As first reported in the Wall Street Journal, American car maker General Motors has finalized a plan to import a Buick compact crossover from China to the United States. The Buick Envision, which has already been manufactured in China, will go on sale in the U.S. by early 2016. China is currently Buick’s largest market.
Earlier this summer, the Detroit Free Press and USA TODAY both reported that GM was close to a deal to become the first Detroit automaker to begin exporting motor vehicles from China to the U.S. Now, it appears the deal is done.
The Envision is currently manufactured at a factory in Shandong province in China and the model will fill a major gap in the United States lineup of the Buick brand. At this time, Buick does not sell a compact crossover - but almost all of its competitors do.
The move is both a milestone and a possible political nightmare. However, experts in the industry believe consumers will not notice any changes in the craftsmanship or quality. It remains to be seen how diehard “built in America” consumers will feel about an “American” car built in China.
The plans regarding the Buick Envision come at a time when GM is waiting to hear if the United Auto Workers union (UAW) has approved a new four-year bargaining agreement. A main provision of the agreement promises comprehensive increases in compensation to hourly workers.
Brian Rothenberg, spokesman for UAW, reiterated the union’s disdain of GM’s plan to import a vehicle from China.
However, despite its major disapproval of the plan, analysts believe that by securing wage increases and job guarantees, the UAW will likely not put up too much of a fight about the Chinese import.
As part of the tentative collective bargaining agreement, GM has promised to invest another $1.9 billion in addition to a previously pledged $6.4 billion investment in United States plants over the next couple years.
Buick is GM’s most popular brand in China and is one of the company’s fastest growing brands in the United States. The growth in both markets is largely due to Buick’s small and midsize crossovers and SUVs.
GM does import cars from other countries, including the Encore subcompact crossover from South Korea, Mexico and Spain. However, the Envision is the first to be imported from China.