This is a very interesting, and potentially very shrewd move by Buick. In a certain way, they’re taking a page from Honda, Nissan, and Toyota’s playbook circa late-80s and are rolling out a high-end luxury brand-within-a-brand much like Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus. And all signs point to Buick going worldwide with this plan.
First, there’s something of a wider focus to consider here. Remember back in 2010 when GM folded up the tent for Pontiac? And people were saying, “Why? Why kill Pontiac? Why not kill off Buick instead?”
Funny thing is, I had the opportunity to ask a GM rep that very question because I was writing for another publication at the time.
Evolving Customers, Luxury Concepts
“The answer was simple,” he said with a sigh, but without even hesitating. “China.” It was off the record for background info, but he went on to elaborate: “Look, I’m with you. I’ve got an old GTO myself, but you have to understand that GM sells more Buicks in China in a month than Pontiacs in America in a year. The Chinese market loves Buick products.” It was a sad, but understandable rational, and I had to agree with him.
Now, dovetail that info in with this quote, the first line actually, from Buick’s statement concerning the upcoming Avenir sub-brand: “Concept car-inspired models will join global portfolio in 2018 model year.”
The word you want to pay attention to is global. To me, that might as well be synonymous for “China.”
I’ll quote Buick directly, but focus on the terms in bold: “Across continents, a growing set of new customers are discovering unexpected and attainable luxury experiences from Buick. Soon, those customers will be introduced to a new Avenir sub-brand designed to grow with the needs of future luxury buyers. The Avenir sub-brand is inspired by Buick’s evolving customer base.”
Based on my experience, the bolded words equal the Chinese market. And the other tell is the phrase “needs of future luxury buyers.” It seems one of the things that drove the Chinese to buy Buicks in great quantities was that the company focused on and pushed luxury. There’s a steadily growing upper-middle class in China, and it seems they want their neighbors to know they’ve made it. Ergo: Buick.
“Avenir will be Buick’s signature,” said Duncan Aldred, Vice President of Global Buick Sales, Service and Marketing, “The highest expression of the luxury experiences we’re delivering now and in the future.”
There’s no real clear shots of what the future Avenir line will look like, but Buick has given us some broad brush stokes of what to expect: Sculpted designs, three-dimensional mesh grilles, large-diameter wheels, and unique trim finishes on the outside. And on the inside, Avenir models will feature a quiet, inviting environment with unique seat details, modern trim materials, and Avenir script identification.
“Avenir is key to future growth and delivering on the high expectations of new customers coming to our showrooms,” Aldred said.
“Avenir,” French for “future,” is the name of the award-winning concept sedan from 2015. And, although Buick is heading up-market and haven’t been known for it for a long, long while, I still hold out hope for them putting out higher-performance variants. Back in the day, run of the plant Rivieras could get off the dime so hard and fast it’d give you neck problems – and I don’t mean the Grand Sports. I’ve got a friend who has a 68 Riv and it’s ability to accelerate is simply mind-numbingly fast.
And a 1968 Riv weighs close to 5,000 pounds.
Buick, I’m with you. I totally get going after the global market, as well as your need to focus on the bottom line. Fine. Go, fight, win. But when you get the chance, could you please put out something in this Avenir brand with a stupid-powerful engine?
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life around racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.