It may look and be branded American as “apple pie and Chevrolet.” Nothing can be more American than a Buick. And “it’s here and now. It’s a satisfying world to think of Cadillac,” you remember, “the American standard for the world?” But what if it was something as American as a GM branded product, but made in China? Should that make any difference? Did you ever imagine the day a Chevrolet or a Cadillac would be made in a place like China to be sold here in America? A year ago when GM announced their 10 year plan to have 20 new electrics by 2023, a new electric car just about every month, what they didn’t make much fanfare about is that most of their new electrics would be coming off their new BEV modular platform designed and built in China. Most of the designs for the cars made for that platform which they will sit upon, would be drawn and designed from their new GM studio, not Harley Earl’s near the Tech Center in Detroit, but from Shanghai, China. Some, we were told, will be built in America:
- Tariff issues will only make electric car production and pricing a bit more complicated.
- It doesn’t help that GM is about to be phased out of the $7,500 BEV tax credit like Tesla already is.
- GM electric incentives to build cars in the USA may be ending, but not for them in China.
- They say within 5 years it’ll be cheaper to make an electric car than it already is to make a gas one. Give it time. BEV prices will go down or will catch up to present gas ones, it’s a matter of economics.
- VW Group and GM are undergoing a massive transfer of supply chains from gas motor to electrification.
- It take several months if not at least a year from the ground up to make an all electric car factory.
- Between car battery and vehicle production, GM is all set up and ready to go and is already at full blast in China, a good chunk of their Buicks that come here, are made in China, some stay in China for the Chinese market, and some are imported here for sales to the US.
- But GM is not ready for mass scale production of BEVs quite yet in the USA.
- One of the reasons GM had to lay off 14,000 workers is because they’re switching supply chains much faster than anticipated, so these workers must wait until GM is ready with updated assembly lines.
- It’s a double edged saw for the US consumer: buy a GM electric now, you’re helping the company stay in business so they’ll eventually can hire more American workers a few years from now when more GM electric cars will be able to be made in American factories by more American workers than presently in Chinese factories with Chinese ones. Your call.
- This is the uptake on the scale of importance of American workers in GM’s future plans: the priority is Chinese workers, they’re the cheaper ones to keep. Once American factories are tooled and ramped, then we can go back to American workers.
Ah, Back in the Day, That was Then . . .
Remember back in the day when an American car was American and a foreign car was a “foreign job?” Well things have gotten a bit more complicated since then. Remember when a Chevy was American as apple pie? I wonder if you can use Chinese apples to still make that pie. We’re supposed to be a “melting pot,” aren’t we? Let’s hear it for baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet:
If all roads once lead to Rome, the electrified ones now lead to China, and with GM out of the Indian and European markets, its vehicular success has no choice but to point to the electrified “silk roads.” And how successful their electrification plans are in North America is basically about their ability to turn up or turn down the Chinese electric spigot on how many cars from China they’ll need to sell here in the states based upon demand. Next time when car shopping, check that Mulroney price sticker for point of entry on the new Buicks. This is why GM laid off 14,000 workers recently, because they’re not ready to produce electric cars at such a scale that they need those workers, for now.
Back in the day, wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?
. . . This is Now.
Today’s Buick has four models that are made in China, sold in the states: Cascadia, Envision, LaCrosse, and Verano. These are all gasoline cars, so you know in the scale of things where and how far GM will go with China and electrics. Buick plans a sub-brand, very much like Denali does for the GMC division, called Avenir, an all electric line most likely, with their flagship sedan you see here as the showcase vehicle. You know this model is made for China, and most likely, will be built there with eyes on the American market.
Easy now. Before we gang up on the General, let’s be fair about this. Some of this is really about being somewhere between instinct, hunches, and intuition, and the rest is about flipping a coin. The economy was churning along as far back as into the Obama Administration, not necessarily where the incumbent has his trajectory starting and going. The present one just picked up the reigns and ran with it. Gas prices in the US market have been relatively stable, and low, considering. Because of this, gas guzzler, crossover, and SUV sales skyrocketed. Americans just aren’t as eco-conscious as our European brethren. Yeah, we Americans know, our next cars no later than after the next purchase, will most likely be an electric car. But at present conditions, we don’t have to worry about this until a few years from now right?
Well, yes and no, and this is the quandary of GM as it tries to determine when it’s best to turn on all the electric lights or keep them on Chinese standby. We Americans are fickle that way, and frankly, GM is running out of time trying to decide what the hell it is its home market wants from a vehicle five years from now, because making that prediction could drive anyone crazy. Don’t forget about the Tesla factor, which is why GM is in the predicament it’s in, in the first place. So in a lot of ways, GM is deciding these things for us, as it gives its customers no choice but to have a portfolio full of electrics and sooner by 2023. Something had to be sacrificed while making decisions during this predicament, and in the auto industry, who else goes first on the chopping block, but labor? And if you don’t like it, too bad because Ford will too accelerate its BEV plans now that it joined forces with VW, and the only ones left to be making gas cars more plentiful, will probably be FCA and a few of the Japanese. Other than that, take out a larger down payment for a house and commission a new Bentley. That’s the few options you’ll have left in the end.
And the fact of the matter is, building an electric car although they may look similar for now, isn’t the same as it is with building a gas one. To make more batteries and to keep the structural vehicular weight down to make them more efficient you need less steel and more of the half-semi precious metals like aluminum, nickel, and copper. From GM Authority: “For example, the Chevrolet Bolt EV uses more aluminum and copper than a traditional car and far less steel. The two materials will only cost more next year amid the U.S.-initiated trade war.” A declining economy sure doesn’t help.
So you can now understand this is why and to what extent GM keeps its options open to remain competitive with Tesla in the future, keep its books stable and balanced, survive another massive economic downturn, and keep itself viable and relevant in the auto industry.
Eh tu, future electric Escalade? Don’t be surprised when Escalade, the darling of Arlington, falls victim to the same predicament, that its electric successor gets a rollout in China first before the USA.
Here’s a TBT Cadillac commercial to remind us what we’re all NOT missing from Cadillac! Hold your breath and click here:
Photos courtesy GM Media. Videos peeled from YouTube of 1970’s GM commercials I’m assuming are still owned by GM.
I am so grateful that my publisher allows me the generous privilege within reason to express my opinions about matters related to the auto industry. I try to be judicious and respectful about the content. I ask you do the same in the comments section. And please keep in mind that the opinions expressed here are solely mine, and not those of Hareyan Publishing or its employees, including my staff colleagues.
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