NAIAS 2017 | Episode 2 : General Motors Group

This year, most of the companies elected to separate their premium brands from the core high volume products. The Lincoln stand was located away from Ford; Alfa Romeo separate from Fiat/Chrysler; both Buick and Cadillac on individual display areas.
Not much new at Buick or Cadillac this year, but Cadillac did display the Escala concept previously debuted at Pebble Beach. This bold flagship product is quite striking and would be a welcome addition as an aspiration car at the top of the brand. Let’s hope that it will become a commercial reality one day soon. The Escala is quite a large car, with a long, pillarless greenhouse giving an “open”, clean look. There are some strong body feature lines, but this concept shows some welcome evolution from the present brand styling ethos. The large front grille is perhaps rather lacking in brightwork for the brand, (especially alongside the very small headlights) and the interior rather simplistic, but these are just details. All in all, the car is elegant and commands a presence. An interesting small feature is the bright trim at the lower leading edge of the front door that mirrors the wider greenhouse moulding at the C pillar. With the addition of a full height B Pillar; a reduction in the trunk lift-over; some larger mirrors (unfortunately) and few other minor changes the Escala probably could be a viable production offering.

Needless to say, SUV’s and Crossovers continue to be a major factor in the US market. GM is clearly working hard to blanket this very broad market with a wide range of products covering every size category. Chevrolet replaced two key products in this market with an all-new compact Equinox and an all new mid sized Traverse. These products fit between the smaller Trax (also freshened) and the larger, body-on-frame Tahoe. The Traverse and Equinox are not exceptional in terms of design, but they are competent products tailored for their particular role in the line-up.


As usual the General Motors display covered a vast area, plus there were two separate stands for Cadillac and Buick.  Trucks and SUV’s abounded in every shape and size, including the new mid-size Chevy Colorado pick up and its twin the GMC Canyon.  Unremarkable from a design standpoint, these trucks, along with the new Toyota Tacoma, mark a resurgence in this smaller (but still quite large) pick up truck category.
Chevy featured a facelifted version of the Volt which, although smoother and cleaner than the original, remains somewhat unremarkable.  It is, however, probably distinctive enough to continue giving Volt owners the “green image” they desire.  Also revealed at the show was the Chevy Bolt concept, a 5-door hatchback battery electric car that most likely will be in production in a couple of years – oil prices permitting!
The Buick display proved to be much more interesting, featuring the Avenir concept – a large 4-door sedan that might be a good fit for China, but surely encroaches on Cadillac territory in the US.  This relatively large RWD car made a powerful statement with a long front end, sweeping feature lines on its flanks and a unique boat-tail rear.  With the present emphasis on aerodynamics, there has been a tendency for the rear quarters/decklids/rear ends of many sedans to follow an increasingly similar look – with the Avenir, Buick has struck out on its own and we like it!  Also on display was the Cascada mid-sized 4-seat convertible – a Buick version of the Opel Cabrio.  The North American market for this kind of convertible has been steadily declining over the last few years, so it will be interesting to see if this pleasing design can drive some incremental sales for Buick.  Personally I like the proportions much better with the top up!
Cadillac introduced a new V-series version of the CTS, joining the recently announced ATS-V.  Although their horsepower figures have been pre-empted and overwhelmed by the Dodge Charger/Challenger Hellcat models, these Cadillacs are all business, so we should give GM full credit for going “head-on” with the Germans.


The premium domestic brands fought for attention with GM choosing to have a completely separate display area for Cadillac far away from the rest of the corporate brands.  Cadillac featured a two-door coupe version of the ATS, as well as the production version of the ELR.  The design of the CTS coupe and the ELR are very strong and visually arresting, the ATS coupe – well, not so much.  We wonder who is going to buy all these coupes.  They might look good, but are the looks worth the loss of utility.