By on November 17, 2014

Captiva import?The esteemable Jack Baruth backed one up toward an odd-looking statue back in March. Sales then boomed in April and May.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

In truth, Jack was no fan of the Chevrolet Captiva Sport he rented earlier this year, saying, “It won’t strike the desirability chord in anyone’s heart,” and, “This is a car to avoid at all costs.”

Fleet buyers, including most especially the rental car companies in the United States, did not avoid the Captiva Sport. They flocked to the reclothed Saturn Vue in large numbers.

Nevertheless, as was reported on these pages earlier this month after a virtual disappearance from GM’s sales reports in September and October, GM is done with the Chevrolet Captiva Sport. The upcoming Trax will, in addition to potentially satisfying some potential Buick Encore buyers who would rightly spend less money, also cater to rental companies in the Captiva Sport’s stead.

Now that it’s gone, consider just how many of these overweight but not completely unpleasant SUVs were sold: 7038 in the final quarter of 2011; another 36,935 in 2012; 47,600 more in 2013. Through the first seven months of 2014, before GM began running out the clock, Captiva Sport volume was up 22% to 33,308 units. The Captiva Sport’s best ever month was May 2014, when sales shot up 22% to 6204 units. On four occasions, more than 5000 were sold in a single month. Through the first five months of 2014, the Captiva Sport ranked 29th overall among SUVs and crossovers, ahead of some 60 different nameplates.


These aren’t insignificant figures. In other words, there’s a reason you see’em around. Even after two months in which only 74 were sold, the Captiva Sport’s year-to-date figures at the end of October show a vehicle which sold as often as the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Nissan Juke; nearly as often as the surging Kia Sportage; 38% more often than the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport; 69% more often than the Volkswagen Tiguan.

The Captiva Sport, like the Vue which came before it, is not the kind of vehicle that will stand out in our memory for its goodness or popularity. But as a fleet-only experiment, obsessive observers of the auto industry will hark back to the Captiva Sport’s presence in the U.S. market as a means of justifying that Nissan should sell a Rogue and a Rogue Select, that the current Impala should stay on board when they introduce an eleventh-gen sedan, and that the W124 E-Class should still be on sale today.

The Captiva Sport was an anomaly, the kind of vehicle we’ll re-eulogize the next time a brand is killed off. And in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t rare.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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46 Comments on “Chronicling The Captiva Sport’s Brief U.S. Sales History...”


  • avatar
    RetroGrouch

    “Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.”

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I’ve said it before, if you’re looking for a cheap used crossover you can’t beat ’em. They have great looking wheels too

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Lol

    Good riddance!

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    I loved the Vue when it first came out and I like the Captiva. Good overall size, height and ground clearance.

    Like that line of bras for healthier ladies, they’re “Just My Size”.

  • avatar

    Like I said, I really don’t have a problem with the Captiva. It’s well-built, can be had with the same features as most retail crossovers (large alloys, navigation, sunroof, leather), and the styling is actually more cohesive than that of either the Equinox or the Terrain. And yes, it is an inexpensive newer crossover for budgets that otherwise wouldn’t have any options in that arena. Well-equipped examples can be had for around $16K, which is the same money you”

    And they’re going to replace the Captiva Sport with the *Trax*? If the Encore is any indication, the Trax is a very small vehicle with a definite premium on shoulder room, and not at all something I’d rent if I had more than two other people.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I would be very interested to know more about the fleet only cars from a financial side. What were the average transaction prices for the captiva and Impala? Did they run buy 20 get one free sales to Enterprise and the like?
    What kind of profit margin did they run?

    Obviously all questions we will most likely never know. Ford (Taurus) and GM are the only ones that I know of who kept a model around to build exclusively for fleet customers and these cars never saw a dealers lot until after they were purchased at auction. I guess on some level it surprises me other manufacturers have not done the same thing.

    From a driving dynamics, yes I agree the Captiva is awful. But like its sister fleet queen th Impala it makes for a great used car. I will argue the the Impala is the best value available for someone who needs a larger sedan and is in a strict budget. The cars are dead reliable, return decent mpg and can be had for sub 15k with less than 40k miles all while offering leather and heated seats. Hard to beat that value proposition if you are in a tight budget.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Weird. When it was a 2009 Vue, this vehicle was the underrated go-to when Saturn was going under. Throw a Chevy badge on it, and a European-designed crossover suddenly becomes a steaming pile.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. Funny, that.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The Vue wasn’t good either. It’s the worst of the Thetas that we get in the US.

      • 0 avatar
        bryanska

        TTAC’s Justin Berkowitz re: the 2008 Vue: “After clocking the new Vue’s unsurprising if handsome and class-competitive sheetmetal, stepping into its interior is something of a revelation. The new Vue is one of the best built and classiest cabins in a U.S. General Motors product to date.”…. “And in spite of its obesity, stomping and romping with the Vue is a hoot. With Teutonic steering and a European-firm suspension, it’s a highly hustle-friendly family hauler. Just remember that we’re talking SUV sporty, not actual sporty. ”

        Edmunds: “With its handsome styling, agile driving dynamics, wide choice of powertrains and attractive cabin, the 2009 Saturn Vue stands as a strong competitor in the compact-crossover segment.”

        Car and Driver: “Although it is heavy and doesn’t offer a third row, as some of its competition does, the Vue makes up for part of that deficit by offering excellent driving dynamics and a boatload of standard safety features and equipment. However, we prefer the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.”

        So what exactly changed? Did Chevy decontent it? I know it’s 6 years later, is that it?

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          It’s six years later, and every other compact CUV has made advancements.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I don’t really like any of the Thetas. I could deal with the Equinox or Terrain because of the longer wheelbase, sliding rear seats, and larger cargo area.

          Part of it might be because it’s six years later and the Escape/Rav-4/CR-V are all significantly updated. However, the Thetas aren’t and they still sell.

          There is a bit of truth to the fact that once it because a rental call with a Chevy badge people started hating it. The Outlook did the opposite when GM slapped the GMC badge on the Oulook for their refreshed Acadia.

          • 0 avatar

            Well…the body stampings for the original Acadia and the Outlook were virtually identical, except for the rear end…where the Outlook had a wraparound rear window and squared-off tail-lamps. GM dusted off the Outlook’s stampings for use on the refreshed Acadia, but I don’t think the 2013-present Acadia is much more popular than the original, and if it is, I doubt it’s down to those rear-end details.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            For the Outlook/Acadia, I don’t think it matters either way what bodyshell or rear end they used. People are going to buy a GMC crossover as long as it has chrome and giant GMC lettering. Also, the bigger the grille the better.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          They lost the excellent driving dynamics and the nice interior somewhere along the way. Calling the Craptiva rolly-polly is being charitable.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Materials, powertrain, drive quality aside, I think its a looker.

    Love those thin pillars and greenhouse lines that are parallel to the roofline.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    Our criteria for claiming “classy interior” or “great driving dynamics” is a constantly moving target. A 2008-09 Saturn VUE competed with a totally different RAV4, CRV, Equinox, Escape / Mariner. As the Captiva Sport, it was still stuck on the 2006-2007 engineering & design phase.

    • 0 avatar

      Fine. It’s also fleet-only, and it’s $10,000 cheaper than what you’d pay for any similarly-sized or optioned crossover on the pre-owned market. It doesn’t really compete with anything in the retail crossover segment. I think it’s fine for what it is.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        I had one as a rental once and agree… its fine. I fully expected it suck badly so I was pleasantly surprised that it was so acceptable. I certainly liked it way more then the Jeep Patriot that Hertz stuck me with recently. The words “penalty box” are the perfect description for that CUV.

  • avatar

    One must have perspective to appreciate this car. Not everyone wants pre-safe everything that wipes your rear with the capacitive touch of a screen.

    For folks coming out of 2004 Santa Fes, S-10 Blazers, Firestone-era Explorers, Montero Sports, 1st-gen Sorentos, old Durangos, and rusted gas hog 2wd Pathfinders, this thing is a huge upgrade. Also, if you just want a CUV for cheap, you can’t touch anything decent for this price range.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      You and I are in agreement here. The folks unloading the vehicles you mentioned most likely picked them up 2nd hand as well. There is a huge swath of folks who only buy used and shop with the value for the $$ only, I would bet most of them view their car as an appliance and could care less about driving dynamics. I would also bet most can’t accurately calculate MPG, hence the # of old Firestone era explorer and durangos still running around that guzzle fuel in numbers that would make a big block blush. So they will love the Captiva, easily 8 mpg better than what they have and like you said 10k less than any other CUV on the lot of the same year and Odo count.

      Could they find a better quality and or better driving CUV? Sure. But why bother when for the next 8 years this will do and they will rinse and repeat into the next fleet queen du jour.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    “Jack was no fan of the Chevrolet Captiva Sport”

    Was?

    Is Jack now an ex-parrot?

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Had an unintentional ignition switch turn-off in a Captiva rental recently. (Thanks to the practice of the rental company putting two keys, two fobs, and one giant ID tag on the ring). Was underway, driving through a neighborhood. Diagnosed the problem within a couple seconds, shifted to N, twisted the key, restarted the motor. No accident, but no brakes nor steering – lucky, but no fun. Parts-bin ignition switch sharing and the rental car company’s jammed-full, heavy, clumsy key-ring are to blame. Keep that in mind if you get stuck in a Captiva at the airport.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I never understand why rental companies put both keys and fobs on one ring. What’s the point of two, if I can’t separate them?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        It isn’t for you. It is done for them. Keeping track of multiple keys for cars that shift from location to location is a task that no rental company will perform. Some of them throw away all but one key the day the car is delivered. Others tether the keys together so the car will be more valuable when it is sold. In the mean time, customers can be charged fees that more than cover the expense of replacing the only key or keys to the car.

        • 0 avatar
          Domestic Hearse

          I wrote, then spoke with an executive of the rental company in question. I told him that I’d be taking a hacksaw to their cumbersome keyring, apologizing as I know it’s a hassle. He informed me that based on our conversation and my experience, they’d no longer be renting the Captiva out with dual keys, fobs and ID tag. I told him I appreciated the extra complexity this would cause the company and the agents, but he assured me it would be far cheaper than a wrongful death suit.

          We got into a long conversation about the defective ignition, the recall at GM, the cars affected. He did not realize that Captiva was the original Saturn Vue, and quite possibly, could share the same part as the recalled Ion and Sky.

          At the end of the conversation, the executive had made up his mind that he would go back and recommend the company unburden the key rings of ALL their small GM rentals until they learned more…just as we continue to learn more.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Should’ve been named the Éuröflöt.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I owned a 2002 Saturn Vue 4cyl/mt. Up to 30mpg on the highway and versatile as could be. Worked from it with a small trailer. Also had a 2007 with the Honda power train. I admit to being a bit of an anachronism from time to time but I haven’t seen much in the way of improvements I thought were landmark since then. The cube I drive almost daily has navigation and a start/stop button and that is about it. I think a lot of folks confuse change with improvements.

    The 2002 did the job well. However, it loved shafting me and did so regularly with lots of repairs. I would have to think that improvements in durability did happen. Changed clutch, transmission, several computers, and finally threw a timing chain at 185k miles. I would love to have had that car in an updated version and the Chevy probably represented that. In fact the 07 caused us none of the problems of the first car and the computers would have had they not been improved. I learned the hard way never to buy the first year of anything. That was my third Saturn of four and the only one that was a problem. I think there is a segment that includes me that likes versatile cars. I think this was one.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I’m surprised they did not keep the hybrid version around to boost their CAFE.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I remember peering into the windows of more than one Vue when I was car-shopping in 2008 – I always thought that it had a superior “air” to it, and the packaging was “just about right”.
    But, the Mexican assembly and reported poor MPG steered me away (as well as the looming demise of Saturn).

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