This is excellent news for Buick who sell very well in China (outselling Cadillac thirteen to one) and also gives Buick USA a more appropriate flagship than the Enclave (an SUV) or Lacrosse (a saloon). What is more interesting for Europeans is that this news also makes it seem likely that something similar or nearly identical could appear as a new Senator (though it may not bear that storied nameplate).
If Buick is to get a new range-topper it will probably look something like the very attractive Avenir concept car shown recently. Since there is already a strong overlap between Buick and Opel, it would not take very much to add an Opel touch here and there to help it slot into Opel’s existing range. Autoblog wrote about the conversion from Cadillac to Buick: “If a large Buick based on the CT6 were to head to China, though, it likely wouldn’t be a simple case of badge engineering (thank God).
Reuss hinted to Automotive News that while the mixed-material construction of the CT6 platform “is very flexible,” doing an “identical version of that platform or not is a different conversation.”
What sort of engines could the Buick/Opel have? Cadillac have announced an all-new V6 which is intended for the CT6: “The all-new Cadillac 3.0L Twin Turbo is designed to achieve new thresholds of refinement and specific output for the brand’s new prestige luxury sedan, which makes its world premiere March 31, at the New York International Auto Show. Production begins late this year at General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant.”
This a good engine for the top of the Opel range but I would hope that Ruesselsheim can have some input and make possible the installation of some lower capacity engines that are still appropriate for such a large car. It all hangs on the numbers. If the engine range is small, that will limit sales as for many Europeans a large engine is not always desirable. GM could argue that sales of a large Opel (15,000 units a year?) would not be that great enough to justify anything not already fitted to the Buick equivalent.
It’s a Catch-22 situation: not enough engines means not enough sales but adding more engines may mean the investment on the Opel conversion is not recouped. I would guess that since the Buick Avenir will find a large market in China, a decent one in the US, anything they sell in Europe will be a pleasant bonus – the Opel could end up being a by-product of another strategy rather than an end in itself.
If the Opel Senator proceeds to production, the best outcome is that it re-asserts Opel’s large car credentials and steals a march on Ford, Renault and others who have abandoned the D-class car. It could also give customers tempted to stray to BMW and Mercedes pause for thought. These cars are ten-a-penny in the carparks of Germany, France and Austria, for example. Something with a similar scale and performance level could be a tempting offer. The one caveat is that it’s unlikely GM will bother with a right-hand drive version. The Vauxhall name is poison and the Irish market is too small to make the effort worthwhile.