In Ohio’s closely-watched battle for U.S. Senate, incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Bernie Moreno regularly warn about the threat China poses to manufacturing jobs in Ohio and the U.S.

“We literally sold our middle-class out to China so that rich people could make money selling you cheap garbage from China,” Moreno said in an ad released last August.

Moreno says that when he owned a Buick GMC dealership in Beachwood, Ohio, he even refused to sell a Buick SUV model made in China, the Envision.

What You Need To Know

  • On the campaign trail, Ohio U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno repeatedly talks about refusing to sell a Buick SUV made in China when he owned a General Motors dealership in Northeast Ohio

  • But a Spectrum News review found the dealership posted a customer testimonial and advertisements for the Buick Envision SUV during the years Moreno owned it

  • Moreno is the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate taking on Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown in a race being watched nationally that could determine control of the Senate
  • Moreno’s campaign told Spectrum News he did sell the SUVs for a time, but stopped after the Lordstown GM plant closed in Ohio

“The Buick Envision was made in China, I told General Motors I wouldn't sell one of them, don't even ship it to me,” Moreno said on conservative radio host Mike Allen’s show in February.

It’s a story Moreno also told during his first primary campaign for Senate – a race he ultimately dropped out of to support JD Vance, who was elected to the Senate in November 2022.

“I refused to let General Motors ship me any of those cars,” Moreno said in a September 2021 appearance on conservative host Bob Frantz’s radio show. “They threatened to take my franchise away. They said I could never be a GM dealer at any other brand. I said, ‘You know what? It costs me millions of dollars. I didn't care.’ Because you either stand on principle or you stand on nothing.”

This is what he said a month later at a forum for Ohio Republican Senate hopefuls that Spectrum News covered. 

“Well, we have to immediately start a process to disentangle ourselves from China. In my case, I owned a Buick dealership. And all of you who buy Buicks probably think you buy Buicks because you want an American-made car. Those are the people I met in my showroom,” Moreno told the audience gathered. 

“When Buick closed the factory in Michigan to open a factory in China and ship those cars to the U.S., I sent a letter to General Motors – don’t ship me one, that car will not be on my lot,” Moreno continued. “General Motors sent me not a very nice letter back. All kinds of threats. You’ll never be another GM dealer again, you’ll never do this – and I stood my ground and did not sell that car.” 

However, Moreno’s dealership did sell the Chinese-made SUVs for several years, and even promoted the vehicles on social media, according to numerous social media posts found by Spectrum News. 

Those posts appeared from 2014 to 2019, a period before Moreno sold the dealership to Crestmont Auto Group in 2020. (The name of the dealership’s Facebook page was changed by Crestmont in March 2020)

“My name is Kayla McCullough. I purchased a 2017 Buick Envision from Buick GMC of Beachwood,” a customer said in a December 2016 video testimonial posted on the Bernie Moreno Companies YouTube page.

“I highly suggest that you visit the team at Buick and GMC of Beachwood, a Bernie Moreno Company,” the woman said at the end of the video, which features a Bernie Moreno Company logo.

In August 2017, the dealership shared a video ad on its Facebook page promoting the Envision.

“Command the road with the all new Buick Envision for just $279 a month, zero down,” the ad said.

GM, the parent company of Buick, confirmed to Spectrum News the Envision was only manufactured in China. The SUV became the first Chinese-made vehicle to be imported by a major U.S. automaker when it debuted in Michigan in 2016.

The imports were called a “slap in the face” by the United Auto Workers union, which felt the vehicles should be made on U.S. soil by American workers.

Spectrum News also asked General Motors if, as Moreno claimed, it ever received a letter from him about his refusal to accept the SUVs or if it threatened to take his franchise away over the issue.

“We don’t share confidential dealer information externally,” GM spokesperson Sabin Blake said in a statement. Blake said the company could not share how many Envisions were sent to Moreno’s dealership between 2016 and 2020.

Moreno’s campaign, in a statement, acknowledged to Spectrum News that his dealership did sell the Chinese-made SUVs.

"In response to the closure of the Lordstown Plant here in Ohio [in March 2019],  Bernie made a decision to stop any new inventory of Envision's from being sold at his dealership. After he sold off the inventory he already had on the lot, he refused to take orders for more Envisions. There is zero contradiction here,” said campaign spokeswoman Reagan McCarthy.

She also shared email screenshots from April 2019 when Moreno wrote to a sales manager, “We don’t sell the Envisions.”

(Provided by the Bernie Moreno campaign)
(Provided by the Bernie Moreno campaign)


(Provided by the Bernie Moreno campaign)
(Provided by the Bernie Moreno campaign)

The campaign also shared this statement from Anthony Ries, the former general manager of the dealership in Beachwood.

"Following the closure of the General Motors Lordstown Plant in March 2019, which could have been used to move manufacturing of vehicles out of China back to the US, Bernie directed the dealership to stop selling them immediately,” Ries said.

The campaign did not share the letter Moreno claimed he wrote to GM.

Moreno’s dealership continued to advertise its remaining Envision inventory throughout 2019, according to the Spectrum News review.

In campaign appearances covered by Spectrum News and in radio interviews monitored by Spectrum News, Moreno never mentioned that his dealership did sell the Chinese-made SUVs for years or that the Lordstown plant’s closure was the reason for his decision to stop selling them. 

The campaign declined to comment on why Moreno did not make that distinction or why he was comfortable selling the SUVs in the first place, since the Envision has always been made in China. 

Moreno won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in March, thanks in part to an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. His compelling story of becoming a successful car dealer is a cornerstone of his campaign pitch.

“I wanted my own dealership, but industry insiders nearly stopped me. I spent every cent I had and made it happen. 15 years later, I owned 15 dealerships and had created thousands of Ohio jobs,” Moreno said in the video launching his campaign last year.