Not too long ago, no one would describe Buick as daring. But since last week at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, there’s been a growing hype for the brand. Though in fact, things have been changing for quite some time. Buick has introduced more than a few models consumers would have never expected the storied US brand to bring to market, including a compact crossover in the Buick Encore and entry-level luxury Buick Verano.
Buick says it will continue to play with this idea of “white space,” or the ability to introduce new product and design. Buick has emerged as a brand where General Motors can take a gamble on body styles and product niches rivals haven’t even discovered yet, or haven’t cared to.
The Buick Avenir is just the start, because sitting alongside the gorgeous full-size was the Cascada, a small drop-top that will come to market with zero competitors. It begins to make perfect sense for Buick. The brand sources its lineup from all over the globe and can experiment with what U.S. customers find attractive. The Cascada comes from Europe, the Encore was engineered in Asia and the Avenir was built from the ground up in Australia.
That multinational persona gives designers liberty to try different things, says Andrew Smith, executive director of design for Buick and Cadillac.
“Designers love designing Buicks because it’s not a paint-by-numbers brand,” he says. He points all the way back to the Buick Centieme concept crossover, shown at the 2003 Detroit show as the precursor to the popular Enclave large crossover.
Buick has cited Acura and Infiniti as its main competitors, but research has shown buyers cross-shop Buick with luxury and more pedestrian brands alike. This means rather than playing catchup with direct competitors, such as Cadillac scrambling to design a small crossover, it has the flexibility to explore many different avenues.
Automotive News had a chance to have a brief word with Duncan Aldred, Buick’s chief, and they popped the question: does this flexibility mean we will be seeing a rear-wheel drive Buick flagship via Avenir?
His answer? Maybe.
“It was more about wanting to make a big splash on the stand and to test some of the future design language that will come on the next generation of Buicks,” Aldred says. For now, he has higher priorities for Buick’s U.S. lineup. But he believes an Avenir-like flagship “could play a role someday.”
Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product, had a different answer: “I think the brand is absolutely ready for it.”
Maybe we should be ready to expect the unexpected from Buick in the future.