China’s GAC Motor, which wants to begin U.S. sales next year, has debuted a new, futuristic and eye-catching pure-electric concept SUV called Enverge that it has aimed squarely at young buyers. The compact SUV, designed for the North American market, debuted at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

And while the Enverge was designed for North America, the Chinese automaker said its first entry into the U.S. market will instead be another SUV, the midsize luxury GS8, tweaked for the market. But Yu Jun, president of Guangzhou Automobile Group Motor Co. Ltd. or GAC Motor, said electric vehicles entries will follow.

With a sculpted aggressive face that combines the grille with angled, narrow headlights, the Enverge features uniquely styled gullwing doors that open upon voice command, a system which also can be used to start the concept. Zhang Fan, vice president of GAC engineering, said the high-performance crossover EV is “not only well suited for the urban life, but also it’s able to undertake various heavy duty off road tasks.”

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A 370-mile range promised

The Enverge features a 71-kWh battery and has a range of about 370 miles. Zero to 60 mph acceleration is rated at about 4.4 seconds and Enverge has a top speed of about 99 mph. The concept’s roof has a storage area for drones or other gadgets. The Enverge’s front fog lamps also can be detached and used as torch flashlights, Fan said. Inside, a full screen fills the instrument panel. “The interior of the Enverge feels like a floating space capsule,” Fan said.

GAC Motor is working to establish a sales company in North America during the first half of this year, a new English brand name this year and in the fourth quarter of 2019 plans to officially launch sales here. The automaker had given previous dates of entry of 2017 and 2018.

GAC Motor is also intends to build a research and development facility in the Detroit area, and last year established a Silicon Valley R&D center. While Chinese automakers have talked about selling cars in the United States for many years, none have done it yet, partly due to U.S. safety and emissions standards and requirements to establish dealer networks here.

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Hurdles remain

Another hurdle is the possibility of tariffs. During the 2016 presidential campaign, then candidate Donald Trump pledged to impose a 45-percent tariff on imports from China if he was elected. Some automakers including General Motors Co. are importing made-in-China vehicles to the U.S. such as the Buick Envision SUV and Cadillac CT6 plug-in hybrid. While some, including the United Auto Workers, have expressed angst over the imports, many auto analysts and experts say most U.S. consumers don’t care or even know where their vehicle is made. GAC Motor sold a half-million vehicles last year and broadened its capability to sell more by creating sales and service networks in 14 countries.

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