Chinese-Made Cadillacs Headed to America

Who knew the next Chinese import would be Caddy’s new flagship?

Cadillac revealed its CT6 plug-in hybrid last year at the Shanghai Motor Show, the Chinese unveiling of America’s luxury standard making a number of statements. Prime among them: China would be a major market for alternative-powertrain vehicles—it ranked first in EV and PHEV sales last year. Another statement, quietly spoken: The U.S. would eventually accept a Chinese-built Cadillac.

The official stamp has been given, and the Shanghai-built Cadillac CT6 PHEV will begin the trans-Pacific voyage later this year. General Motors President Dan Ammann told Bloomberg that the economics of the plan are all tilted in China’s favor thanks to government incentives to lure purchasers and the onerous tariffs on imported cars. Sales volumes in America will be minuscule by comparison. The CT6 PHEV is equipped with some of the inner workings of the second-generation Chevrolet Volt, but a branding exercise labels it a PHEV instead of having the EREV (Extended-Range Electric Vehicle) tag put on the Volt.

It was Volvo—owned by Chinese automaker Geely—that broke the seal when it began exporting the S60 Inscription from Sichuan to West Coast U.S. ports last year. There wasn’t even one tiny decibel of mainstream uproar, so it appears our domestic waters can handle another low-volume luxury entry.

Yet the new, China-assembled Buick Envision crossover is not a low-volume entry, and it will beat the CT6 PHEV to the U.S. when imports begin this summer. Manufactured at the Dong Yue North facility in Yantai, China, the Envision has sold faster than funnel cakes at a 4-H Fair during its first year on the market over there. Slotted between the Encore and Enclave here, it is highly anticipated and expected to bring more good news to Buick’s bottom line.

For years we heard about Chinese automakers aiming their wares at the US market. Then came some truly nasty results on European crash tests. Things are much better now, but it’s clear that exports to the US were delayed.

GM’s making a bold play in two segments with finicky customers who have enough money to be capricious. One more statement this move makes: The automaker believes it has the right products, and that it can build them anywhere in the world the right way.