodge Durango Limited, a weekly loaner with generous amounts of room and ample power for the 160-mile round trip. It was our first visit to the Fayetteville event, sandwiched between one in Cary the first Sat. of the month and a new Raleigh event starting up this month, next Sat. to be precise.
Cars and Coffee Fayetteville
The Fayetteville gathering meets faithfully on the second Saturday of each month, year ’round. It is a small group of enthusiasts numbering 80 to as many as 100 during some months. If a special event is going on, such as a car-related movie, the numbers swell to more than 200. On Sat., fewer than 50 cars were on the lot, an assortment of classic Volkswagens, sports cars, tuner models, and one Fisker Karma.
Jessica Hullender organizes the Fayetteville group and spoke with Auto Trends briefly. The group started gathering about five years ago, composed mostly of friends of the original organizer. Unhappy with its low turn out, the responsibility for planning and managing the event was turned over to Hullender, a business manager with the Cumberland County Public Library. She launched a Facebook page to help spread the word and the crowds began to grow.
When asked, “What makes this event cool?,” Hullender replied, “Everyone here is really cool with each other and they love checking out each other’s rides. It doesn’t matter what they have and that’s something pretty neat here.”
Need for Speed Movie Event
Next Sat. (March 15, 2014), an extra Cars and Coffee gathering will be held at the Fayetteville location. As usual, the lot will begin receiving cars at 9 a.m.
Instead of continuing until noon, the group will stop early to take in a special 11 a.m. showing of the “Need for Speed” movie at the Millstone 14 theater where the monthly meet is held. Cars and Coffee Fayetteville has arranged for a special screening and discounted ticket pricing. Other special events are planned from time to time.
All photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.
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.
Buick just cannot lose the Riviera model name. No surprise there as the Buick Riviera is one of the most heralded appellations in the Buick brand’s 110-year history.
Auto Shanghai 2013
At Auto Shanghai 2013, Buick took the wraps off of the latest iteration of a Riviera concept, what Buick says is a “preview of Buick’s future design language.” If it is, you can expect to see big changes in future model designs perhaps encompassing models such as the LaCrosse, Regal and Verano sedans.
The Buick Riviera concept, however, is a coupe and its designers say that it was inspired by the dynamic nature of water. Running water, to be precise. GM’s Shanghai design team and the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC) jointly designed the concept, taking inspiration from the Chinese saying: “The greatest good is like water.”
Said Ed Welburn, GM vice president of global design, “Riviera is a design study of the future expression of Buick design with its elegant athletic shape, sculptural beauty, and precision execution.” Welburn also stated that the Riviera design points to future Buick products, its technologies to grace those models as well.
Gull-Wing Buick Riviera
But it is still a concept and that means that despite the dazzle, we may not see certain characteristics on a production model including its gull-wing doors. Or its front floating seat design. Then again, its four-wheel steering, electromagnetic-controlled suspension and air spring package could very well roll out. As might its 4G LTE networking capabilities.
Safety is also a feature of this dream model as 10 high-resolution cameras and 18 micro high-precision sensors collect traffic information and employ distance monitoring respectively. The information is then displayed in a holographic image onto the windshield. Futuristic shades of Star Trek, eh?
Buick Riviera Concepts
So, why the infatuation with Riviera name? Its style, mostly. Unlike virtually everything else that Buick was producing, the Riviera fairly consistently presented a look that combined sportiness with flair, a halo model of sorts that gave car shoppers a reason to give Buick a closer look. An anti-Roadmaster of sorts.
Produced from 1963 to 1999, the Riviera’s absence has been felt even as Buick tries to breathe fresh life into this premium brand. Some have seen that fresh life coming from Opel, supplier of the current Buick Regal and builder of the Cascada, itself marked possibly as a future Buick Riviera model for North American consumption.
Photos courtesy of General Motors Company.
GM’s Buick brand will get two new redesigned models later this year as both the larger LaCrosse and midsize Regal sedans will drop cover this month at the New York International Auto Show. Buick sales continue to rise, the average age of Buick owners is falling and the brand has reversed its stodgy image. Thats the kind of trifecta GM had sought for when Buick was extended a lifeline in 2009.
Still, there is more work to be done including bringing to the line a fresh and invigorating model that can point both to the brands past glory and its promising future. That model may have made its debut this week at the Geneva Auto Show in the form of the gorgeous Opel Cascada convertible.
Yes, the Opel Cascada should be welcomed as the next Buick, an exciting and attractive 2+2 cabriolet that sits on the same platform underpinning the compact Buick Verano. The similarity ends there as the Cascada features a folding soft top roof, a 1.6-liter turbocharged gasoline engine and, soon, a 2.0-liter diesel. FlexRide, Opel’s adaptive suspension system that improves ride quality can car handling, would be a welcome addition too.
And as Automotive News has pointed out, the new Opel is also an expensive one retailing from $32,500 in Europe. Get it ready for the US market and we could see its price top $40,000, fueling rumors that we are looking at what may become the Buick Riviera. Probably not instead, the Cascada name could be retained with Buick reserving the Riviera for an even larger coupe that would not debut much before 2020. Cascada, by the way, is Spanish for waterfall.
Buick has been a success story for GM post-bankruptcy and recovery, defying predictions by some that the brand would not survive. Those calls came in part from Pontiac faithful, enthusiasts that were still ticked off and stunned that Buick was saved and Pontiac sent to the vehicle marque ash heap. Many Pontiac faithful have since moved on to other GM brands, but not a small number left the generals fold entirely. They just couldn’t see themselves buying a Chevrolet or settling for what until recently has been a paucity of Buick product.
Looking ahead, Buick and Cadillac are providing the pincer movement GM needs to gain a stronger foothold among premium and luxury buyers. GM marketing calls Buick a luxury brand but that title should be reserved for Cadillac alone. There is no shame in premium brand status, something that Acura has successfully harnessed and GM may achieve through new product introductions and updates. Include the Cascada in the Buick mix and you just may introduce the brand to a new generation of car buyers.
Photo courtesy of the General Motors Company.