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2008 Buick Park Avenue and Riviera Concept

At this week's Shanghai show, the Chinese will see their all-new, rear-drive Buick Park Avenue, along with a concept that revives the Riviera name. What about us? We'll hold on to the LaCrosse and Lucerne sedans a bit longer. Terrific.

"It shows Buick's ability to move with the times."

In America, this statement would be followed by "Now pass me that joint," or maybe just a simple check for a pulse. In China, where Shanghai GM president Ding Lei spoke the words above, it's completely understandable, and seeing China's new Park Avenue sedan, I'm even inclined to agree. This is just the most recent case of "why don't we get that here?" from one of the big three, and I'm adding it to the list of desirables, right under the Euro Ford Focus, the Ford Mondeo, the Chrysler 300C Wagon, and a list of Holdens. Actually, the Park Avenue, like the maybe-coming Pontiac G8, is a Holden. It uses the same Aussie-developed rear-drive platform, Buick-ified with luxury features like four massaging leather seats and rear tray tables. Yet, we're stuck with the LaCrosse and Lucerne, two mediocre sedans based on aging front-wheel-drive architectures. The worst part? A few months ago when GM showed the Park Avenue to Buick dealers, they said they didn't want it because Buick customers like front-drive. Sorry, but most Buick drivers won't be drivers at all in the coming years. It's time for a change. Buick needs to make a better-late-than-never competitor to the Chrysler 300C, and this Park Avenue could be it.

To show that China has indeed become Buick's most important market, the brand is showing a Riviera concept at this week's Shanghai show. Yes, we get meaningless names like Lucerne and LaCrosse and China keeps the classy Park Avenue and toys with a Riviera revival. Nice. Only a teaser image of the gull-winged concept has been released, but it looks like it's going to be beautiful. The good news? The Riv is expected to continue touring after the Shanghai show, and will probably be shown at next winter's L.A. and Detroit shows. But then again, American Buick dealers probably won't like it.