Buick Envision: A Ghost Unicorn Waiting for the Spotlight

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
buick envision a ghost unicorn waiting for the spotlight

Raise your hands if you’ve seen a Buick Envision, or even heard someone mention it?

The Chinese-built crossover is now on sale in the U.S., but you’d be forgiven for not knowing that. Due to a case of odd timing, the model will see a short (and expensive) 2016 model year before all trim lines go on sale this fall as a 2017 model.

With no advertising to be found, it seems General Motors figured “Nah, we’ll tell them about it later.”

Forget ticker tape parades or even a billboard — the Envision maintained complete invisibility upon arrival in North America. Automotive News called it GM’s “quietest vehicle launch in recent memory,” speculating that limited ad budgets and inflamed election rhetoric are the likely reasons for GM’s radio (TV, Internet and print) silence.

Sales stats show Buick sold 89 Envisions to U.S. buyers in May, and a grant total of two north of the border (one in April, another in May).

Because uplevel models were the only Envisions sent to dealers for the abbreviated 2016 model year, a hefty starting price of $42,995 probably wouldn’t look good in a marketing campaign (“Imported from China!” doesn’t have that great a ring to it, either).

Come fall, that starting price drops eight grand to $34,990 — much more palatable for the crossover and SUV-hungry buyers Buick hopes to attract. So invested is Buick in its utility-is-the-only-way-to-go strategy, it killed off the compact Verano sedan last month.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • Dougjp Dougjp on Jun 08, 2016

    So, they enter the compact luxury market with a very good first try and then kill it (Verano) before even trying with version 2, or trying on the idea of effective marketing? Despite the Verano being the highest volume car Buick sells. Despite having the new platform which would mean lighter weight. All to go total CUV? Brilliant. For tanking my Verano's market value GM never gets my future business. Of course they don't care about sales to "car buyers" who mostly hate SUV/CUV/boxes/soccer mom appliances. No worries, manufacturers who try without quitting ASAP are still around.

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    • HotPotato HotPotato on Jun 09, 2016

      @threeer I rented a base Verano and liked it very much. It was like GM asked Grandma and Grandpa what they'd like on their Cruze if money were no object. Grandma, you say you want seats more comfortable than your Barcalounger, and blind spot warning lights so you don't have to crane your neck? You got it. Grandpa, you say there's no substitute for cubic inches? Swell, we'll rip out that little 1.4 liter and find something more in the 2.4, 2.5 range for you. What's that, grandson, you'd like flawless mirror-black paint and plus-two wheels like a Lexus? Hey, sure, we'll let you throw on an option package for that, it'll look twice the price. Say again, Grandma? Oh indeed, we'll make sure it has a cushy ride and one-finger steering. What's that, grandson, you want self-centering and road feel in the steering too? DAMN IT, JIM, I'M AN ENGINEER, NOT A MAGICIAN!

  • Shiv91 Shiv91 on Jun 08, 2016

    Not buying a Chinese-built car, especially for $35k+. Probably cost about 1/3 of that to build. Plus, my Chinese TV (Hisense), bought new, broke down after a whopping two months. Luckily I got a full refund. I have nothing against the Chinese people but they do seem to have a "quantity over quality" attitude towards manufacturing.

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    • DeadWeight DeadWeight on Jun 09, 2016

      @truecarhipsterdouche Labor unit cost per vehicle as total % of vehicle total production cost as been dropping precipitously since the late 80s. Part of this is due to dramatically higher productivity, dramatically higher use of autonomous machinery in welding/fabrication and assembly (robotics), and you fortunat3ly, part of this is the result of declining real wages in western nations in inflation adjusted terms (even Germany, renowned for strong labor unions, has seen real wage decreases in manufacturing employment as German manufacturers now outsource a greater % of their production with each speeding year to eastern European nations and Northern Africa and South Afruca). I think labor constitutes roughly 18% of a final assembled vehicle's total cost of production, at last check, at least in North America. So, given that the average total wage for Chinese labor is approx $2.85 per hour (versus $4 USD in Mexico, and $44, which equals wage + benefits in NA), the savings from cheap Chinese labor is still probably less as a % of total cost of unit produced than the savings reaped by sourcing much lower cost Chinese-produced parts (many from Chinese State Owned Enterprises that are mandated Joint Venture partners of western and Japanese and Korean manufacturers wanting to sell vehicles in China).

  • Jasper2 Jasper2 on Jun 09, 2016

    The only problem is an hour later you want to buy one again. If you don't get this joke, don't bother me.

  • 415s30 415s30 on Jun 14, 2016

    Here in SF nobody buys the others, I never see any. China, um no thanks.