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General Motors Sells a Minivan in China, But Not Here

Here’s something that may surprise you: General Motors pulled out of the minivan market in North America in 2008, but they never left the minivan market in China. In fact, General Motors still sells a modern, nice-looking minivan for the Chinese market — one that looks like it would rival the Toyota Sienna or the Honda Odyssey if it were sold here. But, well, it isn’t.

The original General Motors minivan in China debuted in 1999, and it was little more than a badge-engineered version of the Chevrolet Venture and the Oldsmobile Silhouette vans that were being sold in North America at the time. The Venture and the Silhouette eventually became the Chevrolet Uplander and the Buick Terraza (and the Saturn Relay and the Pontiac Montana SV6) in North America, and then they were canceled altogether after the 2008 model year.

But not in China. In China, the Buick GL8, as it was called, was redesigned for the 2011 model year with a handsome, modern look and a 4- or 6-cylinder engine. The GL8 was just redesigned again for the 2017 model year, and you can see the results above. It truly looks like the kind of van that would be a great competitor to the Honda Odyssey, the Toyota Sienna and others — and it’s roughly the same size, at 204 to 206 inches in length. It is, essentially, a competitive North American minivan.

But the Buick GL8 isn’t offered here. When GM pulled out of the minivan market following the 2008 model year, they instead decided to focus on SUVs and crossovers — and so they have, giving us the Equinox, the Blazer, the Traverse, the Terrain and many others. Still, it seems to me this van could come to the U.S. and do fairly well with only minor changes, but it doesn’t seem that will happen. Indeed, General Motors still makes a competitive minivan, but most Americans will never see it.

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  1. I’ve always wondered why they don’t make it here! I think it looks better than the Odyssey and Sienna, almost as good as a Pacifica. It’d sell very well, and they could import it right from China just like the Envision. Safety may be what prevents them from doing that though. That, or the tarnished reputation of the old GM vans.

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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