Is This the Next Opel Senator?

A while back I mentioned that GM could employ the underutilised Zeta platform for a new Opel Senator. What has turned up but the perfect basis for just such a car: the Buick Avenir.

2015 Buick Avenir clay model.
2015 Buick Avenir clay model.

I must admit that in writing this I have yielded to one of my compulsions. Or two. This is about a Buick and it’s about GM. Sorry.

2015 Buick Avenir
2015 Buick Avenir

Previously I have discussed at huge length the relationship between China, Buick and Opel. At the moment the cross-currents flow from Germany to the US and China. The Astra platform is being used for the Buick Verano and the Insignia platform underpins the Buick Regal and Lacrosse. Now the current can flow from Detroit to Ruesselsheim.

At the Detroit motor show, GM’s design boss showed off the rather fabulous Buick Avenir concept which suggests that Buick might have what it takes to provide a donor car for Opel to turn into a Senator. The official GM website says “new design proportion, device integration, rejuvenating interior push brand forward” (sic).

Furthermore “Avenir embodies Buick design, which centers on effortless beauty and presence without pretense,” said Ed Welburn, vice president of General Motors Global Design. “It demonstrates the growing international reach of Buick and offers an exciting vision of where it can go.” 

The article provides some details on the dimensions: Sculptural surfaces, taught [sic] lines, short overhangs and a broad-shouldered stance stretches 204.5 inches (5,195 mm) in length and 76 inches (1,931 mm) in width. Its reimagined sweep-spear element complements the long body lines and conveys a sense of motion, as does tapered rear-end styling.”

1985 Opel Senator
1985 Opel Senator

For comparison the Insignia is 4913 mm long, 1513 mm tall and 1856 mm wide, side to side (not including the mirrors). There is space then for this car in Opel’s range in terms of size and style. The coke-bottle hips even suggest the flanks of the Admiral of the 60s. Without much effort such a car as the Avenir could be Opelised to make a rather nice flagship for the German firm which, since 2003, has been bereft of a properly big car.

If this vehicle was based on GM’s large car architecture rather than on the Insignia it could avoid the pitfall of the last Senator which was that it was seen to be a modified Rekord and then a modified Omega “A”. The French website Le Guide de L’Auto puts the car’s prospects like this: “De toute évidence, l’Avenir n’est pas qu’un simple exercice de style. Buick prend effectivement la peine de préciser que cette grande berline serait propulsée par une nouvelle génération de V6 à injection directe, cylindrée variable et arrêt-redémarrage automatique.”

1987 Vauxhall Senator: 18.7 cubic feet of luggage capacity.
1987 Vauxhall Senator: 18.7 cubic feet of luggage capacity.

That Opel should be influenced by Buick is not far out of line with its history. The 60s and 70s Opels had a strong touch of Detroit and even the early 90s cars drew from GM’s form language to good effect. I can see an Opel badge in place of the Buick Tri-Shield without too much difficulty. Why should Opel bother with such an exercise?

Well, like Ford, they don’t have a premium brand in Europe to battle Audi and BMW. And a lot of other volume makers have abandoned the full-size car sector so, in many ways, Opel and indeed Vauxhall (if they bother)  would have the field to themselves while Peugeot, Renault, Ford and others would lack entrants in this market and, apart from Ford, lack a possible donor vehicle to adapt hastily.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

19 thoughts on “Is This the Next Opel Senator?”

  1. “It demonstrates the growing international reach of Buick”

    I wonder how they manage to ALWAYS come up with this kind of nonsensical dross in press packs.
    The rest reads like it’s been translated from Chinese into English by a robot.

  2. Indeed, the GM press text reaked of corporate Newspeak. It distracts from what is a very handsome looking interpretation of a modern luxury car. It´s very distinctively different from Cadillca´s angular style. I wouldn´t call it progressive, rather it´s contemporary classicism of a pleasing type. What it needs are tyres that have higher sidewalls. I wouldn´t suggest gumballs but something that expresses a shade more emphasis on comfort. The rear lamps need some brightwork too, or else some sculptural relief, just enough to give them some depth. That said, I see this a good basis for Opel to start from (and not have to do very much with). There is much more likelihood of Opel selling say 10,000-20,000 of these than any Europeanised Cadillac. That concept keeps on failing and failing.

  3. Looks really nice for my eyes.
    The lamps (both head and tail) already have an Opel-esque touch. The side view reminds me of Tesla, which isn’t a bad thing altogether.

    1. Possibly. I’d have to see more photos but it has presence and looks purposeful enough.

  4. More images of the Avenir is but a Google Image search away.

    https://www.google.co.uk/search?site=&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1528&bih=942&q=Buick+Avenir&oq=Buick+Avenir&gs_l=img.3..0.1110.1110.0.1894.1.1.0.0.0.0.33.33.1.1.0.msedr…0…1ac.1.61.img..0.1.32.ciwJ21bitDU

    I think it looks great. And will date far less than Caddy’s terrible angles. The have designed themselves into the same corner with those lines and angles as MINI, 500 and the Beetle have in being retro-designed.

  5. It was designed by the team at Holden and shares much of the Commodore’s aesthetic characteristic. I disagree on it being made into an Opel as I think the market for such a car is far too small for GM to invest so heavily in making their products an equal to the existing European aspirational marques for interior quality. Who would buy a large car that has a cheap interior for a handsome price? I think GM would be better suited making something small, cheap and innovative but their management don’t appear to agree.

    1. I don’t think Opel (if not GM) is that far off in terms of interiors. All they need to do potentially is chose from better quality materials, but the rest looks fine in my opinion. In any case they’ll want to price their offering below the big three to stand a chance.

  6. I wasn´t all troubled by that manoeuvre. That said, the Opel doesn´t look out of place in the Buick range. Maybe I will think differently in a few years´time.
    It would appear that whilst GM managed to avoid dropping the Buick nameplate as they did with Pontiac, Saturn and Oldsmobile, they are in the process of minimising the extent to which Buicks have different sheet metal from Opel. About a decade ago the entirety of Buick´s US range was made up of models unique to Buick and to the US. Now they have either the Lacrosse or the Regal, one of which (I can´t be bothered to check) is more or less an Insignia with little make-up on to make it a Buick. On the one hand I am glad Buick is still in business and on the other, I wish they had models that were more disitinctively their own. On that basis I ackowledge your irritation.
    I still love the Cascada though. The Buick version will be nicer than the already very nice Opel one.

    1. The Cascada is a genuinely pretty car, I agree. Hopefully, with the market of the not-quite-premium four seater soft tops all to itself, it ends up selling in sustainable numbers.

  7. Batty: The Senator doesn´t have to be better than Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Merely being available is enough to guarantee making sales which the other “non-prestige” marques won´t. The lion´s share of the car´s sales wil be in the US and China. Opel just needs to stick an Opel badge on it, tune the suspension and ensure the plastics are up to the same standards as the Insignia. The car had better offer more interior room than the Insignia though. I imagine they could sell about 35,000 of these every year in Europe and still turn a profit. A blue velour interior would be nice….!

  8. I had similar thoughts upon seeing photos of this concept. It’s quite a small leap to imagine this badged as an Opel – even the grille outlines and tail-lamp shapes suggest Rüsselsheim to me. But the chances of this happening are slim. Where would it sell? Most of Europe is either crippled with austerity or in thrall to the cult of ‘premium’.

    Sticking a Vauxhall badge on it would kill it stone dead in the UK. There is a small market for such a car in the Republic of Ireland – Saab used to do good business here – and in an odd way, still are. There are more 2010-2012 Saab 9.5’s on Irish roads now than when you could still buy them new – (and a finite number of them to be had). The market exists for a nice up-scale saloon priced below the premium players, but the numbers are relatively small. A similar situation possibly exists in other European countries, but the chances of it going the same way as the recent Lancia Thema would probably be enough to make GM think twice.

  9. Mercedes sell around 300,00 E-class cars a year and BMW shift a similar number. I think it’s time that people might consider an alternative but not in the UK though. The Vauxhall name is poison. I would not expect Opel to sell a 100,000 units but if the car was also sold in China and the US then Opel could make a profit on 30,000 a year. The UK market is another matter where views and prejudices are in so deep it’s pointless trying to counter them.

  10. Yes Richard, and I think being designed here in Australia points to the possibility of it being designed for the Chinese. I just don’t think it would work in Europe- a negative review based on European prejudices can be a nasty contagion across an otherwise healthy market. There is a reason why the aspirational marques carry a premium- they have a history of creating desirable vehicles, whether or not is is based on past glory and is then buffed through to the rusting layer below (buongiorno signore Alfa) and can only fool the optimistic enthusiast like me, the truth eventually outs. GM may make a wonderful Opel, but when it doesn’t sell they won’t persevere because they have a massive shareholder base that desires consistent, instant profit- not a strategy to build over subsequent iterations a reliable reputation.

  11. Kia and Hyundai are getting more and more customers for their V8 cars. The formula is simple: sell products in a market others have forsaken. Some customers are migrating from the Germans but many are people who find GM, Ford and Chrysler’s cars don’t offer space and and a big engine. Opel could tap that market or its equivalent but have some excellent NVH expertise to draw on. Remember Saab, Volvo, Rover, Citroen and Peugeot customers have nowhere to go if they find Mercedes, Audi and BMW unplalatable. With global sales the Senator could amortise its higher quality and engine range more easily than the others. In my view it’s an open and then close it again quickly case.

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