GM: "Currency Shift Stalled Astra"

Justin Berkowitz
by Justin Berkowitz
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gm currency shift stalled astra

We’ve got to love Bob Lutz and his unabashed capacity to be wrong. In today’s Automotive News, he reports that “The Saturn Astra costs too much for U.S. customers, and sales and profitability of the small hatchback are suffering.” There is no question that sales have been anemic (between 1500 and 2000 cars per month) and that profitability for the Astra was always questionable at best. Or worse. Lutz went on to tell AN that “the profit is no longer there.” None of this has been in contention. But what is blindingly daft is GM’s explanation: the Astra costs too much for American consumers, at $16,495. Before we break out the slide rules and figure that the Civic starts in the mid $15,000s and the Mazda3 sedan starts just a hair under $15,000, keep in mind the comparable levels of equipment we’re talking about here. The Astra comes standard with loads of kit that you’d have to pay thousands more for in options. Many people don’t look at that when they are trying to buy the cheapest new car they can. But many people do want options on their Mazda3, or Corolla or Civic. And for those people, the Astra is not too expensive. The culprit from this writer’s mental CSI lab? First, zero advertising for the Astra. It’s not a legacy nameplate (i.e. Corolla or Civic) so they can’t just expect people to know it’s out there. Second, the mileage is a few pegs off from the class leaders: compare a 24/30 Astra to a 25/36 Civic. I don’t care, but lots of other people do. Third and finally, the Astra is hatchback only. I love hatchbacks. You might love hatchbacks. But Nissan was smart enough to realize that Americans are only warming up to hatchbacks; that’s why the ass-ugly Versa sedan outsells the more pleasant Versa hatch. Bottom line: the Astra (a truly decent car) is headed to the enthusiast’s scrap heap. There it can join other high-potential, half-executed Lutz ideas like the Merkur xr4ti, Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky, Pontiac GTO, and Pontiac G8. At least they’re all cheap to buy used.

Justin Berkowitz
Justin Berkowitz

Immensely bored law student. I've also got 3 dogs.

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2 of 46 comments
  • Design89 Design89 on Sep 09, 2008

    JuniorMint, Yes, well said. You will enjoy it's uniqueness for thousands less. I got the silver sand color, apparently hard to get. Enjoy!

  • Jplew138 Jplew138 on Sep 22, 2008

    Ah, whither GM...they FINALLY get a decent small car over here...and they proceed to kill it with absolutely NO advertising. I drove an Astra...and found myself liking it except for the just adequate power (needs about 15-20 more HP) and the...ummm...curiously styled interior, although that in itself isn't a deal breaker. Why is there no ad play for this car...a car that totally puts the Focus on the trailer, and handles and rides better than the Civic??? Just another example of GM and Mr. Lutz's chronic half-assedness...

  • Canam23 I moved to Los Angeles in 1968 and half the time the air was unbreathable. It is 100% better now thanks to the work of the AQMD. If you remember, when the first pollution controls were mandated in the 70's, Detroit said it was impossible to meet them. The Japanese just started working on the problem and just did it. All the tougher laws to mandate air pollution have resulted in not just cleaner air for our children, but also much more efficient engines in our vehicles. So Stellantis, I'm not buying it.
  • Theflyersfan Nope. Has nothing to do with Gladiator sales falling off of a cliff and having 5-figure discounts. Or...YTD 2023 compared to last year:Compass +7%Wrangler -14%Gladiator -31%Cherokee -25%Grand Cherokee +6%Renegade -35%Wagoneer -31%Grand Wagoneer: -14%End of 3Q 2023: 490,106 Jeeps soldEnd of 3Q 2022: 541,297 Jeeps sold490K is still a decent number of expensive SUVs sold, especially Grand Cherokees, but it's still a decline. And people want the 4xe models, so that could reverse the trend if they crank more of them out. But let's blame the government for everything. It'll lead a news cycle on any red hat network.
  • VoGhost California is the reason Dodge and Chrysler were starved of new models for the past decade. OK...
  • Random1 I don't know what the "right" price for transit/tolls/driving should be. I'm currently a commuter from Westchester, and it is cheaper for me to commute by car on days my wife is working (she's part-time so 2x/week, I'm 5x/week). Those costs, if you care, are $18/park and a somewhat optional $6.94 toll (pay or spend about 10min to take a free bridge) vs 23.50 round-trip each on Metro-North. That's absurd, either a)transit is too expensive(and we don't need to add subway/bus like many do) or b)driving/parking is too cheap, or c) bothFWIW, the congestion charge means I'll more or less never drive in again, so I guess it'll work?
  • SCE to AUX I'm not understanding the linkage between the old State v Federal domain debate, and layoffs at Stellantis.Stellantis has serious portfolio issues, so I'm inclined to blame layoffs on them.