The image is little more than a series of sweeping lines and arcing curves, but use a bit of imagination and you might just see something more in this sketch, the first official hint of what will, in a few weeks, be revealed as the 2009 Buick Invicta Concept car. Indeed, it’s more than that, the prototype that will be fully unveiled at next month’s Beijing Motor Show is a good indication of what’s to come from the long-struggling General Motors division.
What appears to be a coupe-like-sedan is all but certain to become a production model, according to Dave Lyon, until recently the head of GM design operations in Asia. One of the automaker’s most important styling operations, known as PATAC, is based in Shanghai, and its stylists worked closely with their American counterparts on developing the 2009 Buick Invicta Concept.
And well they should. Buick now sells more vehicles in that emerging Asian market than it does in the United States. Indeed, senior GM officials concede that without China, they’d have very likely abandoned the Buick brand entirely, as many industry analysts have been demanding, for years. But as GM goes with a more global approach to product design and development, it’s able to justify a struggling brand, like Buick, by sharing costs in more than one market.
“China has been very important to us,” said Ed Welburn, GM’s director of global design, during a preview of the 2008 New York Auto Show. “Clearly it has had significant impact,” showing that the Buick brand has some viability left in it.
Once one of the most treasured GM brands, Buick had a long history of design leadership. Its 1938 Y-Job, in fact, was considered the first truly modern concept car. But cookie-cutter styling, in the 1980s and ‘90s, along with quality snags and other problems, all but doomed the division. Now, Welburn told TheCarConnection.com, GM is using cutting-edge styling to help rebuild Buick – with concepts like last year’s Riviera, and the new Invicta, echoing the strategy that helped Cadillac regain its reputation for design excellence.
There are signs that Buick can make a mark. Its new Enclave crossover, which made its debut in concept form, has become the hottest product in its segment, Buick selling 36,000 in the CUV’s first 10 months on the market.
“Design is absolutely critical to Buick’s comeback,” said Welburn, though he added that looks alone won’t be enough. New products “have to have it all,” inside and out, with good designs, plenty of high-line features, top quality and a competitive price tag.
Whether Invicta will deliver remains to be seen, but this teaser suggests the concept car will be worth a second look.
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