General Motors, the largest automaker in the United States, will introduce the Buick Envision (which has been made in Shandong province, China) to the U.S. market this year. The company plans to unveil the compact sports-utility car in the Detroit auto show, hoping for media attention amid mild criticism of its decision to outsource the manufacture of the car in China.
This move by GM marks the first time one of Detroit’s big three automakers (General Motors, Ford Motors and Fiat Chrysler) has imported a car from China to be sold in the American market.GM made the announcement late last year. The car is manufactured at a plant in Yantai, northeastern Shandong Province. It had sold 120,000 units in China since its inception last year.
GM is not expected to import a large number of the cars, but a modest figure of only about 35,000 units annually. Nevertheless, the undertaking highlights GM’s strategic shift in production to maximize its output by outsourcing some of its models to markets able to absorb excess capacity. General Motors officials said that importing the Buick Envision from China is not a cost-cutting measure but rather a way for the company to fill a gap in the brand’s production line, helping GM to respond quickly to customer demand. It should be noted that the Buick model has been a struggling brand in the United States. This bold experiment will be monitored closely by other automakers who have been cautious to ship China-made vehicles, fearing Western buyers would shun them over concerns about their quality.
The auto giant was quick to point out that although the Buick Envision will not be built on American soil, the car had been designed, engineered, and tested in Michigan. The company also assured that the car will meet high quality and safety standards that have been set for the Buick brand.
General Motors will not be the first automaker in the United States to import vehicles from China. Volvo, a small automaker owned by a Chinese company, first made the move last spring when it started to import sedans from a plant in China
GM’s decision last year produced complaints by the United Auto Workers (UAW).
“Today’s announcement by General Motors that they are importing the Envision from China is a slap in the face to U.S. Taxpayers and the men and women who worked so hard to save GM during its darkest time,” said Cindy Estrada, UAW vice president who also leads the negotiations with General Motors.
Despite the outcry from the UAW and a few other stakeholders, no one is actually suggesting that GM should be restricted from doing this. According to reports, Americans are much less concerned about driving a car that has been made in China and other countries today than only a few years ago. The Buick Envision from China is thus expected to do fine in the American market.
The company itself is optimistic about the venture.
“We expect it to be a great success; it offers all the features and amenities of a luxury SUV. Its high quality, quiet, filled with advanced safety technology. The design is gorgeous. The interior execution is outstanding. And it’s all at a price point that offers a great value” said Molly Peck, U.S. marketing director for Buick.
It is much to China’s credit that it is now able to export cars to the USA, something unthinkable only decades ago. It will be interesting to monitor how well the Buick Envision does in the American market and its implications for the auto industry at large.