Buick Could Become GM’s Most Eco-Friendly Brand

Source: Buick

When we think of Buick, we think of luxury. We look back on vehicles like the Regal, Envision, and the Enclave – none of which are considered to eco-friendly, but rather the kind of vehicles you would get if you were financially comfortable and didn’t really care much about your carbon footprint.

According to Duncan Aldred, vice-president of sales and marketing for GM’s Buick and GMC divisions, this vision we’ve had of GM’s more extravagant brand is about to change. Maybe not now, but within the next two years, and if the American consumer accepts it. Until then, the company’s focus will be on the other end of the world.

Buick Velite 5 interior. Source: Buick

Buick is a big part of GM’s plan

Speaking to Wards Auto, Aldred said “Buick will play a huge part” in GM’s plan to roll out 20 electric or fuel cell vehicles before 2023. Two of those EVs are expected within a year and a half of the company’s announcement from October 2nd.

Chevy got the ball rolling with the Volt a few years back, and then hit the nail on the head with the Bolt (such creative names, I know), but now GM feels ready to get its more luxurious brand on the EV wagon.

The Bolt is already being sold in Europe under Opel, and China as the Buick Velite 5 (no word on where 1-4 are). China will most likely benefit from the next line of GM’s EVs for two major reasons. One: China already knows the name very well, and also currently has a “thirst” for more deluxe brands, so it’s almost a given that it would do well. Two: selling electric vehicles in the United States, even with the tax credit manufacturers receive from the government, isn’t cheap. By taking advantage of the more affordable option and catering to the Chinese market instead, GM is playing it safe as it dives deeper into EVs.

Markets: China vs. United States

It’s hard to tell how severely the loss of the tax credit incentive would impact the segment, but it certainly wouldn’t do anything good for it. GM will join the U.S. market when it feels ready, but for now it will most likely focus on China – mostly due to things like the newness of the segment, the fledgling infrastructure, and non-punitive regulations.

Tesla and GM cumulative EV sales report. Source: Plugless Power

“A lot of the electrification adoption will be driven by legislation,” Aldred said in the interview. “There’s a race already in China, because they are putting out some very strict (emissions) criteria for manufacturers to meet.”

He also said the brand’s EV push would include “a number of different technologies,” which most likely implies mild hybrids, plug-ins, and full-electric vehicles. If it looks like the U.S. buyers are willing, one or more of those vehicles could travel across the Pacific.

Before GM drops some Buick EVs in our laps, though, it may need to take a second look at the vehicles it already has on the market. In October, sales fell 4.5 percent year-over-year. Sales over the first 10 months of 2017 came in 5.7-percent lower than in 2016. So there’s not much use in going for ‘EV of the Year’ if GM can’t get current sales up to where they need to be.