Would You Buy A Chinese-Made Car? Buick May Want To Know

August 20, 2015

Over the past couple of weeks, we've been hearing rumors about a new, sporty electric car that's intended to turn the heads of Tesla fans.

Sounds feasible, right? After all, Tesla is beloved and adored by many motorists, so why shouldn't it draw a few competitors?

Then we hear that this new car is being developed by the folks at LeTV, China's answer to Netflix. And many people think, "Oh, well, that'll never fly."

But why? Many of the products we use in our homes, offices, and schools were made in China. Our smartphones, our tablet computers, our TVs, even some of the components in our cars hail from there. Why does the thought of buying a whole car that's made in China seem like crossing a line?

We're about to find out. Earlier this year, we learned that at least one Volvo model will be manufactured in China. And more recently, there's been a lot of speculation that the new Buick Envision crossover will be imported from China, too.

It could be the first of many.

The Envision is already being made in China, where Buick has a strong reputation with the country's growing middle class. As you'll see from the pics of the Chinese spec model above, it looks like the sort of car that could easily fit into U.S. showrooms.

And that's exactly what's worrying the United Autoworkers Union. General Motors already has a system for producing the Envision in China. It's almost certainly much cheaper to manufacture there and import to the U.S. than it would be to set up production here and pay union wages to build it.

GM says that no decision has been made yet as to whether the Envision will appear in the U.S., and even if it does, where production might be based. However, that seems a little disingenuous. The crossover has been designed and tested and refined. It's a perfect fit for crossover-hungry Americans. Why wouldn't it come to the U.S.?

And if it does come to the U.S., we have to wonder why it wouldn't be built in China. On paper, it's the most logical plan. The only thing that could change GM's mind would be issues of perception, public opinion, image. 

So, at least to some of us, it really comes down to whether GM will prioritize public opinion, which would likely be negative in the face of a Chinese-made Buick, or whether it will attempt a charm offensive, convincing U.S. shoppers that the Envision is a must-have vehicle, no matter where it's made.

Could you be persuaded to buy (and drive) a Buick built in China? What would be the tipping point for you? And if you're not a Buick fan, we'd still love to hear from you: after all, GM isn't the only automaker wrestling with these questions. You can bet that other models will be drawn to the allure of "made in China" before long.

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