Ever since emerging from bankruptcy, the Chevrolet Cruze has been something of a symbol of GM’s rebound. Widely hailed by the automotive media as General Motors’ strongest effort to date in a compact segment that has become increasingly important in recent years, the Cruze seemed to show that the “new” GM was capable of selling smaller cars on their merits, rather than as afterthoughts to more profitable truck, SUV and large car offerings. And indeed, through the first half of this year, it seemed that the Cruze was something of a roaring success, regularly outselling its segment competitors. But then, in June, when production shifted from 2011 models to 2012 models, something changed: sales started to slow, and inventories started to rise. As Cruzes began piling up on dealer lots, GM trimmed production moderately, but still, inventories began to grow out of control. Clearly something was going wrong.
UPDATED: “Big Six” compact sedan monthly sales graph (Jan-Nov, 2011) added to gallery after the jump.
Last week, GM shut down production of the Cruze, saying only that it had an unspecified “supplier issue.” But Automotive News [sub] reports that had already GM shut down the Lordstown plant for the entire week of November 28, after inventories shot from 33 days supply to 73 days supply during the months of September and October. As of December 1, inventories had risen higher still, to 88 days, as sales continue to slacken. Lordstown reopened yesterday, but with sales falling and inventories running out of control, another slowdown or stoppage of production seems inevitable.
So, what happened to the Cruze’s sales? The fact that its downturn coincided with the switch from 2011 to 2012 is certainly mysterious, as GMInsidenews’s reliable guide to 2012 model-year changes shows that only the following features were deleted from Cruze in the switch from 2011 to 2012:
- (GAP) Imperial Blue Metallic exterior color
- (EN4) Cargo cover compartment
- Rear center headrest on all trims
Surely a lost cargo cover compartment and rear center headrest don’t explain the downturn… which might actually be cause for even greater concern. If GM could pinpoint a specific problem that is keeping buyers away from new 2012 Cruzes, it could remedy it fairly easily. As things stand though, it’s tough not to conclude that GM may simply have filled the bulk of market demand for their car, and that it’s now losing out to the brutally tough competition in its segment. If that’s the case, it doesn’t bode well for The General… at least in terms of perception, as the Cruze goes, so goes GM.