Who, just a decade ago, would imagine Buick would be sliding down the slope to being a Geo for our times?
According to Motor Trend and other sources, GM is close to finalising a plan to import the Chinese-made Buick Envision to the US. This would bring to three the number of crossovers the marque is offering in the US. From the side there’s nothing very distinctive about the vehicle and nothing very offensive either. The identity of the car resides with the waterfall grille and the badges.
If you were following our diligently curated Top 50 cars series you might recall the Geo Prizm as one of the candidates. It was an American-made clone of the Toyota Corolla. The rest of the Geo range consisted of re-badged offerings from parts of GM’s far east empire. The brand aimed at making some money from those customers who were probably never going to buy any other GM car and whose presence was missed at GM dealers.
Later in the 90s Saturn took over the mantle of GM’s dump for warmed over imports and foreign-designed cast offs: the L200 was a crudely restyled Vectra. Both Geo and Saturn are dead.
Now GM has decided that it’s not really worth designing unique bodies for Buick (this might change when or if the Avenir makes it production). At present its range is made up of a lot of cars derived from Opel bodies to yield the re-badged Cascada, the rebadged Verano, the Lacrosse and Regal. That leaves the Enclave which is related to the GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse as the sole engineered-in-the-US, made-in-the-US vehicle. And it’s not even a car.
In 1990s Buick made rock-solid cars like the Riviera and then the Park Avenue. These had a solid quality to them and represented a decent take on American values. Think of them as a cheaper American Jaguar, if you like. These days all that feeling is gone and adding a Chinese-made crossover pushes Buick down a path slippery with the leaking oil from the carcasses of Geo and Saturn.
(Click on the links for a good insight into the Buick Riviera driving experience).