Buick Talks Art, Design In Prelude To N.Y. Auto Show

General Motors' Buick division used its yearly New York Auto Show luncheon at Cipriani to talk about art and design: the former being the theme of a pair of new TV spots featuring golfer Tiger Woods, the latter a key to Buick's design continuity since the '40s and the direction for forthcoming global products.

On hand were GM's global VP of design, Ed Welburn, and his subaltern, David Lyon, formerly design chief at GM's Shanghai studio and currently executive director, interior design. Also on hand was the Buick Riviera concept coupe that Lyons and his team developed in GM's Shanghai lab, as well as its forebear, the 2004 Velite concept.

Welburn offered a primer on Buick design cues, beginning with the YJob, a '50s-era design experiment by legendary GM designer Harley Earl. He said elements of cars like the Enclave SUV, the Lucerne sedan, as well as the Velite and Riviera concept sustain the trend.

"China is a growth area, but we need a single design aesthetic for both Asia [and the West]," he said--"a single vision for Buick's future, globally." That vision--at least as far as the new Riviera design expresses it--keeps the trademark waterfall grill, portholes, and "a hint of boat-tail," said Welburn, referring to a design cue going back to the Y-Job.



It also avoids so-called block parallel lines. "All lines have sweep and flair," he explained, adding that the knife-edge headlights and taillights reflect Chinese white jade sculpture. The next iteration of Buick's direction will be the Invicta, to be unveiled later this year.

Maria Rohr, Buick marketing director, said the Riviera concept--with its flowing lines, trademark waterfall grill, and rear slightly reminiscent of the boat-stern statement in the Y-Job--speaks to Buick's future design direction and reflects current vehicles.

She said the Enclave SUV has proven popular. "It epitomizes where we want to be heading, and it was a catalyst last year." She said Enclave sales, around 36,000 vehicles in the first 10 month of 2007, were 35% greater than the company had anticipated.

The new TV spots offer an interesting take on Buick's art and design focus. The spot has Tiger Woods standing beside a stack of golf balls staring at a blank canvas. He grabs clubs off of a rack and fires ball after ball--each filled with paint--into the canvas. When he hits them they explode in color, creating a kind of Jackson Pollock design on the sheet.

Rohr said there are two versions of the spot: one showing the current Buick lineup and the other showing the Riviera concept car. The ads, with the tag "Drive Beautiful," begin running today on a variety of network placements. Three of the canvases, signed by Woods, will be sold at charity auctions as "Tiger Art."

Rohr said that Buick is benefiting from GM's strategy of uniting Buick, GMC and Pontiac under a single dealership roof. "We help each other from a traffic perspective," she said, explaining that new vehicles from Pontiac and GMC draw people to dealers who might not otherwise see Buick vehicles, and vice versa. "Seventy percent of our dealers are in the [Buick-Pontiac-GMC] channel."

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