Add a Couple More Vehicles to the List of Products That Might Be Chinese

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Despite the negative stigma long associated with Chinese-built goods, we’ve grown used to — if not accepting of — the idea that some of our domestic vehicles might originate from a Chinese assembly plant. The Cadillac CT6 Plug-in, for example, hails from the Orient, as does all versions of the Buick Envision crossover. Volvo S90s sold in the U.S. also call China their birthplace.

Now, according to a 2019 model year VIN decoder document sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from General Motors, there’s two additional models that might carry Chinese heritage. Keep a lookout for a VIN starting with “L.”

According to the docs (H/T to Bozi Tatarevic), the subcompact Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore crossovers — two vehicles strongly associated with Korean production — both see a new plant location added to their VIN options, and it’s located in the People’s Republic of China.

Formerly, the Encore was produced exclusively at GM Korea’s Bupyeon assembly plant. Such models see a VIN starting with “K.” Most Trax models also hailed from this plant, though some of the vehicles shipped to U.S. dealers started their journey at GM’s San Luis Potosi plant in Mexico. These VINs begins with a “3.”

For the 2019 model year, the Dong Yue South plant joins the aforementioned assembly locations for both Trax and Encore. The facility, which builds a host of familiar vehicles for the Chinese market, is a joint operation between GM and SAIC Motor. The U.S.-bound Envision sees its assembly at Dong Yue North.

We haven’t heard anything about a slowdown in Korean production (recent cuts and a near-bankruptcy at GM Korea led to the shuttering of an underperforming plant), just that the division’s new deal should spawn a new compact crossover by the end of next year. Don’t expect to see Traxes and Encores with VINs starting with L everywhere you go.

Since GM stopped posting monthly U.S. sales figures, getting a handle on recent volume is tricky. Still, prior to the second-quarter decision, GM enjoyed very healthy sales of both the Trax and Encore. According to Wards Auto, GM imported some 32,000 Trax models from Korea last year, as well as 82,000 Encores.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • TomLU86 TomLU86 on Jun 15, 2018

    It's all good! Until it's not. For Americans who have good jobs and health care, yes! It's great to have a choice and buy all those imported goods, some of them by people happy to make $1-2 an hour (because that affords them what they consider a good life), some of them by people who are trapped in sweatshops making $1-2. For those Americans who lost their $15 hour unskilled jobs as a result, it's not so great, since they can't buy much. Though the little they can buy will cost less. They pay less in taxes, and cost more in govt services too, which means that those a little higher on the ladder must pay more in taxes (the elite can 'tax avoid') and/or we must borrow more money (which affects all of us--but again, the elite are somewhat immune to the vagaries of inflation and asset confiscation) Japan has open a pretty open auto market, yet even the Germans make limited inroads there. No tariffs, just that quaint 'patriotism', even as corporate Japan jettisons lifetime employment and moves more production off-shore. Say what you like about Trump (and there is a LOT I dislike about him), he is right-on when it comes to trade. Now, whether that is because he feels the world has gotten richer at America's expense, OR whether he feels he and his family can profit by talking tough on trade and then 'reaching deals' with other countries--that we can debate, lol. One thing we can't debate: there is NO way I am every buying a US-Branded vehicle made in China, built by people who live in a dictatorship that can imprison them on a whim. A pliable workforce is just what our big business leaders like. That's why they love the H4 Visa program. Who says slavery is bad? Rant complete :)

    • See 5 previous
    • "scarey" "scarey" on Jun 17, 2018

      @ect---Let's just say that President Donald Trump is A LOT SMARTER than you. How many people have YOU ever employed ? How many corporations have you run ? Trump is the ONLY person at this time who can handle the gigantic financial and fraudulent mess that has been created over the past many decades. And yes, if it comes to that, he may have to oversee the bankruptcy and restructuring of the $21 Trillion national debt that started in 1913 with the creation of the "Federal" Reserve. It MAY be too large to ever pay back, unless he can find and recover the missing estimated $21 Trillion that was stolen from the U.S. government between 1998 and 2015. (See Catherine Austin Fitts). You should be praying for him. I am. Trade is only one of the huge problems that he is working on at this critical time.

  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Jun 15, 2018

    If a Chinese manufacturer wants to sell here let them try as they'relikely to have more pride in their homespun goods than being the lowest bidder for Americans, but I'm not about to buy an American branded vehicle made in China. I lost any interest I had in the Focus when they were still on the docket to be sold here and made in China; I've had two of the current generation an SE and an ST and always considered myself more of a Ford guy (if the choices were only the 3 from Detroit), but not anymore. Several years ago I bought a Kia, a car which I knew was Korean and which I knew was manufactured in Korea. It was relatively inexpensive ($14k IIRC) and I didn't expect too much from it. Aside from a few niggles it was fine. I didn't believe I was buying an American car and it was no surprise that it wasn't made here. Buyers of these cars, who don't necessarily read the online forums are probably buying thinking they're supporting US workers, after all the big bow-tie means America and "from the heartland" or whatever their current tagline is. It's a ruse. I recall years ago the strident guys driving their Mexican built Silverados with "Buy American" bumper stickers. Long story short: if a foreign brand builds a car at home and tries to sell it here I'm fine with it. If that company tries to build here and sell here, I'm fine with it. The big 3 deciding to source from a "developing" nation strictly because it's cheaper and because they have failed to make the case that their vehicles are competitive at prices they would charge for using American labour for whatever the reason is nonsense. Full disclosure: I have a Canadian Buick and a Japanese Mazda. I bought the Buick very used and none of the money made it back to GM.

    • "scarey" "scarey" on Jun 17, 2018

      If carmakers want to sell Chinese cars here, let them MAKE Chinese cars here. Like THATS ever going to happen...LOL And I include GM, Ford, and FCA in that..

  • Varezhka The biggest underlying issue of Mitsubishi Motors was that for most of its history the commercial vehicles division was where all the profit was being made, subsidizing the passenger vehicle division losses. Just like Isuzu.And because it was a runt of a giant conglomerate who mainly operated B2G and B2B, it never got the attention it needed to really succeed. So when Daimler came in early 2000s and took away the money making Mitsubishi-Fuso commercial division, it was screwed.Right now it's living off of its legacy user base in SE Asia, while its new parent Nissan is sucking away at its remaining engineering expertise in EV and kei cars. I'd love to see the upcoming US market Delica, so crossing fingers they will last that long.
  • ToolGuy A deep-dive of the TTAC Podcast Archives gleans some valuable insight here.
  • Tassos I heard the same clueless, bigoted BULLSHEET about the Chinese brands, 40 years ago about the Japanese Brands, and more recently about the Koreans.If the Japanese and the Koreans have succeeded in the US market, at the expense of losers such as Fiat, Alfa, Peugeot, and the Domestics,there is ZERO DOUBT in my mind, that if the Chinese want to succeed here, THEY WILL. No matter what one or two bigots do about it.PS try to distinguish between the hard working CHINESE PEOPLE and their GOVERNMENT once in your miserable lives.
  • 28-Cars-Later I guess Santa showed up with bales of cash for Mitsu this past Christmas.
  • Lou_BC I was looking at an extended warranty for my truck. The F&I guy was trying to sell me on the idea by telling me how his wife's Cadillac had 2 infotainment failures costing $4,600 dollars each and how it was very common in all of their products. These idiots can't build a reliable vehicle and they want me to trust them with the vehicle "taking over" for me.