DETROIT — General Motors on Wednesday unveiled the Buick Wildcat, a new concept car designed to signal a revolutionary change for the brand, as it moves to offer only electric vehicles in North America by the end of this decade.
The car reflects the future design and technological directions of the 119-year-old brand, including a significantly redesigned logo for the first time in more than 30 years.
Buick marketing manager Rob Peterson said elements of the Wildcat will be included in Buick vehicles — both traditional internal combustion engine vehicles and EVs — starting next year.
“It is a very, very important concept for the Buick brand, because it is launching us in a new direction,” he told CNBC during an interview.
A new gas-powered SUV with the new characteristics and logo will be unveiled this fall for the U.S. market, Peterson said. It is expected to go on sale next year.
While Buick is GM’s smallest vehicle lineup in the U.S., the brand is extremely important to the automaker in China, where it has been a prominent luxury player for decades.
New EV in 2024
Buick said its first EV for the U.S. is expected in 2024 on GM’s Ultium battery platform. It will be followed by several new EVs, and by 2030 the brand will no longer offer vehicles with internal combustion engines in North America, Peterson said.
Buick’s future EVs will launch under the name Electra, a former vehicle name used by the brand for decades until 1990. Buick has used the Wildcat name for nearly 70 years, including for other concept vehicles and production cars in the 1960s and 1970s.
The company is counting on its move to electric vehicles to help shake off its stodgy image as a maker of vehicles for senior citizens and to help attract new, younger buyers.
“The best way to change persona is through design language and through messaging, and I think that the sophistication of this new design language is going to be one of the fastest ways to get more people thinking about this,” Peterson said. “We won’t miss this opportunity.”
Not only does the concept vehicle carry a new logo and design, but it’s also a smaller, sleeker Buick than what’s currently on the market. The brand has exclusively offered crossovers or SUVs since the 2021 model year.
Automakers routinely use concept vehicles to gauge customer interest or show the future direction of a vehicle or brand. The vehicles are not meant to be sold to consumers.
Peterson said Buick will continue to focus on producing new SUVs, though he didn’t completely nix the idea of launching a car for the brand at some point.
Buick chose to release a concept car, instead of an SUV, to assist with its dynamic looks and proportions, said Therese Pinazzo, Buick exterior and interior design manager.
“We’re all about sculptural beauty. This is the new face of Buick, and it really just allows us a perfect canvas,” she said. “This ends up being an expression philosophically and visually for where the brand is going in the future.”
The exterior of the vehicle is far more aggressive than the brand’s current models, with a large, low grille with horizontal lines and new signature “winged” lights in the front and back. The roof of the vehicle around the doors also angles up for easier entry and egress.
Inside the four-passenger car is a floating center console that extends from the front of the vehicle to the rear seats.
It features white seats with red seatbelts surrounded by a “legato” green interior. The control panel is a 30.4-inch LCD screen and a steering wheel that’s half clear.
Buick’s new logo features the brand’s three shields, which date back to the 1950s, but in a more modern and clean way. The main logos on the concept vehicle feature illuminated “winged” hockey sticks, while the wheels had the background of the sticks filled in with Buick’s signature red, white and blue colors.
“A new logo symbolizing our new direction, the adoption of Electra as a naming series and a fresh aesthetic for our lineup, all serve as cornerstones to this important transformation,” Duncan Aldred, global head of Buick, said in a statement.
The Wildcat is the first concept vehicle for the brand in the U.S. since a well-received coupe called the Buick Avista in 2016. Buick’s operations in China last week teased an electric concept SUV for that market.