By on March 24, 2017

Buick Velite 5

Badge-engineered bliss awaits environmentally conscious General Motors buyers in China. Announced today, the Buick Velite 5 range-extended electric vehicle will soon launch in the car-hungry marketplace, but Americans might recognize it as something else.

Hiding in plain sight behind that Buick badge — which carries plenty of sales clout in China — is a Chevrolet Volt, which aims to compete against a host of low-cost electrics and gas-powered compacts.

Over here, the Volt carries a 53-mile electric range, but the Chinese testing cycle should grant the Velite 5 an emissions-free rating of more than 62 miles, GM claims. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder generator will soothe range anxiety fears among buyers afraid of local towing companies.

This isn’t the first GM hybrid vehicle to land on Chinese shores. An electrified version of the full-size LaCrosse went on sale last year, and GM claims the country can expect more plug-ins and battery electric vehicles within the next two years. Buick Bolt, anyone?

The Volt’s metamorphosis into a Buick is less odd when you consider the brand’s status in the Orient. With over a million vehicles sold last year, Buick — first sold in China in 1998 — is that country’s go-to upscale American nameplate, though Cadillac and Lincoln are quickly making inroads (with much ground to cover). By giving the technology-packed vehicle a new badge, it elevates the vehicle to the premium league.

While the Volt Velite 5 gives GM a fancy gadget to show off, it’s crossovers and SUVs that really tempt Chinese buyers. The Buick Envision remains the country’s best-selling utility vehicle, while sales of Cadillac’s XT5 crossover are skyrocketing. Late to the party, but no doubt looking to clean up, the newly downsized 2018 Chevrolet Equinox will debut in China later this spring.

That vehicle’s entry-level 1.5-liter four-cylinder allows early buyers to take advantage of a reduced levy for vehicle up to 1.6-liters in displacement. The lower levy, which sank from 10 percent last year to 5 percent, before rising to 7.5 percent on January 1st of this year, aims to stimulate vehicle sales. The levy rises back to 10 percent in 2018.

[Image: General Motors]

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22 Comments on “Eastern Promises: ‘Buick Volt’ Ready to Tempt Chinese Greenies...”

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    Betcha we end up with this soon.

  • avatar

    “take advantage of a reduced levy for vehicle up to 1.6-liters in displacement.”

    Hello reason why we have so many engines 1.6L and under.

  • avatar

    Why isn’t it called the Electra?

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      You got me see my comment above.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not good enough. The ’64 Deuce and a Quarter had a 425 cid V8 that accelerated 0-60 in 8.1 seconds, incredibly fast for the time, and a 4500 lb., 18.5 foot long car. A version for today would have to be somewhat bigger than a LaCrosse with at least a 5-litre V8 and 0-60 time under 6 seconds.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    So are these being built in the US and shipped to China? Hey TTAC about a review on the Gen 2 Volt!

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      My best friend bought a 2017 Volt last month, so I may volunteer to borrow it and review it.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        It would be great to see how real world EV range and MPG while running in the charge sustaining mode compare to my Gen 1. I’d love to demo one for a couple of days like I did with a Gen 1 years before I actually got mine. I suspect though that a dealer wouldn’t be too excited about that if I was up front with them that I had no immediate plans to trade up on a Gen 2.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Demo it. I’m sure you can. We did exactly that. I took him to the dealership and they let him take home a white 2017 Volt LT, decently equipped with leather and the cold weather packages. They tend not to have the cars charged up when you’re test-driving them, and as I’m sure you know, that makes a *huge* difference in how they drive. He also had a Level 2 charger hardwired into his house already, since his previous—then current—car was a 2013 Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, and was keenly interested in how quickly it charged. He got it on Saturday, brought it back on Monday, and then when he figured out it was advantageous to buy one that week, went to that same dealership on Thursday and got a model with the same options as the tester, in Pepperdust Metallic (which is a really neat brownish color that changes hue in different lighting conditions). My friend made sure to mention to the dealership that he and his husband would never have made such an investment without getting to take an example home to test it on a commute cycle and see how it charged.

          I believe lots of Chevrolet dealers have demo Volts specifically *to* loan out on test-drives, and that they get paid an incentive every time someone borrows one. The experience in general—my friend is *not* a Chevy / GM person—suggests to all of us that GM cares particularly about its alternative fuel customers. The Volt program makes you feel really special for buying one, so I wonder how far they’ll go for Bolt customers.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            Thanks for the reply Kyree. You’ve convinced me to at least check if a dealership will let me demo a new model.

            “They tend not to have the cars charged up when you’re test-driving them, and as I’m sure you know, that makes a *huge* difference in how they drive.”

            Isn’t it crazy that they let people test drive it with an exhausted battery? In EV mode a Volt pretty much sells itself on the driving experience alone. If you want to see how it drives with the ICE running you can always throw it in “Hold” mode.

            Hope your friends enjoy their new car. The dirty little secret about the Volt is the majority of owners didn’t come from another GM vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe they are putting them in the containers that the Envision comes in.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “The 1.5-liter four-cylinder generator will soothe range anxiety fears among buyers afraid of local towing companies”

    Kidding aside, this (towing) almost never happens since EV drivers learn to plan ahead. The only EVs I’ve seen on the hook were the cursed Fisker, and a few times people purposely explored their maximum range in a Leaf or Tesla, knowing they would get a tow afterward.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been pushing the limits further a little lately. Why? Plenty of charging in the Boston area now. Hundreds of chargers. Checkout, locate charging stations, and look at Boston. It’s getting really good here.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Well, the Velite 5 is much better than the Velite 4.

    Will the Bolt become the Delite 5?

  • avatar

    I just checked in autonews, Buick has slipped behind Cadillac in sales.


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