Buick’s Avista concept wowed when it was revealed at the Detroit Auto Show in January.
The concept seemed to indicate a whole new direction for this traditional American brand, but will this striking performance coupe ever make the leap from display to dealership?
But deflating our hopes that the Avista will ever make it into production, Tony DiSalle, vice-president of marketing at Buick told us, “All we’re saying at this point is that it’s a concept.”
Still, DiSalle acknowledged that Buick does, in fact, have a history of performance, whether it’s their nailhead V8 engine from decades past or the legendary Grand National line of muscle cars. “We’ve never really combined today’s design vocabulary, this sculptural exterior beauty with the performance heritage of the brand,” he said, which is exactly what the Avista does.
SEE ALSO: Buick Avista Concept Video, First Look
And there’s a perfect niche for this car to fill. No other Buick today offers a rear-wheel-drive chassis with a powerful engine. This vacancy gives us hope for the Avista, even if brand executives won’t comment on future product plans.
Crossovers are hot these days and they’re a major revenue source for Buick; mainstream models make money, not necessarily niche performance cars. “Sixty percent of our volume right now is crossovers,” explained DiSalle, and their all-new Envision utility hasn’t even made it to North America yet.
“You can drive it against an Acura RDX … it is very, very strong and I personally think it’s better than an Audi Q5. It has been engineered with that kind of ride quality,” said DiSalle, though to be fair, he may be a bit biased.
The Envision is built in China and should arrive in America this summer, though it’s already been on sale in this massive Asian nation, which is unquestionably the single most important market for Buick; around 147,000 Envisions were delivered there last year.
Just how important is China to this brand? Well, four out of every five Buicks sold are delivered in the middle kingdom. Yep, 80 percent.
“Buick has been passed down from generation to generation as kind of a cultural icon in China,” explained DiSalle. It was the vehicle of the country’s last emperor, which ties into its modern-day appeal there.
But could Buick exist without China? Responding to this question DiSalle said, “Honestly, I don’t know.” He noted that it is a huge source of volume for the brand but wouldn’t go farther than that.
Still, it’s not all crossovers and high-volume products. “We’re doing fun, expressive cars, too,” said DiSalle. “We’ve decided to bring in the Cascada and launch a convertible. And the reason why we did that is that’s white space. I mean, the competitors have essentially left the playing field.”
DiSalle explained this droptop Buick is sized like an Audi A5 and priced like an A3, meaning it brings a lot of value to the market, which is a modern hallmark of this brand. But if there’s room for a convertible in their lineup, there’s also space for an Avista-type vehicle, right? Please? The truth is, probably not, unless there’s demand in China for one.
Beyond all of this, Buick has a reputation for taking care of its owners. “We’re the only domestic in the top 10 in Consumer Reports, we’re No. 3 in J.D. Power dependability,” said DiSalle. The brand is also performs extremely well in customer satisfaction studies for sales and service.
For these reasons and others, people have taken notice. “Buick is a premium brand, a lot of our customers are moving up from mainstream brands into luxury for the first time and we see a lot of conquest [sales],” said DiSalle. Continuing, he mentioned that about 58 percent of people that buy one of their Encore subcompact crossovers is coming from a non-GM vehicle.
The Cascada is launching now, their Envision utility vehicle is on its way, the all-new LaCrosse sedan is set to go on sale this fall and their Avista concept is building buzz (and making us jealous). Throw in massive success in China and lots of happy customers in America and it’s a great time for Buick.
“We’ve got the goods and … that’s what’s really important, because we know definitively, the closer you get to this product lineup the more you like it,” said DiSalle.
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