GM Sets Sights on Premium Minicar Market

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
gm sets sights on premium minicar market

A $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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4 of 36 comments
  • Coupdetat Coupdetat on Jan 11, 2008

    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.

  • Jthorner Jthorner on Jan 12, 2008

    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.

  • Akitadog Akitadog on Jan 14, 2008

    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.

  • Bancho Bancho on Feb 11, 2008

    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.