General Motors is offering a “preview of Buick’s future” with the new Riviera concept vehicle it is debuting at the Shanghai Auto Show.
The decision to reveal the futuristic coupe in China is a proverbial “no-brainer” considering that China is the GM brand’s largest market and, senior officials suggest, the key reason why Buick survived the 2009 GM bankruptcy.
The sleek show car was, in fact, developed by PATAC, GM’s Shanghai technical center, and could very well portend the eventual return of the Buick Riviera nameplate, one of the most celebrated models in Buick’s 110-year history.
“The new Riviera offers a preview of Buick’s future design language,” suggested Shanghai GM President Ye Yongming.
The monochromatic blue Buick Riviera show car is low, squat and menacing, anything but the stodgy box that many Americans still associate with the brand. Powered by a plug-in hybrid propulsion system, it features a more refined version of the marque’s familiar waterfall grille framed by minimalist LED headlamps and distinctive, blue-tinted LED accent lights.
The electrically operated door handles are hidden and cameras replace conventional rearview mirrors. The gullwing doors are reminiscent of an earlier Buick Riviera concept that was shown in Shanghai in 2007.
For his part, GM’s global design chief Ed Welburn cautioned that for now, at least, the Riviera “is purely a concept, but I’ve got to tell you, through the development of this concept there is a lot that will have a significant influence on future Buicks.”
While the gullwing doors aren’t expected to make it into production, Wellburn suggested the more modern grille likely will show up on future production models.
And the PATAC technical center will likely play a role in integrating that grille into those next-gen Buick products. China has had an increasing influence on Buick design over the last few years, especially on larger models like the LaCrosse.
Ironically, industry analysts say Chinese buyers often want even more luxury features than U.S. customers, especially when it comes to the rear seat. That reflects the fact that a sizable percentage of vehicle owners in that country still like to be chauffeured rather than driving on their own.
GM itself is in a bitter battle with Volkswagen for dominance in the Chinese market. Buick is one of the U.S. maker’s critical weapons.
Overall, GM sold 2.8 million vehicles in the booming Chinese market last year, with sales surging 9.6% during the first quarter of 2013, year-over-year, to another all-time record of 816,373. Buick, meanwhile, finished last year with a 4.95% share of the Chinese market – sales rising 8% to 700,007 — and a target of boosting volume there to 2016 by 2016.
The debut of the Buick Riviera Concept will clearly trigger renewed buzz about whether the once wildly popular nameplate might be coming back. It was a consistent trend-setter, especially in the early years after its 1963 launch, and continued in production through 1999.
Tags: 2013 shanghai auto show, 2013 shanghai motor show, auto news, buick china, buick design, buick grille, buick news, buick riviera, buick riviera concept, buick riviera shanghai, buick shanghai, car news, ed welburn, gm news, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, thedetroitbureau