Shanghai Buick Showcases Four New Models, Including the All-New Encore and the VELITE 6
Buick is more than just your grandfather’s auto brand in the world’s biggest car marketby Kirby, on
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Read our full review on the 2019 Buick Encore.