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First look: Riviera coupe shows the way for Buick

New direction: Gullwing Buick concept car reveals fresh approach for GM.

GM's Buick brand steals the spotlight in Shanghai

24 Apr 2007

THE global reach of General Motors' engineering abilities was showcased in the Buick Park Avenue, a built-for-China version of Holden's WM Statesman, but the Shanghai show also hosted the reveal of a concept that's claimed to preview a totally new design direction for the Buick brand in general.

Claimed to be developed with global design input by the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC) in China, the Riviera is a design and engineering joint-venture between GM and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC).

The gullwinged coupe concept, which revives a Buick nameplate that found more than 1.1 million homes between 1963 and 1999, was jointly unveiled in Shanghai by GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner and SAIC chairman Hu Maoyuan.

"Developing and launching the Riviera in China underscores the diversity, strength and depth of the GM global design network," said Ed Welburn, vice-president, GM Global Design.

"It also reflects PATAC's growing role within the GM Design family and China's significance as the world's largest Buick market." Significantly, the Riviera is claimed to be engineered to accommodate a new hybrid system that will go into production at Shanghai GM, GM's flagship joint-venture with SAIC, prior to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Look beyond the two-plus-two show car's tightly sculpted carbon-fibre body panels and 21-inch forged aluminium wheels, however, and it's clear that if it reaches production the striking two-door may also have close ties with homegrown Holden products, such as the next-gen Monaro.

GM also used Shanghai to reveal its second-generation E-Flex system, which it says is the most efficient hydrogen fuel cell technology ever produced.

133 center imageMated to GM's fifth-generation fuel cell propulsion system and a lithium-ion battery in the Chevrolet Volt concept car at Shanghai, it's claimed to be a flexible all-electric production vehicle architecture that can be configured to run on electricity from a number of sources.

"The beauty of our E-Flex strategy is that it allows us to package various propulsion systems into the same space depending on what energy is available locally," said Larry Burns, GM's vice-president of Research and Development and Strategic Planning.

"It also provides flexibility in the sources of energy. We can obtain hydrogen or electricity from a myriad of renewable sources - wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric and biofuels - or from traditional sources such as natural gas, clean coal, nuclear or even gasoline.

"E-Flex provides flexibility in two ways: in the propulsion systems that can be used, and in the sources of energy that can be commercialized to compete with oil and meet global transportation growth in a sustainable way." GM says its MkV fuel cell system is half the size of its predecessor found in the Chevrolet Sequel concept, yet it provides the same power and performance.

The 30 per cent heavier Sequel stores 8kg of hydrogen and delivers a range of 483km – the same as Volt (1588kg), but with only 4kg of hydrogen.

The latest Volt also showcases GM's third-generation wheel hub motor, which is housed inside inside each of its rear wheels.

However, Mr Burns warned that government and energy companies needed to co-develop a market for hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles before they could be made publicly available.

"Our progress has made us increasingly confident that our fuel cell propulsion system will be automotive-competitive.

"But before this technology can be made widely available, governments, energy suppliers and infrastructure companies around the world need to collaborate with GM and the auto industry to develop a market for fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen fuel."

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