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Detroit show: Holden crafts new GM large car

Flagship: The Buick Avenir was designed in Australia as a future rear-drive flagship for Buick – and perhaps Holden.

Holden Design follows up Commodore with new Buick Avenir concept at Detroit show

12 Jan 2015

UPDATED: 12/01/2015 19:00pmA HOLDEN-DESIGNED large car has emerged ahead of the Detroit motor show, pointing to a North American-built rear-drive luxury sedan to be shared by Buick and Holden.

The Buick Avenir concept is described as a flagship sedan, and thus likely to replace the Holden-produced Caprice when the Australian vehicle goes out of production in 2017.

If it makes it to production, it is likely the Avenir – French for 'future' – could also replace the Caprice-based Buick Royaum/Park Avenue that was the GM brand's long-wheelbase sedan offering in China from 2005.

The Avenir is set to be built using GM's rear-drive Omega platform that will also underpin the Cadillac CT6 flagship sedan that will go on sale in the United States either late this year or early 2016.

While General Motors designers in Detroit also contributed to the Avenir, the project was led by GM Design Australia at its Melbourne studios – home of Commodore design for so many years.

The project represents a big vote of confidence in the Australian team, led by GM International Operations design vice president Mike Simcoe.

Although much of Holden's engineering capability is being wound up, GM is continuing to support the Holden design team – one of just two studios in GM world to be able to carry a design from sketch to production ready prototype.

The Avenir concept was not only designed in Australia – by a team led by Holden's Warrack Leach – but built here.

It has been shipped to Detroit for this week's North American International Auto Show, automatically becoming one of the stars of the biggest automotive expo on the global calendar.

GM's vice president of international design Ed Welburn – a huge fan of Holden Design – said the Buick Avenir showcased the very best of GM’s advanced design talent and capabilities.

“Developing a concept between studios on opposite sides of the earth is challenging and the Avenir demonstrates how Buick’s strong design heritage linked the teams with a singular vision,” he said.

Mr Welburn said designers on opposite sides of the globe – separated by 16 time zones and 16,000km – shared their renderings and communicated via live conference in the middle of the day in Detroit and the beginning of the next day in Melbourne.

“As a brand with one the richest histories of design, Buick’s legacy is recognised and revered around the world,” Mr Welburn said.

“The designers in Australia understood the essence of Buick’s design language just as well as those in America, which fostered a more cohesive collaboration between teams, with seamless integration.”

Avenir’s classic rear-wheel drive proportions and exterior design theme originated at GM’s Australia design studio, while the interior theme was penned in the United States, with elements and unique cues, inside and out, shared by both creative staffs.

Mr Simcoe said time and distance were variables, but the teams’ understanding of the project brief and the sculptural essence of Buick transcended the time zones.

“GM’s global design studios are very well connected and we contribute to each other’s projects all the time,” he said.

“There is a tremendous understanding of the brand’s design language and passion for the future of the portfolio.”

GM said Avenir concept’s signature sweep-spear body side motif and “boat-tail” styling were a nod to the 1971-73 Riviera.

“Simply put, Avenir is a beautiful piece of sculpture, delivered on a premium proportion that acknowledges the Buick design heritage in a very progressive way,” Mr Simcoe said.

“It has been a wonderful opportunity for all involved.”

Holden describes the Avenir as a “good news story for the automotive industry and design in Australia”.

Under the sculpted bonnet of the Avenir is a “next-generation direct-injected V6" offering cylinder deactivation technology, idle-stop, a nine-speed automatic transmission, a dual-clutch all-wheel drive system, and driver selectable suspension damping.

In the cabin, the four-seater concept offers deco trim, premium leather and ambient lighting and the overall design that flows through the cabin and features a three-dimensional theme is inspired by “nature and sea waves receding on the beach”, according to the press statement.

A 12-inch colour touchscreen with Buick's next-gen IntelliLink infotainment system dominates the centre stack, and rear-seat passengers have access to large video screens on the front seat-backs that allow users to plug in various media devices.

This connectivity is something of a theme of the Avenir, with devices synchronising information the moment the engine is switched on, while the concept also features mobile device charging and a 4G wi-fi hotspot.

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