Buick Avista Scores Big – But Unlikely to See Production

Coupes are losing ground as upscale buyers shift to SUVs and CUVs.

by on Jan.18, 2016

Even if Avista doesn't make it to production, it's likely to influence the brand's future designs. Avista photos by Len Katz.

Of the dozens of new cars, trucks, crossovers and concept vehicles to make their debut at this year’s North American International Auto Show, perhaps none has generated as much buzz as the Buick Avista.

The striking 2+2 show car got a special preview the night before the auto show’s official media preview began and has continued to draw crowds since the 2016 NAIAS opened its doors to the public with a splashy black tie charity preview last Friday.

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To turn a popular movie cliché on its head, if they come, will GM build it? That was a question TheDetroitBureau.com has posed to a number of senior General Motors executives, including President Dan Ammann. But for those who might be ready to plunk down a deposit, the news isn’t good.

“There isn’t much of a coupe market anymore,” Ammann said during the Friday night charity gala after having his picture taken with his own family on the Avista stand. “The market has been shifting to SUVs and trucks.”

(For a closer look at the Buick Avista concept, Click Here.)

Marking the front and rear, Buick evolves its signature wing-shaped lighting with “soft curtain” elements that create illuminated “halos” around lamps’ edges.

There was a time when sporty looking coupes like the Avista would be an essential part of a brand’s line-up, especially upscale marques such as Buick. Indeed, through the mid-1980s, 2-door versions of General Motors’ midsize models were a must. And the sleek Riviera put a halo around the Buick brand.

But by the ‘90s, car buyers were migrating by the millions to more practical products, first to sedans and then to sport-utility vehicles. These days, utes in all their forms are gaining ground on sedans and could take the sales lead in the next year or two.

“We see a lot of growth. SUVs were 30% of the industry last year but could go to 40%” before the end of the decade, Ford President Joe Hinrichs told TheDetroitBureau.com.

(Acura Precision Concept hints at new design direction for Japanese luxury brand. Click Here to check it out.)

That’s leading GM and most of its rivals to rush to market with new utility vehicles, even as they re-think the need to add more conventional passenger vehicles.

GM design chief Ed Welburn unveiled the Buick Avenir at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

Buick is a good example. It is rapidly expanding its line-up of crossover-utility vehicles, the 2016 Detroit Auto Show also bringing the official debut of the new Envision. The compact ute is targeting one of the market’s fastest-growing niches, though it is also setting off a bit of controversy as the first General Motors model that will be imported from China.

Buick isn’t walking away from its sedans. It is updating current line-up, such as the LaCrosse. But it’s growing increasingly unlikely there will be now sedans or coupes joining the Buick family any time soon, senior officials caution — with one exception, the new Cascada convertible, an Americanized version of a GM model from Europe.

The Avista is just the latest concept to win rave reviews for the brand. Buick scored big at the 2015 North American International Auto Show with the debut of the Avenir, a large luxury sedan sharing the same underlying platform as the all-new Cadillac CT6. And it has just as many fans inside GM. But global product development chief Mark Reuss has told TheDetroitBureau.com that his team has not yet been able to come up with the business case needed to put Avenir into production.

The 2017 Buick Envision will be GM's first car imported into the U.S. from China.

And, GM insiders say, it will be even harder to make the numbers work for the Buick Avista, even if it has won a slew of accolades, including honors as the best concept at this year’s Detroit show.

GM will continue to research opportunities in the U.S., but the key to putting Avista into production will be China, Buick’s largest global market. A few years ago, it might have stood a good chance there, but as in the U.S., Chinese motorists are rapidly migrating from passenger cars to utility vehicles, making it less and less likely that either Avenir or Avista will ever make the leap from concept to production.

(For complete coverage of the 2015 North American International Auto Show, Click Here.)

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10 Responses to “Buick Avista Scores Big – But Unlikely to See Production”

  1. Paul Schroeder says:

    There are 3 pictures in this story. Two are really cool cars that might make someone under 80 consider buying a Buick. The other is one of the most boring looking SUVs I’ve seen in a long time, and it is made in China. I wonder why Buick doesn’t do very well in the US?

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      For what it’s worth, Paul, the Envision was planned to sell maybe 90,000 in China last year. The number hit 140,000 and is now projected to top 200,000 in 2016.

      Paul E.

      • Paul Schroeder says:

        We know Buick is very popular in China. I’m thinking the fact that it is made in China will turn off US customers.

        • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

          Just like it does all the stuff people buy at Wal-Mart and Menards?

          • Paul Schroeder says:

            Paul, funny you bring that up, because I thought of the same thing as I was writing. I think many people might treat cars a bit differently than they would a relatively inexpensive consumer good, especially when there is a choice to buy something not made in China.

  2. JAE says:

    The line “There isn’t much of a coupe market anymore” has been passed around and said for the last 30 years, particularly by brands and makers who either don’t have one or have them in their stable but they don’t sell due to be boring, crappy, over-priced or a combination of that. Same was said of convertibles.

    As Paul said, if you want someone under the age of 80 to consider your brand you need something other than “last vehicle I’m going to buy b/c I’m 80″ or “that’s the last vehicle on earth I’d buy” kind of line-up. I believe the Buick coupe would sell way more than the CTS coupe.

  3. SteveO says:

    Honda sells 2 door Accords & Civics.
    Single people might not need 4 doors and might want a sporty fun car. Mustang & Camaro & Challenger are selling reasonably well. Who would want a 4 door Boss302 ?
    I see a market for a 2 door Focus, a 2 door Cruze, a 2 door Dart. At the Toyota dealership, a salesman told me that Toyota only sells 4 door cars but they had 2 door Scions. Can you say Celica? What we need is a Movie with fun-to-drive 2 door cars. Then popular culture would turn on a dime.

  4. robert peoviak says:

    I am 62 years old. I’ve owned a total of 29 cars in my life and currently own 10. Out of the current, except for one Ford, all are G.M. Two are trucks (standard cab-short bed), the rest performance coupes and convertibles. I have never owned a four door and never will. I consider myself an enthusiast but more importantly a true purist. I have never been a fan of most Asian brands but am inspired by a number of European makes. But G.M. has always built at least one vehicle that raised the level of passion for me whenever I was ready to buy. In the case of Buick,I have never owned one and was heavily in favor of letting the brand go down back in 2009 and retaining Pontiac. Since then, Buick has elevated itself to a respectable level in appearance and quality but none that stirs passion for any enthusiast. The Avenir and Avista could change their direction for the better immediately. Avenir could be their flagship model and Avista would give them a stunning rear wheel drive high performance luxury coupe (pillar less)that they desperately need. I cannot imagine the time and dollars it took do develop this concept only to display it for public reaction but never intending to put it into production. The Alpha platform and shared components and powertrain from Chevrolet and Cadillac should make the business case to produce.If Mark Reuss and Ed Welburn could inject their enthusiast passion to this business case as well, it could ascend Buick to world class level near luxury brand vehicles are the topic of discussion. I would without a doubt, make this car my first Buick.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Robert, you are not alone, not by a long stretch. I’ve personally lobbied Welburn, Reuss, Ammann and others, for the little that matters.

      Paul E.

  5. Jeffyoungken says:

    One of the first cars I ever built was a early gs. Then came the national. Savey young guys wore Buick hats and gear that gravitated to the brand. Then the dead years, nothing from Buick that stirred the soul. Pontiac was a sea of cheap gray plastic. Just horrible years for buyers waiting for something to get on board with, and that was industry wide. I have a vette, had a volt and just bought a new regal turbo. I would have been a lot happier with a opc spec 2 door car. But I must say, my daughter shopped Buick, my 20 something banker just bought a verano. And my other daughter has had 2 Buicks. But we all agreed, a real 2door performance car is sorely needed to cement the brand to youth of today. A 2 door turbo verano with some suspension and nice body panel cladding. This would be a great start. The aftermarket would take off and so would Buick.

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