By on January 11, 2008

gm-minis.jpgA $25,000 Aveo? Not quite, but BusinessWeek (BW) says GM is considering building what they're calling the "micro-premium car," aimed at the MINI, BMW 1-series and Audi A3 market. They have two problems to overcome before they enter that brave new world. First, they have to find a suitable platform, something a bit more upscale than the Daewoo-engineered hardware now used for their smallest cars. Second, they have to figure out where it fits in their muddled marketing model. Cadillac is out. "Sources" told BW they want to "preserve the brand's image for big, high-powered cars." So where do the BLS and the even smaller Alpha-platform model planned for 2011 fit into that image? Anyway, Chevy's not a contender because no one would pay that much for a small Chevy. They're reportedly considering Buick, Saab or Saturn. And what do they think the chances are of anyone buying such a vehicle from a GM dealer? BW states, "GM has discovered that Gen Y's buyers don't hold a grudge against domestic brands the way Generation X and some baby boomers do… if it can make a small car that is both fuel-efficient and has real cachet, they could make inroads with a generation that is fast growing into its car-buying years." That's a pretty lofty goal; now let's see if they can overcome a long and ignoble history of botched small-car projects.

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36 Comments on “GM Sets Sights on Premium Minicar Market...”


  • avatar
    jeremy5000

    I’m 20 and I hold a grudge against GM.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Their joking right. They can’t even get the “basic” small car right and now they want to make a premuim one. You have to have good roots before you can start baring fruit at the top of the tree.

    Don’t Gen-Y’s have parents you know the boomers and Gen-X’s that hold a grudge. My 6 y/o already knows never to buy a GM, “GM is junk” is what she usually says. And she will be drilling that into my sons head when he’s born in May.

  • avatar
    AKM

    If you’re 20, you’re a Yer. It’s for people born between 1977 and 1995…according to our ad gurus, of course. At 30, I’d be at the beginning of Y as well.
    I’m French, so I don’t really hold a grudge against GM, as I’ve never been subjected to their craptastic vehicles from some years ago. This said, I don’t harbor much love for any car company trying to push ultra-large vehicles. But since most brands in the US do just that (from Toyota to GM to Volvo to BMW), I guess I’ll have to get over it.

    This segment is just what I’m looking into, sonsidering the mazda3 (upscale but cheaper), GTi, A3, C30, and, if it was a hatchback, 1-series. Mini is too small for me.

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    I’m a Gen-Xer’…love my designated nomenclature…and I don’t hold a grudge against GM. However, I don’t know what they could possibly offer to sway buyers from BMW and Audi.

  • avatar

    I’m 21 and I hold a grudge against GM.

    Let us see how many more we can get.

  • avatar
    jrlombard

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. I own a MINI, and the though of cross shopping a GM vehicle is laughable.

  • avatar
    N85523

    I’m 24 and I don’t hold a grudge against GM. I’d consider buying a GM model if they made one that was competitive with the competition. I’m not in the market for a pick-up and can’t afford a Corvette, so I likely will not be thinking of GM for my next purchase. If they come up with something new, I’d hold no prejudice, but a premium small car? Really?

  • avatar
    brettc

    I’m 30, and I’ll never buy a GM product. They never seem to learn from their mistakes, so why should I consider giving them any of my money for their latest and greatest piece of crap?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    That’s sort of what Toyota was doing with the Scion xB. Strangely enough, it turned out to sell very well to middle-aged people.

    I guess the message there is, targeting is unimportant; if you build a good car (and take good care of your reputation), people will come along and offer you money for it.

    By the way, the two in the back remind me of the Nitro. Not a good thing, IMHO.

  • avatar
    i6

    This should be an interesting test of GM’s renaissance. Regardless of their failures, they got a passing grade in previous tests, including re-establishing the Cadillac brand, reviving the Corvette image, and competing credibly in the mid-size car segment with the Malibu (so far). I have every reason to expect them to pass this test, and the Volt test to follow.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    A Saab 99/Nomad based off the Sky’s architecture would could reinvigorate the brand. I think its a great idea.

  • avatar
    Brendon from Canada

    I don’t harbor a grudge against GM, but then I’ve never owned one of their products. I’ve got a BMW, Mini and LandRover in the stable right now and the only one that I’d consider again in the short term is the LandRover – the least reliable of the bunch. On the flip side, I don’t think that there is anything GM produced that really draws me in; I like the Lambda tripplets, but they seem a bit big (yeah, strange when I wouldn’t mind a new LR3!), and would perhaps consider a Sky for a summer toy – if not for all the damning reviews about it’s handling (I’ll still probably test one this summer)….

    If they make a good premium small car, I’d consider it. I’ve had bad luck with VW, though I’d still consider an A3 (so long as it was my wife’s DD), but there’s not much else out that interests me until the 1-series comes along… and even then, I’m not sure I’m going to be happy about the price (living in Canada).

  • avatar

    According to Car and Driver, current Cadillac product director John Howell has a picture of the Cimarron on his wall captioned, “Lest we forget.”

    -Cimarron wiki

    I had good luck with an Olds 88 and a Buick Regal, but in between I had an execrable experience with a Chevrolet Lumina minivan. For the first six months, every trip was a crapshoot: Car wouldn’t start at a rest stop – main harness had to be rewired. The motor-assisted sliding door would not close – it even reopened after we walked away at the DC Metro lot. Fortunately a nice couple caught up to us. The fuel pump leaked out – we were stuck an hour from home.

  • avatar
    detroit1701

    GM already has a premium mini-car. It’s called the Opel CORSA. Instead of getting a car that is setting European sales records and looks sharp, we get the craptacular Korean Aveo. Even GM is now pushing the Aveo (sub nom Opel Agila) in Europe. Ugh!

    GM’s crash course to ready the Astra should have also included the Corsa. Keep the Aveo for people who want a cheap new car and do not care what they drive. Give North America the Corsa, and watch young people come back. The Corsa’s small efficient Ecotech petrol engines get phenomenal fuel economy as well — much much better than the Aveo.

    Make the next-gen Corsa / Delta II platforms the architecture for small battery-powered cars.

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    The Saab 9-1 is expected to be A3-sized and be based on the next-gen Opel Astra platform, according to a slew of rumors. How are they still looking for a platform if they’re already doing it?

  • avatar
    storminvormin

    I’m 23 and I have held a grudge against GM because I’m not a truck guy or a large car guy. Their offerings in the compact and sub-compact market just haven’t been competitive or remarkable enough. That market seems like an afterthought to them. We’ll see how this comes out in the wash. It could make me a believer.

  • avatar
    tony-e30

    I’m a Y-er and after purchasing a Mazda3 5 Door in 2004, took part in a design focus group sponsored by an anonymous company. (If you get these calls and they offer you money, the fee is negotiable!) They were interested in our opinions on design features for a Mini sized automobile from a manufacturer who doesn’t have one yet. My suspicions put the sponsorship on GM, but they wouldn’t divulge the info even after the event was over. The concept cars shown above share a lot of the characteristics we discussed, including the ubiquitous Hoffmeister Kink that I had to suggest. Of course, if you mention the word “Tumblehome” when trying to prove your design point, you get blank stares from the other participants and a look of horror from the designer. The point is that it appeared to me that GM definitely was focusing on the design concerns of my generation. I suppose that the one benefit of GM producing a mini car would be that you could get the same interior as a Corvette for a cheaper price than the Cobalt.

  • avatar
    nino

    Shouldn’t GM try to build a good small car first?

    And even if GM a premium small car, they would need premium dealers to sell it.

    That’s where they fall woefully short, IMO

    “Lady, buy this car with the ‘Top and Tires’ package (Vinyl top and white wall tires) and I’ll throw in the fake wire wheels. We got a deal or what?”

  • avatar
    MgoBLUE

    When I was 22 and “educated”, I thought Cadillacs were the best marque money could buy, followed closely by Lincoln. Problem was, my 16 years of schooling were located too close to the Ren Cen and Glass House (~20 miles away).

    It took my leaving town and a few years until I was able to properly calibrate my perspective. And, yes, denial and mourning are part of that process.

    My Ford’s were junk and my folk’s Oldsmobiles and Chevy’s were worse.

    I respect the Corvette, the Silverado, the F series and the Ford GT. Unfortunately for the 2.0, I’m not in the market for any of those.

    I’m 30 now, and while I don’t hold a “grudge”, I don’t think of GM or Ford as “competition” for Honda or Toyota or even Hyundai, let alone BMW and M-B. Ipso facto, I can’t imagine purchasing one of their vehicles ever again.

    Dodge/Crysler? HA! They’re dead to me. Rented a Grand Caravan over the holidays. I can’t believe that thing was built in the same decade as our Odyssey, let alone a year after (’07 vs our ’06). What a piece…

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Some of you folks are too young to be holding grudges. You’ll just end up a miserable and bitter person.

    GM has certainly been disappointing in years past, but definitely not enough to make me hold a grudge with them over it.

  • avatar
    dean

    I think if they benchmark the A3 and the 1-series they are shooting way too high, and I agree with previous posters that they will have a heap of trouble selling a vehicle of that type.

    But MINI is a good target, and a car of that type might actually be a good strategy for GM. GM’s problem with small cars like the Aveo is the lack of margin. A premium mini-car in the $20k range might net them an additional $6-8k of revenue for an incremental cost of half that amount.

  • avatar
    NN

    it would have to be a Saab to make sense and sell for a premium, and that will limit it’s sales. So GM will probably engineer, design, and manufacture a small car in China/Korea, make versions for Cadillac/Buick/Chevy/Saturn/GMC as well as Saab, and by the way it won’t actually be at a dealer for purchase until 2017.

    After all, Saabs don’t have to be Swedish, GMC’s don’t have to be trucks, Saturns don’t have to be small cars from Tennessee, and Buick’s don’t have to be American designed….right???

    By the way, I guess I’m a Y’er (1980), and I am pretty sure that I am the only one of my friends who would consider buying a new GM vehicle. They are in way more trouble than they know. I’d like to see success from GM, but it won’t happen until they keep the brands focused, and they can’t afford to do that

  • avatar
    beken

    Let’s see. GM cars I’ve owned in my lifetime of driving. 74 Pontiac Astre, 78 Corvette, 85 Pontiac Fiero (still have it), 99 Buick Century. It wasn’t until the Buick, that I swore off GM. It’s not that their cars were bad (I’m actually quite a tolerant person), but rather, GM’s customer service and ownership experience can’t hold a candle to my ownership experience I have with my MINI. I don’t see anybody who happily owns a MINI, or A3, or Mazda3 GT, or VW GTI, or Volvo C30 etc cross-shopping with anything GM produces.

    …and I do hold a grudge with GM, even though some (not all) of their product is much improved and competitive.

  • avatar
    franz

    Let GM learn from VW how to market sporty, upscale “performance” (sub)compacts to Americans.

    D’oh!

  • avatar

    build a hatchback on the solstice platform, GM!

  • avatar
    Areitu

    I’m 23 and I don’t have a grudge against GM. They simply don’t make anything that is both affordable and appealing to me at the same time.

    The A3 and Mini have fairly strong brand backing. I don’t think a Buick or Cadillac hatchback is something GM can yet pull off. They can’t even market some of their own cars properly.

  • avatar
    confused1096

    I’m an Xer. While I don’t hold a grude against GM, I am adopting a wait and see attitude. If these new, supposedly quality cars are holding together 5 years from now, GM may be in a position to earn my money again.

    It may happen. Ford used to churn out garbage nearly as bad as GM. Now they seem to get it, and our last few Ford products have been good vehicles.

  • avatar

    IF GM were to put as much love into the premium small car as they put into the Corvette, who knows? Mini sold well with that NVH special daimler/chrysler engine, but of course, Mini had positive cachet to begin with.

    I thikn the best bet for the premium small car would be for it to be a Saab–if GM hangs onto Saab, and if it had attributes that are genuinely associated with Saab. Heck, bring back, what was it, the 93? With modern underpinnings, and modern tweaking of the design.

  • avatar

    I agree wholeheartedly with the caption that goes w the picture of the three cars. Those are awful. I can’t believe those are supposed to be designs for a ***premium*** small car. They look like cheap plastic toys that were designed by a third grader. Of course, the Fit is pretty ugly, too, but it has a big advantage over anything GM might produce: Honda’s reputation. It’s also a lot cheaper than I would expect to pay for a premium small car.

    The small Acura that our Northern neighbors get, but we don’t, is a good example of how GM might aim (sorry, can’t remember the alphanumeric, I think there was a C and an X, but can’t remember the third letter).

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    The small Acura that our Northern neighbors get, but we don’t, is a good example of how GM might aim (sorry, can’t remember the alphanumeric, I think there was a C and an X, but can’t remember the third letter).

    What like a reskinned and rebadged Cobalt or G5 sold as ummm a Saab the 9-1 or whatever they are naming them now. “Lets put another knife in Saab it looks like it’s still moving.”

    They seriously need to work on their reputaion and competitiveness with the regular small cars before they start trying to sell higher priced versions. If they don’t consider all their customers valuable why would the fatter wallet ones think they aren’t going to get crapped on also.

  • avatar

    What like a reskinned and rebadged Cobalt or G5 sold as ummm a Saab the 9-1 or whatever they are naming them now.

    Gawd, no. I agree w/ you that would be a great way to deliver the final blow.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    how about GM work on building a car that someone would eagerly pay mrrp for. Why not try spending money on on say a cobalt when manufacturing the damn thing then you might not have to give an arm and leg away to move that rubbish.
    GM will put out a Mini Clone but without anything that makes the min interesting.

  • avatar
    coupdetat

    I’m 19 and I don’t hold a grudge against GM, but I also have little hope they’ll come out with a class-leading small car anytime soon.

    So I won’t buy a GM car anyways. Of course, unless they prove me wrong.

    You can win over haters with a great car–case in point, my Honda Fit. I really disliked the looks and weak engine and considered Honda to be a very boring brand, but 2 test drives and it made me stop considering the Mini Cooper and MX-5 in favor of the Fit.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    The obvious brand to do this with would be Saab. Too bad Saab’s dealer network is second worst in the US, right ahead of Isuzu!

    Merge Saab and Saturn then sell premium cars in all size classes there. Saturn at least has experience giving a premium showroom experience, even if everything else about the Saturn brand is a charade.

  • avatar
    akitadog

    The Astra is the same size as the A3/GTI and slightly larger than the MINI. Why don’t they just reskin (not badge-engineer) the Astra platform and make it a Saab? Preferably just the 2-door and put in their 2.0 turbo from the Sky Redline, one tuned for 210hp the other for 260 hp, a sports suspension and a 6-speed. Instant A3/C30 fighter, and a much-improved successor to the 9-2x.

    As detroit1701 said, GM already has the Corsa for a MINI fighter, but I only see that being sold as a Saturn, maybe an entry-level Pontiac, but too small to be a Saab. The size of the Astra/1-series is as small as an “upscale” brand should get, IMHO.

    I’m 31, and I don’t hold a grudge against GM, I got over 5 good years from a 99 Intrigue that I sold to my sister for what turned out to be a POS Cooper S. I want to see GM succeed, but still won’t buy what they have that I can afford. The Cobalt SS is a “last-resort” consideration and I need something more practical than the Kappa twins. The Astra coupe would be on my list if there was a Redline version with the 2.0 turbo and 6-speed, but there isn’t one, so it looks like a GTI coming up for me.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    I don’t like big cars and I think commuting in a huge truck/SUV is foolish. I don’t hate GM but they just don’t make a small car I’m willing to buy. They don’t build a good efficient 4cyl motor. They don’t put quality materials into their small cars or put any effort onto fit/finish. I’m not a fan of massive straight-line acceleration. I just want a quality, stylish small car.

    That said, I would probably look at the Saturn Astra but I’m not getting my hopes up.

    My ideal car would be a new Fiat 500. Which domestic brand will sell me anything close to that? Never mind, I already know the answer to that.


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