When the covers came off the stunning Buick Avista coupe concept at this week’s 2016 Detroit motor show, many Australians understandably started asking — could this preview a potential new ‘Holden Monaro’?
It’s understandable why the idea is a tantalising one. If General Motors was to green-light production, and stick more or less to the design led by Buick’s Bryan Nesbitt, it would have a stunning global counterpoint to its platform-mate, the Chevrolet Camaro.
But there are a few things counting against it, assuming some version of the concept car makes production at all — something that is far from guaranteed, as explained to CarAdvice this week by GM’s global design boss, Ed Welburn.
“This car was done as an ultimate expression of Buick design, the whole signature for the brand,” he said. “Is there room in the portfolio…? I would hope so.” Not exactly a green light, then.
But let’s go with the hypothetical that the Buick makes production, as a spiritual successor to the famous Riviera and Special. The odds of it making right-hand-drive production are slim, though not impossible, as we'll explain.
The concept is spun off the Alpha platform that supports the Camaro, and Cadillac the ATS/CTS. GM has shown reticence to make such cars in right-hand-drive, unlike arch rival Ford. Holden won’t get a Camaro to match the Mustang, so why would it get its hands on the Avista?
Buick, even more than most, is a left-hand drive brand. Its two focus markets are overwhelmingly China, and the US. The former doesn’t bode well, Automotive News pointed out pithily.
“China isn’t much of a coupe market. Considering that country accounted for around 80 per cent of Buick’s 1.2 million vehicle sales in 2015, conversations about Buick product planning typically start and end with China,” it said.
Will Buick make some sort of coupe like this, we asked Welburn?
“I don’t think we could make that assumption,” he replied.
On the plus side, Buick and Holden have an established relationship. The Melbourne design team penned the 2014 Avenir concept, which blew almost as many minds as the Avista. Furthermore, Buick and Opel share a number of products, rebadged for their respective strongholds. An Opel version of the Avista would be exciting indeed...
Typically, Welburn did bite at our bait and give us a sliver of hope to cling to. We asked him if the Avista — which sports a 298kW twin-turbo V6 — could handle a V8, like a proper Monaro.
“It’s a longitudinal rear drive, [so] a V8 would fit,” he said, smiling.
“If we were to build this car — it’s strictly a concept — I could understand why people could see it would be a Monaro,” he added.
The way we see it is this: were the Avista to make right-hand-drive production as an Opel flagship, Holden’s unique ability to source from anywhere within GM would make this a likely starter. But we won’t hold our breath.
A more likely Holden candidate (if GM listens to bean counters rather than its heart) is the rumoured Opel GT, an Astra-based coupe to rival the Ford Focus ST, and slated to premiere in concept form at the Geneva motor show this March. Holden has confirmed that one-third of the 24 new models launching by 2020 will be sourced from the Opel brand.
Meantime, the V8 performance car it has promised us beyond the end of the Commodore in 2017 is still expected to either be the Camaro — if RHD is somehow approved — or a super-limited run of the Corvette.