Buick’s Envision, the first Chinese-made vehicle imported into the US, has been a steady seller for the General Motors unit since its introduction last year, apparently ducking political headwinds about its country of origin in the Trump era.
The Envision, a mid-sized crossover – a vehicle built on a car platform with the features and styling of a sport utility vehicle (SUV) -was brought to the US market to plug a hole in Buick’s lineup between two SUVs, the larger Enclave and the smaller Encore.
“The Envision has so far been a strong product entry for Buick in both the US and China. It is in a popular segment and a well-executed product, and is being rewarded with healthy sales,” Stephanie Brinley, auto analyst with IHS Markit, wrote in an email.
Brinley said the Envision has quickly grown to become one of Buick’s top-three selling vehicles in the US since its launch in June 2016. A Buick spokesman said the company sold 14,193 Envisions in the US last year and 228,257 in China.
Envision was introduced into the US as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was criticizing China over its trade policies with the US. David Whiston, an auto analyst with Morningstar, said so far there is only anecdotal evidence that the vehicle’s birthplace is a factor for US consumers.
“I have heard that dealers in the upper Midwest are frustrated about Envision sales but nothing nationally,” he said. “It’s possible the made-in-China issue is the cause of that, given the upper Midwest has a lot of unions. I know from talking to Buick reps that outside the Midwest, Americans don’t care about the made-in-China issue.”
Brinley said it doesn’t appear that sourcing is an issue for most consumers. “It doesn’t replace another vehicle, and we don’t have direct consumer research. However, the model’s sales performance in the US has been healthy,” she said.
The vehicle has generally drawn good reviews from the automotive press in the US. Prices for the Envision start at around $34,000 in the US.
Whiston said globally, Buick was GM’s fastest growing brand other than Baojun in 2016. “Buick rose 16.3 percent to over 1.4 million units with China making up 82 percent of those sales. The more than 14,000 Envisions sold in the US last year helped Buick in the US become the fastest growing retail channel (non-fleet) brand with 4.6 percent growth,” he said.
Brinley said the Envision accounted for about 19 percent of Buick’s China sales.