It's unfortunate that the media days for the Auto Shanghai 2011 Show and the New York Auto Show overlap a couple of weeks hence, because it looks like Shanghai might get the lion's share of the cool introductions.

Take, for instance, the single teaser sketch released today of the new Buick Envision SUV concept (above), which will be unveiled to the world on Monday, April 18, the day before the Shanghai show kicks off.

Crossover corral

This is almost certainly the Buick version of GM's compact crossover platform, which includes the Chevrolet Equinox, the GMC Terrain, and the Cadillac SRX--with a gaping hole where you might expect a Buick to be.

2009 teaser shot of Buick crossover plug-in hybrid, a rebadged Saturn Vue quickly dubbed the 'Vuick'

2009 teaser shot of Buick crossover plug-in hybrid, a rebadged Saturn Vue quickly dubbed the 'Vuick'

Explaining how this vehicle came to be requires covering a lot of history. Pay attention, kids.

The new Buick SUV or crossover replaces a quickly-quashed 2009 plan to relabel the defunct Saturn Vue as a Buick. That car came to be known as the "Vuick"--and not in a complimentary way. (Just to add to the confusion, the Vue will instead come back to the U.S. market as the 2012 Chevrolet Captiva, but for fleet sales only.)

The spawn of GM's crossover fleet also includes the Saab 9-4X, which GM is building for the now-independent Swedish carmaker it sold last year--or at least, hopes to build if Saab makes it through some perilous financial times.

Homeless plug-in powertrain

In any case, the Envision is equipped with an "advanced plug-in hybrid system" as well as "loads of other new technologies," in the words of a very short press release.

2011 Cadillac SRX

2011 Cadillac SRX

That Two-Mode Plug-In Hybrid system was originally scheduled to launch in a version of the 2010 Saturn Vue. Once the Vue, and then the Vuick, were killed off, expectations pointed to the GMC Terrain or Chevrolet Equinox as the likely recipient of that pioneering powertrain.

More recently, rumors have pointed instead to the Cadillac SRX, that brand's well-received new small crossover.

Now, perhaps the simplest answer is the most likely: Both the SRX and the Buick crossover will offer a plug-in hybrid option.

Styling: 'dynamic, fluid' ... oooooh

We know very little else about the Buick Envision, except that it "integrates global design with local aesthetics for the China market, adhering to Buick's 'dynamic, fluid, quiet and comfortable' design essence," according to the florid design-ese in the release.

Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid

Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid

Oh, and the "elegant and smooth exterior" also "emphasizes its modern styling and contemporary sportiness." Gosh, that's a good thing.

Like most if not all future Buicks, the Envision was developed jointly by Shanghai-GM and the company's Pan-Asian design center. Yes, your future Buicks are being designed for the needs of the Asian market, not old-agers in North America.

Why? Because General Motors sells three times as many vehicles labeled with the three-shield Buick crest in China as it does in the United States. And the market that buys three-quarters of the total gets to set the rules.


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