Buick Envision: Will America Accept a Chinese-Built SUV from GM?
A Chinese Buick? The American car brand is reportedly planning to sell Buick SUVs manufactured in China to the United States. This is something that is sure to turn Donald Trump from his typical orangish hue to a more pinkish-red, as he decried the fall of American might. Also, Trump loves saying “China.” Buick was long known as one of the quintessential American brands under the General Motors umbrella. But it was its popularity in China that kept it alive when Pontiac and Hummer were shuttered in 2010 following GM’s bailout and restructuring. Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, rising American labor costs, combined other factors that are bringing us a Chinese import with an American name. RELATED: See more images of the 2016 Buick Envision
WSJ reports that a new United Auto Workers contract will result in higher labor costs Stateside. Meanwhile Buick’s Chinese production facility will start to build a small SUV called the Envision early next year. This would add a third SUV to Buick’s lineup, and considering the ballooning growth of the small SUV/crossover market, the timing could not be better from a sales standpoint. The mid-size Envision would slot between the tiny Encore and the eight-passenger Enclave.
But what about optics? General Motors was bailed out during the financial crisis, and now that it is once again thriving, it ships jobs to China? That might be more campaign stump fodder, considering American automakers have already been relying on cheaper Mexican labor for many years.
RELATED: See more images of the 2011 Buick Envision Concept
Some have suggested that if the Envision plan is profitable, GM might move more production to China, as might other automakers. But the plan has to work first, and success is highly dependent on how the buying public perceives a Chinese-built car in American showrooms, wearing the badge of a more than century-old American automaker.
There have long been concerns over build quality in Chinese cars, but if the Envision can meet the expectations of consumers (and a skeptical corps of auto reviewers), buyers will get over the SUV’s origins. Also, consider that GM is not the only one building cars in China for the American market. Volvo is planning on bringing the Chinese-built S60 to America, though it should be noted the Swedish automaker is now owned by Chinese company Geely.
Bash GM all you’d like for this move, but it is looking out for the bottom line, just as the UAW is looking to ensure its members can earn the best wage they can. The difference is that now GM has yet another place where it can build cars cheaper. Will GM be able to wield that against the UAW, or will popular opinion reject a Chinese-built Buick? It is certainly going to be interesting to watch this play out in 2016 and beyond.
RELATED: Is America Ready for a Chinese-built Volvo?