Corp.’s Buick evokes the past when it unveils a new, low-roofline, 4-door concept car at next week’s Beijing auto show dubbed the Invicta.
The name first appeared on a Buick in 1959, but officials say the concept has no particular connection to the original Invicta, which was a fullsize passenger car.
“I wouldn’t read anything into it,” Jim Bunnell, Buick brand manager, tells media participating in a conference call today.
Ed Welburn, GM vice president-global design, said at last month’s New York auto show that the Invicta will influence a future generation of Buicks with its design cues.
The concept car builds on the look and feel of the recent Buick Riviera coupe concept unveiled at last year’s Shanghai auto show, says Dave Lyons, who is responsible for the brand’s interior design in North America but also recently worked for Buick in Asia.
“Above all, (it says) ‘graceful,’” Lyons says when asked for an adjective to describe the Invicta, as well as the design language of other recent Buicks.
The Riviera design cues found on the Invicta include the car’s flowing, curvaceous lines, including Buick’s signature waterfall grille and the continuation of a “spa-like” interior.
An increase in ambient interior lighting also is used, Lyons says, noting Buick was challenged to translate the looks of the Riviera, which has been well lauded by industry watchers, into a more mainstream vehicle.
“It’s pretty easy to make a coupe look good, but the market in both countries (U.S. and China) is more (centered) around 4-door sedans,” Lyons says. Buick is “very serious about the design cues” of the Invicta, which will make their way to a production model, although he can’t say which one.
Lyons also does not pinpoint the level of Chinese involvement in the vehicle but says Buick’s designers in China were integral to bringing the Invicta to fruition. Buick “couldn’t have done” the concept without their collaboration.
“I’m sure at some point we’ll have a full story on who did what, but this really was a joint project between the Shanghai studio and the studio here in Michigan,” Lyonds says, adding there were an “an awful lot of conference calls early in the morning” from the U.S. to China.
For the Riviera concept, GM China designers oversaw the electronics, including the startup sequence in which the vehicle’s chrome detailing lit up when approached by a driver or passenger.
Lyons says the latter is a feature that is production-ready, noting the technology is no more “exotic than mirrored sunglasses.”
Bunnell is unable to provide sales figures for 2008, but China’s Buick sales rose 9% to 332,000 units in 2007. Reports say GM’s sales growth in China has slowed this year.
Bunnell says GM sees opportunities to grow the Buick brand in China, where it is the auto maker’s best-selling passenger-car marque. The 5-car lineup includes the Park Avenue, Regal, Lacrosse, GL8 and Excelle.
Buick last week unveiled the ’09 Enclave cross/utility vehicle, which it will begin exporting to China later in the year, plus a mid-cycle enhancement of its Excelle.
Bunnell lists Buick’s achievements last year in the U.S., noting 50% of the hot-selling Enclave’s buyers are coming from other brands. The Enclave last month outsold competitors, including theCX-9, Volvo XC90 and Acura MDX.