American automaker Buick, formerly famed for their luxurious cruisers, is entering the electric vehicle market with the introduction of the Wildcat EV concept. To be sure, the new Buick Wildcat EV Concept is only that for the time being, but it may signal the beginning of a major shift of Buick into its next act.
Going All Electric
The upscale division of General Motors has been unsuccessful in the United States since the Great Recession of 2009. Pontiac and Saturn almost went the same way. The Encore, the Envision, and the Enclave are the only vehicles sold by the brand in the United States at the moment. All the vehicles are some sort of crossover or SUV.
The Regal was Buick’s final sedan offering before the firm ceased production in 2020. Even though the firm hasn’t yet released any hybrids or EVs in the United States, they say that will soon change.
Buick has announced that the Electra, their first electric vehicle, will be released in 2024. It is the same moniker that was given to the company’s 2020 SUV EV show car in China. The business claims that by the end of the decade, every vehicle in its lineup will be fully electric and use General Motors’ Ultium battery technology. While Buick’s online event on Wednesday featured the company’s low-slung EV prototype, the Wildcat, the Electra is more likely to take the form of a crossover or SUV.
Though some may bemoan the death of the sedan at the hands of GM and its brands, Buick has reaped the benefits of GM’s decision to focus only on the crossover market. With retail sales up 7.6 per cent in the United States and over 73 per cent of sales coming from consumers who did not previously buy a Buick, 2021 was the biggest year of sales in Buick’s history for its current model lineup. The company’s plans to release an electric SUV reflect its desire to capitalise on this rising market trend.
Wildcat EV pays homage to Buick’s history in a couple of ways, despite its obvious visual dissimilarity to the Buick Y-Job, the brand’s first concept car from 1938. In 1953, during GM’s Motorama, the first Wildcat was unveiled by a design team led by Harley Earl, the company’s legendary first design director.
This Wildcat, along with the precursor to the Chevrolet Corvette, was featured in the same collection of Motorama automobiles as the original Corvette; it was designed with a focus on sportier driving and a smaller footprint than conventionally huge Buicks. Wildcat models were full-size performance cars produced by Buick between 1963 and 1970.
Although the Wildcat moniker has been used on several concept cars by Buick throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Wednesday’s reveal is the first time the automaker has shown off a concept that isn’t an SUV in the United States since 2016.
Although the Avista concept car from 2016 was widely hailed as the sedan that would finally turn around the company’s fortunes, it was ultimately never put into production due to the tastes of Chinese consumers. Among the many vehicles sold by Buick in China are the GL8 minivan, the Velite 6 EV station waggon, and the Velite 7 EV subcompact crossover.
According to Buick, the Wildcat introduces a fresh design language and a new take on the iconic tri-shield badge for the next electric vehicle (EV), which will be powered by GM’s Ultrium battery architecture. Since the Wildcat is currently just a concept, the business has stated that the new emblem will begin appearing on other production cars later this year.
Likely, the new Wildcat will never go into production, just as the Avista and the Riviera concept from 2013. However, it does hint at future developments for the company. When asked about the possibility of a Buick electric sedan or coupe during the Q&A session that followed the event, Duncan Aldred, a senior executive at Buick, did not dismiss the idea.
The Wildcat concept’s “2-plus-2” configuration consists of two rows of seats, with the roofline and rear window merging into a graceful boattail design that incorporates L-shaped taillights. The A-pillar has been replaced by a glass windscreen that goes all the way around the front of the car.
The Wildcat EV appears like a fastback waggon from the side, and the charge level is displayed in the hatchback. To facilitate simpler access for both the front and rear passengers, the coupe includes two semi-swing doors that join around the centre of the frame and swing-out.
Designers for Buick claimed they wanted to create a sensation of modernism and warmth by using technological features such as artificial intelligence that can detect when a driver’s pulse rate gets high. Whenever that happens, AI will work to make them feel better. To promote relaxation, the company demonstrated a “Zen Mode” that turned out the lights, released soothing aromas, and massaged the chairs.
We won’t know what, if anything, from Buick’s new Wildcat EV design reaches consumers until 2024, when the market for electric vehicles (EVs) is expected to be much more saturated.