Buick announced Wednesday that all its North American vehicles will be fully electric by 2030, and revealed a concept coupe to show the new design direction for the brand.
Its General Motors sibling, Cadillac, has already made a similar commitment for a 2030 deadline, as have several other premium brands, including Mercedes, Jaguar, Volvo and Bentley. GM itself intends to produce only electric vehicles by 2035 with its Chevrolet and GMC brands, while many other makers have set longer deadlines of 2040 and beyond to make the switch.
The automakers have little choice. Most national governments have set ambitious deadlines for new vehicles to produce zero emissions. Canada’s current deadline to end sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles is 2035, the same as the European Union, but the United States has no federal deadline.
“The decision to electrify our lineup marks one of the biggest transformations in our history,” said Duncan Aldred, global vice-president for Buick-GMC. “This gave our team an opportunity to craft a new identity that represents Buick in the future.”
The electric Buicks will share a nameplate called Electra, so that the vehicles will be called Buick Electra 1, 2, 3 and so on, though the company did not reveal what the actual numbers will be. They will use the Ultium battery technology that General Motors is now developing for use in its vehicles, and which it is sharing with Honda. The first Buick EV will be available in North America in 2024.
The Electra name is a revival of the badge used on Buick’s flagship sedans from the 1950s to 1990. The concept coupe that was shown is called the Wildcat, which is also a revival of the name from a full-size sedan built by Buick in the 1960s.
The Wildcat concept is a sleek, forward-leaning coupe with a fast roofline and few creases. Aldred said its design cues will be seen on a gasoline-powered production vehicle that will be revealed later this year and which will be available in North American showrooms next year. That vehicle will almost certainly not be a coupe, however; Buick sells only SUVs in North America.
“This brand transformation allowed the design team to step back and look at the brand holistically, with the goal of creating a new global design language,” said Sharon Gauci, executive director of global design for Buick-GMC. “Buick’s next generation of design adopts a youthful expression with subtle yet disruptive edges. It will not be trendy design, but it will be timeless design.”
Inside, there’s a new virtual cockpit that uses artificial intelligence and biometric technology to adapt to the preferences of its users. On the outside, there’s a new badge mounted directly on the body. It replaces the traditional circular three-shield Buick logo, unchanged since 1990, with a horizontal, three-shield design that’s supposed to represent the goals of zero emissions, zero crashes, zero congestion.
The new badge debuts on the China-only GL8 Century minivan, which Buick revealed this week, as well as the Electra X SUV concept, which is a development of the scissor-doored crossover Electra concept that Buick revealed in Shanghai two years ago.
Buick is very popular in China, where it enjoys a reputation as a premium and aspirational brand. It sells about five times as many vehicles there as in the United States, where the 119-year-old brand is trying to shed its reputation as a stodgy car for old people.
“This is just a perfect time,” said Molly Peck, vice-president of marketing for Buick-GMC. “We’ve been given this new, beautiful design direction and a new, beautiful outlook for the brand with an all-EV future, and so we thought, what a perfect time to stop and say, what does this mean for the brand and the brand identity and how we interface with our consumers? So we took a look at everything … and all of that will be communicated this summer as we roll out this new identity.”