Unless you pay a visit to Mr. Lang’s lot on the right day or really love Volkswagen, the only wagons available for Americans today are mostly Teutonic, and all come with a high price tag. According to GM North American President Mark Reuss, that’s a problem, and one he’d like to fix pronto.
When one thinks of General Motors’ relationship with China, Buick flashes into the mind like a brake light in the Beijing smog. Sometimes, Cadillac comes up, as well. However, with Volkswagen preparing to slingshot past them in a manner akin to Danica Patrick being flung toward the front of the pack with help from Tony Stewart, CEO Dan Akerson is planning to aggressively push Chevrolet through the choking air, and into as many Chinese garages as he can find.
The popular wisdom among folks in the auto-biz of my generation (1970s) is that Buick only exists because of China. Why didn’t GM kill Buick in America and keep it in China? The answer is obvious: you can’t sell your brand on its “Americanness” if it isn’t also sold in America to Americans. Buick then is a brand hunting for a mission. It’s also a brand hunting for fresh customers that don’t remember the Century and Skylark, two abominations firmly burnt into my mind. In attempt to solve these problems Buick has ditched their badge-engineering mantra and is rolling out new products targeted at folks from the 80s and 90s. Forced induction and a manual transmission aren’t new to Buick, but the possibility of a desirable small sedan from the triple-shield is earth shattering. Have they managed it? GM tossed us a set of keys to find out.
GM wants to thin out its South Korean workforce while shifting production to Europe’s higher-wage locations. Korean unions already see it as a declaration of war. (Read More…)
Dear Sajeev and Steve,
My wife has recently started insisting (more along the lines of demanding) that I get a new(er) car. While the junkyard gem 97 civic has only served me about a year, it has only cost me $1000 total. With 270k on the odometer and counting, it is really starting to show its age but runs 80 down the road with cold air and no issues. I drive 130 miles round trip everyday with practically all of it on the interstate. The civic gets 34-38 mpg which is the part I like, but I am starting to question the reliability.
So now I am looking for a good commuter car. The only option that I am dead set on is cruise control for the obvious reason. While initially an 08 Impreza hatch grabbed my attention, 26 mpg was unacceptable for me. So now I am left searching again. I have test drove the Mazda2 and Fiesta and either would meet my needs as far as size goes. They both seemed pretty peppy for all 100 hp. I have plans to test drive an Accent but havent made it that far yet.
So now for the question, what else should I consider? I have no issues with buying CPO or used. We have an extra car in case something did happen to the civic so I am really in no hurry except for the nagging about how much dislike there is for the civic. (Read More…)
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.
GM stopped production of the Cruze today at its Lordstown, Ohio, factory at around 1 p.m. EST, Reuters reports. Production is stopped due to an unspecified “supplier issue.” Says Reuters:
“GM spokesman Chris Lee declined to describe the nature of the supplier issue, saying only that the No. 1 U.S. automaker was looking to restart production as swiftly as possible.”
The Freep did read in the Youngstown Vindicator that the problem relates to “material provided by a supplier … that could impact customer satisfaction with our products.”
GM has made much of the fact that its Chevrolet Cruze compact has enjoyed strong sales this year, but volume alone isn’t enough to make it in today’s car industry. The key to profitability is keeping production in line with sales, so that plants don’t overproduce, in turn forcing profit-sapping incentives to move the metal. And, as these charts show, GM has been having success selling the Cruze, but not to the extent that it needs to keep production at its current levels. The graph above shows monthly production and sales levels for this year, and it shows that GM has already tried to adjust production once to keep it in line with slower-than-expected sales. But that wasn’t enough. With sales volume dropping the last four months in a row, and inventory jumping from 33 days to 43 days in the month of October alone, the UAW is reporting that the Lordstown plant where Cruze is built will be idled for the entire week of November 28. According to the announcement
The down week is necessary to align production with current market demand. The scheduling modification is attributed to traditional seasonal buying behavior coupled with competitors’ recovering inventories previously impacted by the March earthquake in Japan.
Like a lot of recent Detroit products, the Cruze has received a lot of positive press due to its giant improvement in quality and sales compared to its predecessor. But with demand softening, and GM’s brass fretting over profitability margins as the market shifts to smaller cars, it’s clear that the Cruze’s ultimate success has yet to be proven.
It’s a phenomenon with some precedent: import manufacturers will get nowhere with a certain bodystyle or drivetrain until one of the US domestic brands jumps on the bandwagon and popularizes it. And Jeff Breneman, executive director of the U.S. Coalition for Advanced Diesel Cars, is hoping the same dynamic plays out in the world of diesel power when Chevy brings its Cruze Diesel to the US. He tells WardsAuto
The fact that Chevy will offer a diesel Cruze in 2013 is huge. The gas-powered Cruze will get 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km), so the diesel is expected to get 50 mpg-plus (4.7 L/100 km), and that will make it a game-changer.
Ford, Toyota or Honda haven’t got a diesel for the U.S. yet, but get ready for 2013-2014. That’s when we’re going to see a lot more diesels.
And, as the diesel booster-in-chief, it’s not surprising that Breneman would come to that conclusion. But what are folks inside GM saying about the Cruze diesel? In a recent interview with TTAC, senior advisor Bob Lutz suggested that we shouldn’t expect the Cruze diesel to conquer America or “change the game” all that much.
Ed, Sajeev, and yours truly have all weighed in on the Chevrolet Volt. We all agreed that it drives surprisingly well, but that aspects of the interior need work. I hadn’t been planning to review the Volt again, but was asked if I’d like to have one for a week following the Cruze ECO. And so an intramural competition was born. If the $19,995 Cruze ECO is such a solid, comfortable, and efficient commuter, why spend twice as much for the $39,995 Volt?
With the Cruze, Chevrolet has pulled off a rare combination: segment-leading sales (up 31 percent from last year) at a higher transaction price (up 27 percent from two years ago to $20,465, according to TrueCar). But it hasn’t hurt that the Corolla, Civic, Focus, and Elantra have all been supply constrained. Once competitors get their factories running, does the Cruze have what it takes to maintain its current lead?
With Chevrolet already offering a Cruze Eco, WardsAuto reports that the forthcoming Cruze diesel made a case for itself based on attributes that go beyond mere efficiency. Which is interesting because a GM source tells Wards that the Cruze diesel will get around 50 MPG on the freeway… and unlike the Eco, it will achieve that high number with an automatic transmission (the Cruze Eco’s 42 MPG highway rating is only for manual transmission models). Equally importantly, the oil-burning Cruze will return better performance alongside better efficiency, with 147 HP and 236 lb-ft, compared to the 1.4T engine’s 138 HP and 148 lb-ft, which would make it the performance model of the range… which some say is just what the Cruze needs.
Joseph Lescota, chair of the Automotive Marketing Management Dept. at Northwood University in Midland, MI, thinks a diesel Cruze will draw buyers.
“Chevrolet has a great price-point vehicle that has tremendous eye appeal and options but may not meet the performance needs of a select market group,” he tells Ward’s.
A diesel version would hit that group between the eyes by adding a sturdy engine, extra torque and top-end performance to the mix, he says.
GM executives meanwhile highlight the diesel option’s value as what GM North America boss Mark Reuss calls “a hedge against the unknown.” Only three percent of current US sales are of diesels, but as American brands start rolling the oil-burning options out, and as Americans are exposed to their higher performance and efficiency, that segment could just grow. After all, who doesn’t want more performance and more efficiency for a mere $1k-$4k premium?
GM still won’t comment on the matter, but a recent rumor that the Cruze’s two-liter diesel engine will be federalized for the 2013 model-year has been confirmed to the AP [via the DetN] by “two people briefed on GM product plans.” That motor, designed by VM Motori and built since 2006 by GM-Daewoo, was recently updated to Euro 6 standards, and according to the Holden website, the Australian-spec version makes 160 HP (at 3,800 RPM) and 236 lb-ft (at 1,750 RPM), while returning 42 MPG (combined with manual transmission) or 35 MPG (combined, automatic). Of course those aren’t EPA numbers, and they could easily change by the time the engine is certified for US emissions standards.