Though GM’s new Cruze is likely to qualify for taxpayer funded “efficiency retooling” money, its predecessor the Cobalt is finally coming into its own. Automotive News reports that transaction prices and profitability are headed up for the Cobalt. Average transaction prices for the Cobalt rose $775 since mid-April, thanks to surging interest in one of GM’s most fuel-efficient cars. And the upswing in Cobalt-generated revenue is turning Detroit’s argument that it can’t make money on small cars on its head. GM’s marketing manager for small cars and crossovers, Brian Brown, says profits on the Cobalt are up six percent since 2007. “I don’t think anyone thought this shift of moving into smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles would be as dramatic and happen as quickly as it did,” Brown tells AN. “I have to laugh: In the last 90 days, one of the top five trade-in vehicles for a Cobalt is an F-series pickup.” Please note that Brown is laughing about getting trade-ins from a competitor’s truck rather than his company’s total inability to see this one coming. GM added an extra Cobalt shift in August, to keep up with the 9.6 percent (supply limited) increase in Cobalt sales on the year, which still lag behind booming sales of Ford’s Focus. Sales are doubtless being helped by the addition of the fuel-efficient (25/36 mpg) Cobalt XFE model, while sales of fully-loaded models are helping profitability. Taken together, the trend is clear: well-equipped, fuel-efficient small cars can sell in volume and turn a decent profit. If only Detroit had realized this a decade ago. Everybody else did.
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