Buick is more than just your grandfather’s auto brand in the world’s biggest car market

Buick has arrived at Auto Shanghai 2019, and it’s brought with it not one, but four vehicles to the event. The all-new Encore crossover leads the four-vehicle lineup, and it’s joined by the long-wheelbase Encore GX, the GL8 Avenir Concept MPV, and the VELITE 6 MAV electric vehicle. All four vehicles are integral to Buick’s long-term plans in the Chinese market. The Encore SUVs, as well as the VELITE 6 MAV, are all part of Buick’s plan to introduce eight new and/or refreshed models in the Chinese market. The automaker’s aggressive approach in the Chinese market may catch some people here by surprise, but the American automaker, which has lost a lot of its shine in its home soil, is treated as an aspirational automaker among the Chinese, particularly the country’s younger demographic. Knowing that gives you an idea why Buick holds is going all-out at Auto Shanghai 2019 with four models that more or less represents the automaker’s future offerings in the world’s biggest auto market.

Buick at the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show

Shanghai Buick Showcases Four New Models, Including the All-New Encore and the VELITE 6
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Here’s what you need to know about Buick and its relationship with the car market in China. General Motors offered three American brands in China: Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Buick. Of those three brands, Buick is, without question, the most popular among Chinese buyers…and it wasn’t even close. Cadillac sold 205,605 units in China in 2018 while Chevy sold 523,395 units. Care to venture a guess how many units Buick sold in China?

1,020,496 units.

Yep. Buick outsold Chevrolet and Cadillac combined in 2018, and it did so despite a 9.79-percent drop in sales compared to its numbers the year before. By comparison, Buick sold 206,863 units in the U.S. last year, or just a little over 20 percent of the sales success it enjoyed in China.

That paints a pretty clear picture, doesn’t it? Buick may not have the same esteemed following in America as it once did, but its popularity in China is tantamount to that of a high school quarterback who also happens to be a straight-A student and the president of the Glee Club. That’s why, to the surprise of absolutely no one, Buick is flexing its muscle at Auto Shanghai 2019 with a lineup of models that could make up a bulk of the company’s sales volume in the years to come.

Shanghai Buick Showcases Four New Models, Including the All-New Encore and the VELITE 6
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The all-new Encore and the long-wheelbase Encore GX are expected to sit at the vanguard of Buick’s SUV lineup in China.

Both models trace their roots to the Enspire Concept SUV, and they’re powered by a handful of engine options, including GM’s eighth-generation Ecotec engines. Likewise, Chinese buyers will also have the option to avail of the transmission of their choice, be it a new continuously variable transmission or an equally new nine-speed Hydra-Matic transmission. The nine-speed transmission provides a more refined drive than you’d expect, giving the SUVs improved off-the-line acceleration and highway cruising, or so the General says. The Encore GX, in particular, is peculiar in its own right, owing to its long-wheelbase characteristic. Official measurements haven’t come out yet, but it’s not that all surprising that Buick is rolling out an LWB version of the SUV in this market. The Chinese are, in so many words, infatuated with long-wheelbase models. BMW sells a long-wheelbase version of the 3 Series in China and Mercedes-Benz is fixing to do the same. In fact, the latter is debuting the Mercedes-AMG A35 L in the same show that all four Buick models are attending. A long-wheelbase Encore SUV doesn’t sound as strange once people start buying them in droves.

Shanghai Buick Showcases Four New Models, Including the All-New Encore and the VELITE 6
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Joining the two SUVs is the VELITE 6 Multi Activity Vehicle (MAV), Buick’s first-ever global all-electric vehicle.

Visually, it’s difficult to peg the VELITE 6 MAV into a specific body type. It looks like a cross between a crossover and a wagon, similar to that of the Subaru Outback. There’s an appeal to its design, which is a good thing considering that it’s not the most powerful electric car you can buy. All told, the VELITE 6 MAV is powered by an electric motor that produces 114 horsepower and 188 pound-feet of torque. Buick also pegs a “city” driving range of 187 miles. That’s a decent number, even if the actual output figures are a bit lacking. The good news is that Buick plans to use a new platform for the model, though not the same EV platform that General Motors plans to use on its lineup of U.S.-spec electric cars. All told, the VELITE 6 MAV will be sold in three variants with a price range tipped between $25,000 to $27,500 after government subsidies are taken out. No one’s going to mistake the VELITE 6 MAV as a game-changing electric car for China. But it is a decent option for those who may want to have a taste of the future.

Shanghai Buick Showcases Four New Models, Including the All-New Encore and the VELITE 6
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The last of Buick’s Auto Shanghai offerings is the GL8 Avenir Concept. It’s a concept in name, and, I suppose, in stature, but visually, it doesn’t look that different from the existing production model.

Be that as it may, the GL8 Avenir Concept does feature new headlights, an updated grille, and a redesigned bumper. We’ll take those for what they’re worth.

The interior is far more stylish with its homage to traditional Chinese ink painting. You’ll see that manifested in the light gray and blackish-blue hues that are complemented by a dark blue ceiling and fine-women light cashmere carpet. The door panels seem to have intricate artwork in them, too.

It’s easy to look at these four China-bound Buicks and be indifferent to them. But doing so would be unfair to the success the automaker has had in the market. It may not be as big as it once was here in the U.S., but give credit to Buick for establishing itself well in the Chinese market. All four models are expected to launch sometime between 2019 to 2023, and soon enough, we’ll be talking about these new SUVs as driving forces in the company’s continued success in the world’s biggest auto market.

Further reading

2017 Buick Encore
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Read our full review on the 2019 Buick Encore.

Buick’s all-new Encore small SUV, Encore GX compact SUV and GL8 Avenir concept MPV made their global debut this evening at 2019 Buick Brand Night in Shanghai. They were joined by the VELITE 6 MAV electric vehicle, which was launched in China. All four products will be on display at Auto Shanghai 2019 starting from tomorrow.

The Encore models and VELITE 6 are part of Buick’s plans to introduce eight new and refreshed products this year and more than 20 new and refreshed models between 2019 and 2023 in China.

“Buick is focused on electrification, connectivity, intelligence and sharing as part of the Buick Blue strategy in China,” said Jean Liu-Barnocki, general director of Buick for SAIC-GM. “With the new models, Buick is starting a new journey in our largest market to build on our sales of 10 million vehicles over the past two decades.”

VELITE 6 MAV

As Buick’s first global all-electric vehicle and SAIC-GM’s first electric vehicle for the mass market, the VELITE 6 MAV (which stands for Multi-Activity Vehicle) integrates GM and SAIC’s resources and advanced technology in new energy and connected vehicles. It represents the latest application of the Buick Blue strategy.

The VELITE 6 is based on the VELITE concept new energy vehicle unveiled in November 2016. With a length of 4,650 mm, width of 1,817 mm, height of 1,510 mm and wheelbase of 2,660 mm, it provides a roomy interior with 1,098 liters of space.

Its new-generation pure electric drive system offers a smooth, quiet and natural driving experience. It generates a maximum 85 kW of power and 255 Nm of torque. The VELITE 6 has a combined electric driving range of 301 km in the city, and electricity consumption of 13.3 kWh/100 km.

The VELITE 6 is available in three variants at a price between RMB 165,800 and RMB 185,800 after national subsidies for new energy vehicles.

Following the earlier introduction of the LaCrosse hybrid electric vehicle and VELITE 5 extended-range electric vehicle, the VELITE 6 will enable Buick to cater to the rapidly growing demand for new energy vehicles.

In addition, Buick announced the start of its strategic cooperation with the EVCARD car-sharing brand to jointly explore the electric vehicle sharing market in China. The first 5,000 VELITE 6 vehicles will be put into operation by EVCARD starting on April 28.

All-New Encore SUVs

Inspired by the Buick Enspire concept SUV, which made its global debut a year ago, the all-new Encore and Encore GX integrate GM’s advanced global R&D and intelligent manufacturing.

They come equipped with GM’s eighth-generation Ecotec engines along with a choice of a new nine-speed Hydra-Matic transmission or a new continuously variable transmission (CVT). The models offer highly efficient power with deceased fuel consumption and emissions compared to their predecessor, enabling them to meet China’s 6-B emission standard.

The Encore, Buick’s first SUV built in China, originally went on sale in October 2012. The long-wheelbase Encore GX is a new addition to the Encore lineup.

“From its introduction seven years ago, the Encore has resonated with younger consumers,” said Ryan Vaughan, executive director of PATAC Design and GM China Design. “With the two new additions, the Encore family will offer an unprecedented choice in its segment. It will provide our customers a more personalized offering to match their active and changing lifestyles.”

Buick also announced this evening that the all-new Enclave will be introduced in China at the end of this year. Together with the all-new Encore and Encore GX and popular Envision, it will give Buick a strong presence across small, compact, midsize and large SUVs – strengthening the brand’s overall competitiveness in one of the market’s hottest vehicle segments.

GL8 Avenir Concept

The Buick GL8 Avenir concept MPV was developed by GM’s Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC) joint venture in Shanghai. It leverages the brand’s knowledge of the high-end MPV market and deep insight of what consumers want, merging science, technology, art and luxury – the hallmarks of today’s Buick portfolio.

The GL8 Avenir concept’s front grille was inspired by rolling waves. The theme continues inside, with a waterfall-type design on the seat backs, seat cushions and armrests. True to Buick’s focus on technology, it incorporates a 12-inch screen and 14-inch head-up display (HUD) system.

Paying homage to traditional Chinese ink painting, the interior has light gray and blackish-blue hues, complemented by a dark blue ceiling and high-quality fine-woven light cashmere carpet. This highlights its heritage as well as its elegant and restrained artistic beauty.

As the Buick concept vehicle regarded as "the closest to mass production," the GL8 Avenir concept MPV is fully functional and hints at Buicks to come.

The Avenir sub-brand was first introduced in China on the Buick GL8 in 2016. It represents the best of Buick’s attainable luxury ethos, with prices that bridge the gap between mainstream and traditional luxury.

Buick has found success offering premium SUVs and cars with sculptural designs, refined performance, modern interiors and thoughtful personal technologies. Buick’s award-winning customer service and sales experience, along with the Avenir trim, the highest expression of Buick luxury, are attracting new buyers to experience Buick’s unique approach to attainable luxury in North America and China. Buick has sold over 10 million vehicles in China since its introduction by SAIC-GM in 1998. More information about Buick vehicles in China is available at www.Buick.com.cn.

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