In 2004, Buick displayed the Velite concept car, built for them by Bertone, at the New York Auto Show. Since then, the Velite’s look and its lines have been flowing into Buick’s production cars, both those face lifted and those which are all new. The just introduced Enclave crossover – which has sold so well that Buick dealers have had to institute waiting lists – is the first Buick to have its entire appearance modeled on the Velite theme.
Word is, however, that the Velite will be more than merely an influence by 2010.
It will be the real thing.
To be built on GM’s new Zeta platform, the new car will be a rear wheel drive Buick flagship, slotted above the Lucerne in price and prestige. It will be a sedan and may also be a convertible, as was the Velite concept car.
Though the car will see production, the Velite name may not.
If these reports are true – and GM North America President Troy Clarke has confirmed that Buick will be getting another product line on this timetable – it will be an interesting U turn for the division.
The Velite concept car introduced the Zeta platform. But Buick rejected that platform for its own vehicles, relying largely on the expressed desire of its dealers to stick with front wheel drive. So, the Zeta was given to other divisions, and will be introduced for domestic production on the Pontiac G8 and Chevrolet Impala.
Meantime, the Zeta that Buick the dealers rejected – the Park Avenue – is selling out in China.
The anticipated 2010 Buick Zeta, however, won’t be a repatriated Park Avenue. It is expected to be an entirely new car, essentially a production version of the Velite concept.
What makes this story really interesting, however, is what this means to Cadillac.
Buick has tried to poach Cadillac territory ever since the 1930’s, when its general manager, Harlowe Curtis, built a big body ultra luxurious Buick that put Cadillac ’s offerings to shame. Top management killed that car after one year, but Curtis ended up with the last laugh. His rejuvenation of the Buick Division propelled him to GM’s presidency.
In the 1960’s, the top line Buicks shared their body with the Cadillac deVille, as did the top of the Oldsmobile line. Though you didn’t get tail fins on an Electra 225, you got the size and the luxury at a lower price.
Lately, though, Cadillac has been neglecting that deVille heartland that’s been the core of its sales since the early ‘50’s. Not only is the current car essentially unchanged since 2000, it now shares it’s most important attribute – the Northstar V-8 – with Buick’s Lucerne. But that Lucerne, equipped similarly to a Cadillac DTS, goes for about $8,000 less.
The expectation is that the DTS will move to the Zeta platform for 2010.
It would make sense for Buick to get a version of that same car, albeit with a different appearance. That’s not only consistent with GM’s tradition, but it amortizes the cost of the platform over many more vehicles.
But it also suggests that giving Buick a vehicle with Cadillac prestige means Cadillac will get a car with even more prestige.
Perhaps that V-12 for which Mr. Lutz has been so ardently advocating?