Courtesy of GM
By Stuart Schwartzapfel
Buick's revival of the Riviera nameplate is meant to showcase a new global design direction. The concept was unveiled at Auto Shanghai 2007, a fitting venue given Buick's celebrity-like status in China. China also happens to be Buick's biggest market.
Designed at the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC) — a design and engineering joint venture between General Motors and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) — the new Riviera is not just a pretty face.
Honors its Lineage According to James Shyr, PATAC design director, the Riviera's curves and “earth and water” interior tones are inspired in part by classic Buicks (the Y-Job Concept of 1938, the 1960s Le Sabre, Electra 225, and the original Riviera coupes of the 1960s and '70s), as well as by ancient Chinese artifacts and modern electronic icons. "Designing this car made us realize how small the world could be. It's not East. It's not West. It's not the United States or China. It's Buick,” said Shyr.
The “shell blue” (a metallic silver) concept incorporates vintage Buick design cues throughout its exterior, magnificently updated for modern times. From the signature chrome portholes to the "double sweep spear" line along the car's side and flared tail design, the Riviera concept's design lineage is clear — but it has been given some seriously modern interpretation.
The Verdict: Buick is no stranger to the world of concept cars. In fact the company is credited with introducing the first concept car to the world of auto shows with the 1938 Y-Job (created under designer Harley Earl's direction). And there is no shortage of great-looking modern day Buick concepts (Bengal in 2001 and Velite in 2004). But Buick rarely adds concepts to its thoroughly vanilla production line. Let's hope the company makes good on its intention to move this concept's design language into production reality.
Schwartzapfel, a certified car freak, writes BusinessWeek.com's Concept of the Week column. He has studied the automotive marketplace and worked as an advertising/marketing strategist for major manufacturers. He does not write about any car brands for which he currently works.