Although it’s just a concept car (at least for now), Buick’s Avenir study was a surprise for many, as a production version would place the brand in a market segment it hasn’t occupied before.
But that’s hardly surprising from Buick, whose product planners have been experimenting with body styles and exploring market niches in which rivals are not present for quite a while now.
An example is the Buick Cascada, which doesn’t have any competitors on the US market. Expected to cost in the mid-$30,000, the FWD droptop is targeting “white space,” a marketing term that translates as vehicle positioning (in terms of size, body style and price) that no rival occupies.
Buick has done the same with the last two nameplates added to its lineup. The Verano, launched in late 2011, is a premium compact sedan that starts in the mid-$20,000, thousands below its rivals. The Encore small crossover, launched in early 2013, had a two-year head start on a series of similar models.
While Buick execs say Acura and Infiniti are their competitors in the near-luxury or premium space, research shows that consumers buy Buicks against a wide range of competitors, from mainstream to luxury.
This gives Buick designers greater liberty to try different things, as the Avenir study proves. “Designers love designing Buicks because it’s not a paint-by-numbers brand,” Andrew Smith, executive director of design for Buick and Cadillac, told Automotive News.
And just like the Buick Centieme concept revealed in 2003 previewed the Enclave SUV, the Avenir may be a precursor to a future Buick flagship sedan. While Buick brand chief Duncan Aldred, who commissioned the concept last March, says it “could play a role some day,” Mark Reuss, GM’s global product chief was more adamant. “I think the brand is absolutely ready for it,” he said.