General Motors Co., fresh off agreeing to a new union contract that is expected to drive up its U.S. labor costs, plans to become the first major auto maker to sell Chinese-made cars in the U.S.
The nation’s No. 1 auto maker by sales early next year plans to start selling the Buick Envision, a midsize sport-utility vehicle made in Shandong province, according to people familiar with the plan. The move would add a third SUV to Buick’s U.S. lineup at a time when such crossovers are among the best selling vehicles in the market.
Initially, the company expects to import a modest number—between 30,000 and 40,000—a year. But it signals the beginning of a strategic production shift for the Detroit auto giant and a bold experiment that will be closely followed by other auto companies that have said they would eventually consider such a move.
Long among the top foreign sellers in China by volume, GM has confined production there to meeting China’s recent explosive demand. But as sales gains have moderated and Chinese tastes in cars converge with Americans’, the potential for more Chinese imports from GM and others could blossom.
Global auto makers had been slow to ship Chinese vehicles to the U.S. and Europe, fearing Western buyers would shun them over quality concerns. Volvo Car Corp., a small auto maker owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., was the first to challenge that assumption when it started shipping sedans from a plant in China to the U.S. this spring.