By Mira Oberman ,AFP
CHICAGO — General Motors will be placing a big bet the American public is willing to drive a car built in mainland China when it unveils the Buick Envision on Sunday night. The largest U.S. automaker is certainly not trying to bring it to market quietly: Buick’s latest sport utility vehicle will be introduced at a lavish party on the eve of the Detroit auto show in the hopes of maximizing media coverage. “We expect it to be a great success,” Molly Peck, U.S. marketing director for Buick, told AFP. “It offers all the features and amenities of a luxury UV. It’s high quality, quiet, filled with advance safety technology. The design is gorgeous. The interior execution is outstanding. And it’s all at a price point that offers a great a value.” GM’s decision to import the Envision from China — a first for a major automaker — has sparked outrage and is expected to become an issue in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. The United Auto Workers union, which had lobbied to build the Envision in the United States, called the decision to import it from China a “slap in the face” to taxpayers who bailed GM out of bankruptcy in the wake of the financial 2008 crisis.
Republican Party front-runner Donald Trump has not yet seized on the issue, but given that he regularly rails against China for stealing American jobs analysts say it’s only a matter of time. “I suspect GM is counting on the product to trump the actual Trump,” said Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California who specializes in labor issues and the automotive industry. ‘New era’ General Motors has come a long way since it first tried importing vehicles from a developing nation — Mexico — decades ago and it has systems in place to ensure that the Chinese-built Envision matches both American and global standards, Shaiken said. “GM is well aware of how a poor reputation in these early vehicles could have much larger impacts down the road,” he told AFP. “This is a major event that opens a new era.”