U.S. consumers are moving away from sedans and towards crossovers. Will Buick’s new Envision premium compact crossover be warmly received by GM shoppers, or will its Chinese build location and a crowded segment hold it back?
Very quietly the Buick brand is leading the way at General Motors as the company transforms itself into a global automaker rather than a U.S. (Detroit) and Canadian automaker. Buick’s top-selling model, the Encore sub-compact crossover is not made in the U.S., but in Mexico, Spain, and South Korea. Very soon, its second leading seller might be made in China. That’s because the newest U.S. Buick model, the Envision, is entering the largest U.S. market available to Buick, the premium compact crossover segment.
The Buick Envision faces two challenges. First, it must elbow its way into a segment led by Audi’s Q5, which Buick lists as a competitor, and the Lexus NX 200t, which Buick does not, seemingly unaware that Lexus is the number-two-selling vehicle in this huge segment. Both are formidable in their own ways.
Lincoln’s MKC and BMW’s X3 are also no slouches and Mercedes is launching an all-new GLC right now that will battle the Buick Envision’s top trims. None of these would be as tough for Buick to beat as a new Cadillac on the same platform should GM chose to go down that path. Our point is this is a crowded space and the Buick Envision had better bring it if the new crossover wants to get noticed.
Then there are the unionized Buick workers who want the Envision to fail. That’s right, the same people that count on GM for their livelihood are not fans of the newest Buick because it is not made by them, but rather by Chinese workers who are not part of their U.S.-Canadian-Mexican union network.
The Detroit News reported that UAW President Dennis Williams and Vice President Cindy Estrada, who head the GM department for the union, said in a joint statement, “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.”
That’s a reference to the tens of billion of dollars the U.S. taxpayer gave to GM so its workers could keep their jobs. Canada’s taxpayers pitched in too. Buick spokesman Stuart Fowle said of the Yantai, China-produced Envision, “We have production already going (in China) and adding a second manufacturing facility for the volumes that we would expect in the U.S. just wasn’t feasible.”
The new Envision is almost exactly the same size and weight as the current Lexus NX 200t and Audi Q5. This is unusual since GM products are almost always slightly larger or much larger than the vehicles with which they compete. Buick may be leaving space for the Cadillac XT5 crossover, which is about to replace the SRX, Cadillac’s top-selling vehicle by a mile. Like the Lexus and Audi’s top-selling Q5 trim, the new Envision will use a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine, the de facto standard for compact premium crossovers.
Look for the new Envision at Buick dealerships mid-summer with mid-grade trims priced at about $43,000.