This week the Chinese automotive media are on holiday, the vast majority of media outlets have sent their teams over the Pacific to the America’s mo-town to cover the Detroit Auto Show. Chinese journo’s have given the new Ford Fusion a great deal of coverage and also the new Buick Encore, a compact SUV that is expected to be made in China in the coming months.
Foreign media outlets immediately pointed out that the Encore was a bit on the tiny side of things and rather useless as an SUV in the American market, especially as American consumers are somewhat larger. In China the Encore might get the encore it deserves. The Buick brand could have been euthanized earlier this century if it wasn’t for the brands reassurgence in the Chinese car market, elsewhere in the world Buick’s were for thought of as giant boats that were driven by silver haired warriors who had their best driving days long behind them, but by carefully managing the product portfolio GM has been able to give Buick a shot in the arm with a little help from Opel in Germany.
The Buick Encore was drip fed to automotive journalists running up to the Detroit Auto Show, GM offered a slight peak here and a slight peak there, before finally unveiling the SUV yesterday. Initial reactions are of course a mixed bag, American automative media are pointing out its a bit smaller than what they are used to or were expecting and leaves a considerable gap between the Enclave and the Encore size wise. The Chinese media are taking the middle road and saying it will likely go into production with the 1.6T that is already used in the Buick Excelle and Chevrolet Cruze Turbo. GM are being overly generous with the Encore, their own press release compares its interior space to German luxury crossovers, namely the Audi Q3 and also the BMW X1 which indicates that GM are aiming to position the Encore as an alternative to Bavarian products. Both the Q3 and X1 will be made in China within the next 12-24 months, but are unlikely to be in the same 180,000rmb – 250,000rmb as the Encore, instead these luxury branded vehicles will be well over the 300,000 marker.
So how will the Encore do in China? Obviously any sort of SUV with a Buick badge will do well in China, but the SUV will likely find itself with strong competition from the VW Tiguan which already has a strong following in the Chinese market. The Tiguan sold 129,172 units as of the end of November 2011, the Nissan Qashqai sold111,304 units, so there is a demand for smaller compact SUV’s in China.