2011 Buick Regal live unveiling - Click above for high-res image gallery
Last night General Motors' superstar train blew into Los Angeles for a gala event at one of Hollywood's most iconic theaters, the Palladium. Designed by Hoover Dam architect Gordon Kaufman and opened by a $1 Frank Sinatra concert in 1940, the Palladium has played host to a who's who of music superstars including James Brown, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Madonna and the Pixies.
The Palladium wasn't just for music. President Jack Kennedy held a dinner there in 1961, and Martin Luther King Jr. was honored at the Palladium in 1965 after he received the Nobel Peace Prize. However, the Palladium's fortunes declined. Things got so bad that it was forced to close down for eight weeks in the early '90s. Recently, however, the Hollywood Palladium underwent a multi-million dollar renovation that successfully returned the theater to its former glory. Which leads us to Buick and the new 2011 Regal
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Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
Among the heavy hitters Buick brought to bare were VP of U.S. sales Susan Docherty, head of global design Ed Welburn and, of course, Maximum Bob Lutz,. And while Susan and Ed were very pleasant, it was Bob and only Bob who provided the quotes. "The 2011 Buick Regal is the next step in transforming Buick," Lutz bellowed to a crowd of around 1,500 very well dressed Buick and GMC customers that GM had invited to attend the reveal along with us auto journo types (i.e. not so well dressed).
Maximum Bob went on to explain how during the 1960s, Buick was the number three brand in America. The brand was aspirational and its cars were legitimate alternatives to people who didn't want (or couldn't afford) Cadillacs. Most importantly, "Buick was cool. But somehow, somehow
we let that slip." Bob explained that the Enclave was the first Buick to "conquest import buyers." The LaCrosse was the next step in this process, though its appeal is most evident in China where the average LaCrosse buyer's age is 28 years.
Pictures simply don't do the new Regal justice.
That last part is why all these folks were gathered at the Palladium, munching on Wolfgang Puck and listening to a Colbie Caillat concert while staring at the new Buick Regal. We're sure we're shocking no one by stating that Buick needs a dip in the fountain of youth more than any other brand, GM or otherwise. Will savvy PR stunts like this one convince people that Buick isn't just for Grandpa? Hard to say, but we did watch as dozens and dozens of people climbed the stage and posed for pictures with the new Regal.
The new Regal, especially under these conditions, defines a new rule – the pictures simply don't do it justice. We know it has much to do with more sophisticated manufacturing techniques and computer this that and the other, but the Regal we stared at for a good solid hour has an allure and a sophistication -- and dare we say, elegance -- to it that isn't really coming across in 2D. Flattening out Welburn's team's subtle curves and creases just doesn't work. Point is, in person the Regal has presence.
We were also struck by how much Chris Bangle showed up in the Regal. Say what you will about the infamous head of design at BMW, but Mr. Bangle has changed the way modern cars look. The Regal has the now almost mandatory "Bangled Butt," though here it's nicely offset by an integrated spoiler. But there's also a noticeable amount of 6 Series/Z4 in the Regal's snout, especially when viewed from the side, and double especially at the headlight where all three planes are joined together. As to whether or not this design will light a fire within the hearts of car buyers remains to be seen.