GM IN CHINA
— The first in a sometimes series…
by Jim Corbran
Although one probably never would have guessed it a couple of decades ago, as we speak Buick is one of the biggest selling car brands in China.
Often ridiculed in the past by the North American press as an old peoples’ car, the success of GM’s Tri-Shield brand in what is now the largest new-car market on the globe probably helped save it back in 2009, when General Motors was lopping-off car divisions quicker than an Aroldis Chapman fastball. First available in China back in 1998, Buick has since sold over eight million vehicles there. With sales numbers like that, poor Pontiac never stood a chance with its North American stable of slightly-disguised Chevrolets.
So it only goes to reason that these days China might see new Buick models before we get them here in North America (if ever). The most recent new model announcement out of Shanghai is the extended-range electric Buick Velite 5. Making its global debut at the Auto Shanghai 2017 car show last month, the Velite 5 is a Buick version of the second-generation Chevrolet Volt. Unlike the first-generation Volt, which was sold in China as an import, the Velite 5 will be manufactured in China. It will use the same powertrain as the Volt — a permanent-magnetic electric motor drive unit, which supports a 1.5L direct-injection gasoline-powered engine as well as its lithium battery pack.
The Velite 5 won’t look any more different from a Chevy Volt than a Buick Regal does from an Opel Insignia. GM badge-engineering at its best! No official word yet on whether or not the Velite 5 will be available here in the U.S.
Some of Buick’s other Chinese offerings are definitely not available here in North America. Yet. Like the GL8 25, an MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) now into its third generation. We here in North America might think of it as a minivan. As a matter of fact, the first-gen GL8 was in fact based on the Chevy Venture/Olds Silhouette/Pontiac Montana minivan offered here. The newest GL8s have Buick’s latest chrome-plated, split-wing grille up front, and raised third-row seating in the rear. Other niceties include an extra-large dual-panel panoramic sunroof and Moon White ambient lighting.
One other Chinese Buick we never saw here was the Excelle. The compact four-door was basically a version of both the Daewoo Lacetti and the Opel Astra. Buick dropped the Excelle last fall, preferring to leave the somewhat inexpensive compact car market to other brands, plus the fact that they were also selling the compact Verano, (available in North America) which is based on Chevy’s Cruze
Check out Buick’s China offerings here (but remember to brush up on your Chinese first!): buick.com.cn
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— The first in a sometimes series…”
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