Designed and built in Australia by local Holden designers, the Buick Avenir concept has been revealed the night before the official opening of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.
Designed to be a proper Buick of the traditional fashion, the large coupe-like four-door sedan has the same 5.2-metre-long dimensions as the current Holden Caprice, and utilises rear-wheel drive (note: the original press release stated all-wheel drive, which GM withdrew), a nine-speed automatic, adjustable dampers and a next-generation (unspecified size) direct-injected V6 engine with cylinder deactivation technology.
Its large sedan exterior was headed up by Port Melbourne-based Martin Love, while its interior was the work of the 140-strong local design team fronted by Frank Rudolph, and the concept itself was built on our shores.
It is, however, claimed the Buick Avenir is not simply the next-generation Holden Commodore that had already had work started on it in Australia before the announcement that manufacturing would cease in 2017 along with the plan to design the next local large car. Rumours suggested the next Holden Commodore would be built off a large sedan platform primarily designed for a Buick aimed at the Chinese market.
GM Australia design director Richard Ferlazzo does, however, explain that while the brief for this concept started by the local design team mid last year was to create a stunning, flagship Buick for the next generation, the Avenir has clearly been designed both with global design cues and production in mind. The Omega rear- and all-wheel drive platform has been used, for example, which is shared with Cadillac and is expected to underpin the next-generation Chevrolet Camaro with a possible four-door SS (nee Commodore) spin-off.
Ferlazzo has been a big supporter of GM cars getting their proportions right, which includes a long dash-to-axle ratio, and the front wheels pushed as far forward as possible – both embodied in the Avenir, which runs 21-inch wheels and has a large, leathery interior that prioritises the same, sculptured design language as the exterior.
The interior also features mobile device wireless charging, 4G LTE connectivity with WiFi hot-spot function, and driver-recognition features that automatically sync infotainment preferences with the Buick IntelliLink system (dubbed Holden MyLink in Australia).
Buick is General Motors’ driving force into the thriving Chinese market, but it is also attempting a resurgence in its native country with a range of re-badged Opel products; such as the Buick Verano (sedan version of the Opel Astra hatchback), Buick Regal (Opel Insignia), Buick Encore (Opel Mokka) and, most recently and coming for its public unveiling at Detroit, the Buick Cascada (an Opel convertible of the same name).
Interior designer Frank Rudolph did, however, confirm that for the next generation Opel and Buick design languages would converge, rather than Buick simply being a re-badged version of an Opel as currently stands. President of GM Dan Ammann, meanwhile, has confirmed to CarAdvice that the US company will “leverage” rear-wheel-drive platforms across several model lines beyond Buick – opening the door to a Holden Caprice replacement.
General Motors’ executive director of international design, and former Holden design boss Mike Simcoe has previously said the local studio had the support of Mary Barra, who in January became the first female CEO of a global car maker.
“[GM design chief] Ed Welburn has been a strong supporter and there’s been a lot of speculation that when he retires, will the good feeling for Holden design run away or fall apart,” said Simcoe. “That’s not the case. The commitment now is through Mary Barra. The studio stays alive.
“This is not a sideshow anymore, we actually do have a design studio in Australia and it’s here to stay.”
Ferlazzo said one of the studio’s strongest cards to play is value, in terms of what the operation costs to run compared with the contribution it makes.
“The real skill set is in the production,” said Ferlazzo. “Our people are experienced in designing, executing a production car, and that’s where you make your money. The production cars are the cash cow. The concepts help you get there and [our work] reaffirms that, ‘Hey these guys know what they’re doing.’
“It means we’re adding value to the organisation. It’s not all about fun. It’s about demonstrating ability.”