First Look: Buick Business Concept
Would it Play Well in Peoria?
The Shanghai Auto Show doesn't get a ton of play here in the U.S. yet, as most of the exhibitors haven't yet cracked our market. That may change, though, as the show grows in importance and influence and attracts more debuts, such as the Buick Business Concept.
Designed in China, for China, the Buick Business Concept may be one of the least imaginatively named concepts we've come across, though what it lacks in linguistic flair it makes up for in design. Designed by the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC), a joint venture between GM and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation and the designers of the hot new 2010 Buick LaCrosse, Buick's new Asian-influenced styling has been pulled and stretched over an MPV frame for a surprisingly attractive people-mover.
The Buick Business Concept isn't all foreign, though. PATAC was careful to draw an equal amount of influence from classic Buick design as it was from contemporary styles. The big waterfall grille is updated for 2009 and if you look closely, you'll see the classic Buick portholes have been integrated into the chrome belt. The big 20-in. wheels may not be classic, but they do work well and have a healthy dose of chrome.
Inside, PATAC has laid out a stylish six-passenger interior meant to emulate the feel of high-class lounge. Extra seating capacity that could've been had in center seats in the second and third rows has been done away with to give other passengers larger seats and more space, as Buick imagines this vehicle as something of a mobile office for business executives, not a kiddie-hauler. The second-row seats swivel up to 225 degrees to allow them to turn around and face either back seat passenger while a power center console slides on a track between the second-row seats, allowing it to be positioned between them or slid back to the third-row seats. This console features a pop-out table for writing or holding your laptop, making it easier to get work done on the road.
Up front, PATAC went a bit futuristic with the dash, but not too wild. Replacing the standard instrument panel and center stack is a large display that spans the length of the dash. While information can be displayed on either side of the dash, the centerpiece is a large LED screen for the primary functions like navigation and stereo. Interface is done through a trackball-style mouse and touchpads mounted in the center console just below the LED screen.
While GM has been coy on the exact powertrain under the Business Concept, the vehicle has been designed to accept GM's next-generation mild-hybrid system. This system will add a more-advanced lithium-ion battery and an integrated belt-alternator-starter system to help improve fuel economy by up to 20%. The system will also shut down the engine at idle, get the vehicle moving from a stop under electric power only, cut fuel more aggressively during deceleration, increase regenerative braking and optimize battery charging to reduce drag on the engine.
While we doubt the wavy beltline, busy side panels and full-length chrome trim would play well in Peoria, it's expected to be a hit in China where large vehicles like minivans and SUVs are expected to be the next Big Thing. GM hasn't said anything about production of this vehicle in China or anywhere else, but reaction to the concept has been generally good so far. With the exception of the missing B-pillars, the concept appears to be adaptable to production specs easily enough, so we wouldn't be surprised to see this vehicle on Chinese roads in the near future.
Given the positive reaction to the similarly-styled 2010 Buick LaCrosse and how well that styling has translated to this vehicle, would you put it on American roads? Buick's last minivan, the forgettable, badge-engineered Terraza, didn't do so hot, but Buick is experiencing something of a revival now with the new Enclave and upcoming LaCrosse. If you were in the minivan market, would this one keep you off the Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep lot?
Additional reporting by Angus MacKenzie in China