General Motors has certainly not had an easy go of it with its all-new Ultium platform-based electric cars. In North America, the older, far more basic, and now discontinued Chevy Bolt twins made up the bulk of the brand’s full EV sales last year; they accounted for more than 60% of GM’s roughly 20,000 units sold for Q4 of 2023. The Chevy Blazer EV, Cadillac Lyriq, and GMC Hummer have only slowly trickled onto roads here, amid a bevy of quality and software-related issues.
Yet it seems that GM’s Ultium cars are faring much better in China. According to a report from Automotive News, GM’s joint venture with SAIC Motor Corp. delivered 18,911 EVs there in December alone, up more than 300% from the year prior. And, unlike the U.S.’ numbers, China had healthy sales of at least one Ultium-based EV: the Buick Electra E5, a mechanical sister to the forthcoming Chevrolet Equinox EV and Blazer EV.
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GM’s Ultium Platform Rollout was far smoother in China
The US’s Ultium rollout may be wonky, but in China the Ultium-based Buicks are selling in decent numbers.
This is good news for GM, although admittedly, these numbers may pale in comparison to some of the astronomical numbers put out by BYD or Tesla. True, the older Buick Velite 6 station wagon (also not based on the Ultium platform at all) does take up 45,538 of those sales, but the Buick Electra E5 still moved 35,129 units, and the Cadillac Lyriq sold 5,400 units.
GM didn’t split off the rest of sales numbers, but China has two more Ultium cars on sale there: the Buick Electra E4, and Cadillac Optiq; coupled with the non-Ultium Chevrolet Menlo, all of its EVs sold surpassed 100,000 units. It shows that at its core, the Ultium platform in some iterations might just be pretty viable. (It’s not immediately clear to us whether China’s Ultium cars have demonstrated the software issues we’ve seen.)
It’s interesting to note how much smoother GM’s strategy is in China. The automaker struggled to get new EVs on the road here, but SAIC-GM has been downright tactical in introducing new model lines to the Chinese market. First, the Cadillac Lyriq went on sale in 2022. In April of this year, that Buick Electra E5. Before the end of the year, the Electra E4 and Cadillac Optiq were made for sale – and it’s only a matter of time before SAIC-GM starts churning out the Chevrolet Equinox EV and Blazer EV for Chinese consumption.
This doesn’t include the strong performance of GM’s other joint ventures with SAIC and Wuling, which are responsible for the strong-selling hyper urban EV city cars like the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV or Wuling Bingo.
Moreover, it seems like the Buick Ultium-based cars are priced competitively and offer a desirable feature set. The Electra E5 uses a different software interface than the Blazer EV and thus can use Apple CarPlay. It’s also attractively priced, starting at as little as $23,220 (169,900 CNY) – undercutting the Tesla Model Y’s $36,550 (266,400 CNY) by quite a bit.
GM’s plans to continue to electrify its model lineup will continue both here and abroad. SAIC-GM is already producing Ultium-based cars in factories in Wuhan and Shanghai, with a third factory scheduled to come online in 2025. It’s not clear if we’ll see the Buick Electra E5 in the United States, but given the fact we got the Optiq announced for North America after it had already been revealed and put on sale in China, we expect more synergies to come soon.
Buick wants to go all-EV, so perhaps the Electra E5 and E4, or something like them, could make their way to us sometime next year.