Detroit Motor Show: Buick badge, Aussie pride

MEET the new rear-wheel-drive car designed in Australia – an affordable luxury sedan by Buick.

Just don’t go envisaging a Holden badge on it. Yet.

The Avenir concept is officially a one-off, a motor show head-turner, and one that doesn’t yet have a business case, so it’s not slated for showrooms in the US or even China, Buick’s biggest market.

But the vehicle sitting on a Cadillac platform “makes a design statement” that “shows where the brand is headed” and could be marketed as an Opel for Europe, a Buick in major markets and, possibly, a Holden here.

Not that Holden executives or Holden design boss Richard Ferlazzo will confirm any discussions have taken place.

But clearly if such a car were to be produced it would be perceived as a global car: “The type of car it is could be quite universal because it’s quite stylish,” Ferlazzo said.

GM executives are adamant the Avenir is a concept for now, but clearly there’s interest in bringing it to market.

“We’ll see what the reaction is, but judging by the reaction in the first few minutes here there’s a lot of potential,” GM president, New Zealand-born Dan Ammann said. “The Buick brand has a lot of momentum – and this is an interesting concept.”

There’s also some discussion about how the big Buick will drive. While the press kit accompanying the Avenir suggests it will use all-wheel drive, several senior GM sources told Wheels the concept was built on a rear-drive layout.

American executives are playing the corporate card with Australia’s involvement, saying only it represents a new design language for Buick, right down to the Chrysler-esque wing incorporated into the bold, upright Buick grille.

“Really, the objective is to make a design statement, show where the brand is headed,” Ammann said. “This gives you a pretty good indication of where we see design going with Buick.”

Mark Reuss, former Holden boss and the man in charge of product development for General Motors, said the Avenir is a design evolution for the Buick brand. “It’s a beautiful statement of what Buick should be,” he said.

The project started in 2013 and was led by the Australian design team in what General Motors design boss Ed Welburn described as a “unique collaboration” with designers at the brand’s design base in Warren, Michigan.

Alan Batey, another former Holden boss, praised the design team that led the project, adding there will “always be some Holden in me. It’s not by chance they were chosen to do this project.”

“It was certainly a great enabler, because we understand that kind of proportion,” Ferlazzo added.

Reuss said the Holden design team was a crucial part of the brand’s talent. “The car was built in Australia and the interior and exterior was a joint effort between the two studios.” He added the concept was built on the Omega platform slated for Cadillac.

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