2007 Buick Riviera Concept
In 2007 Buick fanned the flames of product speculation by reintroducing us to the Riviera nameplate. The model’s last production year was 1999 but from 1963 to that point, Buick had sold more than 1.1 million Rivieras in the United States.
Although I still have hopes for a modern Riviera, this car is merely a concept and its function as a concept was quite generic. According to General Motors, Buick made this particular concept to showcase their then-new global design direction.
Unveiled at China’s Auto Shanghai 2007
Regardless of its traditionally American connotations, General Motors’ Buick brand is not a xenophobe. The logo to the right (provided by GM, courtesy of Buick) is from 1904 and proudly proclaims, “Known All Over the World”.
Buick’s long-standing ties with Europe date back to the 1920s and ‘30s when models built in Canada became popular with British royalty. By 1958, Opel, a European division of GM, had been introduced on US soil via Buick dealerships. And today, four of Buick’s five North American models (including the 2013 Encore) are derived from Opel.
However, Buick’s relationship with China actually dates back even further than Europe’s. To Buick’s delight, the relationship has been one rooted in admiration and desire for the brand’s offerings. For example, Dr. Sun Yat-sen (China’s first provisional president); Zhou Enlai (who became China’s premier); and Pu Yi (the last emperor of China) all either owned, drove, or were driven in Buicks.
Buicks were already being exported to China as early as 1912, as shocking as that sounds. By 1929, Shanghai had its own Buick sales office. And, according to statistics from the Shanghai government (provided by GM), in 1930 one out of every six cars on that city’s roads was a Buick.
By the end of the twentieth century, a GM/China joint venture had been created to build GM vehicles domestically in their own country. Apparently, the Chinese had insisted on Buicks, in part, because of the division’s historically illustrious reputation. In December of 1998, the first Buick built in China rolled off the assembly line.
China is now the brand’s largest market, having handily surpassed even the US in sales. In fact, that market is so important to GM that the Chinese are currently privy to several Buick models that we Americans aren’t even offered.
Speaking of Buicks not offered, let’s move on to the subject car at hand, the 2007 Riviera concept.
“It’s not East. It’s not West. It’s Buick.”
Those words were spoken by Ed Welburn, vice president, GM Global Design. They were prefaced by, “[…] the Riviera concept made us realize how small the world was.” He was referring to the fact that the concept was developed with global design input from the Shanghai-headquartered Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC). PATAC is a design and engineering joint venture between GM and the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.
Mr. Welburn continued, “The Riviera underscores the diversity, strength and depth of the GM global design and engineering network. It also reflects PATAC’s growing role within the GM Design family and China’s significance as the world’s largest Buick market.” To PATAC designers, the car was said to communicate universal beauty—a look that transcends cultural or national boundaries.
Heritage and hubris
Reflecting the times in which the Shell Blue (that is to say, metallic silver with light blue accents) concept was conceived, the Riviera was engineered to accommodate a hybrid powertrain system as well as several technological advances and design hallmarks.
All of the Riviera’s body panels are constructed of tightly-stretched carbon fiber which offers high tensile strength at a relatively low weight, reducing the car’s mass. It also allowed designers to explore tighter-radius curves across the body’s surface, including a “double sweep spear” line.
As seen in the picture to the right, the doors were designed to open in a gullwing fashion to not only provide an exotic appearance, but also aid in ingress/egress. At their widest point, they measure just over 76 inches providing ample space to climb into the car’s back seats. The engineering demands associated with gullwing doors were reportedly simplified by the extensive use of the carbon fiber material.
The side mirrors were said to have been inspired by Formula One racecars.
Buick says PATAC established their design direction by looking back at some of the brand’s icons, such as the original Y-Job concept from 1938, the 1960s LeSabre, and the Electra 225s and Rivieras of the 1960s and ’70s; personally, I don’t see it.
Slightly more evident is the claim that the design was structured around Buick’s tri-shield logo. For example, the traditional waterfall grill formed from three intersecting planes provided what Buick calls a “trihedral” result. (I had to look that word up in the dictionary; it means “having three faces.”)
The grill-mounted logo leads into a reflective strip running through the center of the hood and was provided as a mark of respect to the mid-hood creases of classic Buicks.
Further historic Buick design hallmarks are the three-section, fender-mounted vents alluding to portholes, as shown below.
The modern take on portholes are attached to the elongated LED headlamps which reach rearward on the fender tops, over the front rims and tires. The Riviera’s rims are 21-inch forged aluminum with 10 spokes, and combine polished and satin finishes.
At night, the Riviera concept comes to life. The car’s logos, hood strip, headlamps, side mirrors, rocker covers, and exhausts all have “icy green” backlighting. Further, when opened, the gullwing doors cast the “Buick” name on the ground.