General Motors’ Buick division is moving forward on plans to bring a Chinese-made vehicle to the U.S. market.
A version of the Buick Envision already on sale in China, the compact crossover is expected to go on sale here by late 2016, according to a Wall Street Journal report. That would make GM only the second manufacturer to import a vehicle from China.
The booming Asian market – which is just rebounding from an unusual slump – is the largest outlet in the world for Buick, and GM now sells more vehicles in China than in the U.S. But as the market slows from years of high double-digit growth, the Detroit maker is looking to find other opportunities for the production capacity it has set up in Shanghai and other cities.
(China’s car sales surge in October, reversing a sharp slump. Click Here for the latest.)
Buick isn’t talking about its plans for Envision, perhaps in part because it is trying to wrap up negotiations with the United Auto Workers Union on a four-year contract. That agreement was ratified by line workers but rejected last week by higher-paid skilled trades employees. The union previously issued a statement blasting plans to import the Envision.
Such a move could also prove a political hot potato as the U.S. presidential election heats up. Ford took a drubbing from GOP front-runner Donald Trump earlier this year when it announced plans to move production of several small vehicles from a Michigan plant to a new facility in Mexico.
(Buick named one of top brands for auto reliability by Consumer Reports. Click Here for more.)
GM now has the capability to produce millions of vehicles in China, and it is still expecting that market to grow substantially in the years ahead. But it appears to be betting it will have a little more capacity than it needs there – and that its Chinese lines can produce a vehicle like the Envision at a lower cost than its U.S. plants, especially in light of the wage and benefits increased included in the new UAW contract.
Adding the Envision would mark a major step forward for Buick, a once-proud brand that many thought GM would abandon as it emerged from bankruptcy. Instead, the maker cast off the Hummer, Pontiac, Saturn and Saab marques.
At the time GM came out from under Chapter 11 protection, it had only three models in the Buick line. That has been growing, largely on the crossover side, though it has also just added the Cascada convertible and will reveal a complete remake of its LaCrosse sedan at the Los Angeles Auto Show next week.
Some sources suggest the Buick Envision could make its public debut in January at the North American International Auto Show, but Buick is not yet revealing plans for that event.
(Click Here to see what’s coming to the 2015 LA Auto Show.)
If GM moves ahead, the Buick Envision would target a relatively new but fast-growing segment of the market. Honda has shown there is strong potential for compact crossovers with its new HR-X, and a variety of other makers, both mainstream and luxury, are entering the fray.
The Buick Envision would not have bragging rights as the first Chinese-made car to reach the American market. That title goes to the Inscription, a new, long-wheelbase version of the Volvo S60 which began crossing the Pacific earlier this year.