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Return of the Riviera?

GM trademarks classic name, but is it scheduled for a revival?

by on May.10, 2012

The 2007 Buick Riviera concept at its Chinese debut.

Despite its long absence, perhaps no Buick nameplate has better name recognition than the old Riviera, in its day one of the most widely celebrated of General Motors models.

The last model died an ignominious death.  But could GM be planning to bring the Riviera back?  The fact that the maker has filed to trademark the name suggests that just might be what it has in mind.  It could be a perfect fit in a brand that in the midst of a once-unlikely revival.

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And it wouldn’t be the first time Buick has dropped hints that the Riviera still has a place in the line-up.  A concept model was introduced in China, five years ago, generating significant praise.  But the timing couldn’t have been worse, coming just as GM started its head-long plunge into a 2009 bankruptcy.

Former GM Chairman Rick Wagoner with his counterpart from SAIC at the Buick Riviera debut.

There were some who thought Buick itself might vanish – along with the four other GM brands that didn’t survive the maker’s run through Chapter 11.  But that didn’t account for the fact that Buick had become one of the most popular brands in booming China.  And virtually everything with the Buick nameplate on it sells there.

The better news is that Buick has been rebounding in the States, as well, as the brand introduces new models such as the LaCrosse, Regal and Verano.

But what about the Riviera? Websites Autoblog and GMInsideNews point to the trademark filing as evidence that something may be in the works.  Of course, makers routinely apply for protection for names they may never use.  Ford has trademarked everything from MKA to MKZ for possible future use by Lincoln, for example.

But Buick officials have acknowledged during conversations with TheDetroitBureau.com that they want to add still more emotion to the brand, and few products could do a better job than the Riviera.  Indeed, Buick planners have reportedly been pressing top GM management to approve a new sporty coupe for more than a year.

The 2007 concept used the maker’s Epsilon platform, which means that with a go-ahead a Riviera “top-hat” could show up in Buick showrooms in reasonably short order.  And, of course, going with front-drive would not be a historical contradiction.

But other reports suggest Buick might want to go rear-drive with an all-new model.  That, says GMInsideNews, could push a launch out past 2015.

There’s also the possibility Buick might simply use the name to adorn another halo concept car for its current line-up of 4-doors and crossovers.

Whatever the final decision, Buick may reveal its intent in the relatively near future.

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