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Chinese Buick Could Be Precursor for GM’s Reentry in U.S. Minivan Market

GM will launch new GL8 minivan on Nov. 28.

by on Nov.10, 2010

General Motors will launch the Buick GL8 for the Chinese market on Nov. 28. Could it eventually make its way to the U.S.?

Maybe General Motors’ minivans aren’t extinct. They still live in China and are about to get a makeover. Could GM also be planning a reintroduction of the boxy people movers in the U.S.?

GM isn’t talking about U.S. plans for GL8 minivan, which it continued to offer in China, even after it stopped building them for the American market in 2008.

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GM offered just two paragraphs about its planned Nov. 28 introduction of the next-generation GL8, but it’s the pictures that tell the story.

GM has a sordid and strange history with minivans. It’s first front-drive effort, the Pontiac Trans Sport/Oldsmobile Silhouette “Dustbusters” sacrificed utility for style and most were underpowered. Then came the boring Pontiac Montana/Chevrolet Venture, which weren’t weird, but didn’t have the latest features that made vans from Chrysler, Honda and Toyota so popular. GM’s last-ditch effort was to expand the hood to make them look more like SUVs. It didn’t work. They looked like minivans with oversized front ends.

Buick's GL8 minivan for the Chinese market is so stylish, it could win over American consumers, many of whom have given up on minivans.

GM eventually just gave up on the minivan market altogether and introduced the Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia/Buick Enclave crossovers to fill the void.

But the GL8 seems to build on the stylish details that have given Buick three consecutive hits: the Enclave, LaCrosse and Regal. GM is not showing a side view.

In China, the GL8 is targeted for business users, calling it an executive wagon.

Not surprisingly, the GL8 will come with smaller engines than would be expected in the U.S. Standard will be a 2.4-liter four cylinder with an optional 3.0-liter V-6. Both will be backed by a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Minivans will make more sense for motorists in the U.S. as the need for better fuel economy increases. Minivans maximize space for the least weight, often tipping the scales at hundreds of pounds less than a comparable crossover. Many buyers are turned off by the style and image, but there’s no denying the fundamental differences in interior space.

A Chevrolet version would seem to make the most sense in the U.S. Time will tell if GM has any plans to again test the minivan waters in the U.S.

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