By on August 28, 2017

2019 GMC subcompact crossover rendering - Illustration: Matt Posky, General MotorsSmall crossovers are a natural fit for a brand that sells not a single passenger car, but GMC has been sorely lacking in smaller utility vehicles for much of its tenure.

The first-generation GMC Terrain, something of a tweener-sized utility vehicle, didn’t arrive until 2009. For its predecessor, General Motors decided to concentrate attention on its Pontiac brand, which resulted in the oft-forgotten Torrent.

But down another rung on the ladder sits subcompact utility vehicles. GMC brand boss Duncan Aldred says General Motors’ all-light-truck division “should have been first in the segment.” Instead, the Buick Encore and Chevrolet Trax generate 13,000 monthly U.S. sales, thereby controlling America’s subcompact crossover category.

GMC? On the sidelines, waiting for the next generation of GM subcompacts to spawn a crossover for the very brand that should have had one in the first place.

Nearly five years have passed since the Buick Encore arrived on U.S. shores. Shipped across the Rio Grande, the Chevrolet Trax landed at U.S. dealers nearly three years ago. Through the end of July 2017, over 455,000 copies of the Encore and Trax have been sold in the U.S.

While the Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V, and Subaru Crosstrek have all achieved greater U.S. sales volume this year, the fourth and fifth-ranked Encore and Trax own 29 percent market share in the subcompact segment. FCA, with 21 percent market share, is next-best.

But General Motors hasn’t allowed the most obvious brand in its quiver to swim in that pool. That should soon change.

“To me, there is more room for SUVs in the GMC stable,” Duncan Aldred tells Automotive News. “An obvious place for GMC to be if it expands is that small SUV segment.” Aldred says a smaller-than-Terrain utility vehicle that’s positioned below the $26,365 2018 Terrain would be the logical next step.

The 2017 Buick Encore is priced from $23,915; the Chevrolet Trax starts at $21,895.2018 GMC Terrain - Image: GMCSubcompact crossover sales grew 6 percent in the first seven months of 2017, year-over-year. Sales of the GMC lineup overall are up 2 percent to 310,587 units through July, with much of the boost coming from the midsize Acadia crossover, downsized and all-new for 2017. GMC’s pickup truck sales are down 9 percent, and the transition to a new generation of the Terrain produced a 15-percent decline in sales of the Terrain, currently GMC’s smallest utility vehicle.

[Photo Illustration: Matt Posky, General Motors; Image: General Motors]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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27 Comments on “GMC Needs a Subcompact Crossover; Brand Boss Says GMC ‘Should Have Been First in the Segment’...”


  • avatar
    thegamper

    For the brand that is supposed to be “Professional Grade”, it doesn’t seem that a GMC branded Encore/Trax would really do much for that image. That of course assumes that the Terrain and Acadia don’t already dilute that image.

    I would love to see something small and open topped. Think of a mini Wrangler. Could spawn a true (larger) Wrangler competitor also which isn’t a bad idea considering Ford resurrecting the Bronco. Just rebranding a Trax is coming awfully close to selling passenger cars in my opinion. At least we can pretend the Terrain and Acadia are trucks of some sort. Either way, Im sure it will sell. I can see the $35k Denali edition of the Chevy Trax now, flying off lots because…..crossover.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      I was thinking the same thing… it’s one thing for Jeep to come out with the Renegade; it makes an attempt at Jeep-i-ness, even if it ain’t exactly a Wrangler.

      But you can’t sugar-coat the fact that the only thing “Professional Grade” about a GMC Trax would be the fact that some might get bought for fleet use by Meter Maids or something.

    • 0 avatar
      Varezhka

      Would be cool if they can rebadge the upcoming 2019 Suzuki Jimny that was leaked a few days ago. A subcompact BOF with RWD/4WD solid axle layout, and proven off-road credentials.

      Sure, they’ll be terrible on-road just like Wrangler, but the GMC/Buick dealerships already have Encore. Less cannibalization, right?

  • avatar
    mleitman

    What’s the GMC Tracker? Chopped liver? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Tracker_(Americas)#/media/File:1989-1991_GMC_Tracker.jpg

  • avatar
    ash78

    I usually think of GMC as the “10%” version of Chevy (top 10% features/price/etc).

    Considering I’ve seen a total of three Chevy Trax since it was released, I still don’t think GMC has a business case here. #anecdotes

    (but the Buicks are pretty common, which is weird)

    This just strikes me a little too much like the “gimme gimme” attitude of the dealers and brands that preceded GM’s bailout. A quick path back to brand engineering. IMHO, GMC is the upscale “manly truck” division (sorry for the sexism, I’m just painting a marketing picture). I don’t see a compact fitting into that, especially when it would cannibalize Buick.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    I always wondered why they hadn’t just badge engineered the Trax for GMC. Honestly, though, I don’t blame them. The Traxes (Trax? Traxi?) and Encores they had at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show were some of the cheapest feeling automobiles there and, true to their parent brand’s badge engineering heritage, they were identical in every way that mattered.

    Why anybody would pay more for the Buick when the Trax was available was beyond me. Of course, why anybody would pay $20+k for the Trax when almost everything else is available was also beyond me.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Why would anyone pay more for the Buick? Because it’s more stylish outside and more luxurious inside. And being cuter outside and nicer inside matters to this segment’s buyers. Let’s face it, the usual SUV contingent of middle-aged dudes are not buying Traxes and Encores, ever. It’s young women and retired couples who “like to see over traffic” and “want something a little nicer.” The people who need a Corolla but want something that costs more and drives worse because Ride Height.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      It is AWD and cheap! Who wouldn’t past up almost 40 mpg? You don’t have many options in AWD economy sedans like Accord, Mazda6, or Camry but the Legacy.

      Well my mother in law just picked up a used 2015 and really likes it.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        Your decision making skills are extremely weak, given that you’d also buy a branded title car and compare it to a car that wasn’t totalled:

        https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2017/08/2017-buick-envision-preferred-awd-review-buick-tri-shield-badge-premium-exists/#comment-9359384

  • avatar
    Syke

    No GMC doesn’t need a subcompact crossover.

    In the first place, the majority of GMC dealers are paired with Buick, so you’ve got the sales there.

    Secondly, since Buick brought out the ‘subcompact’ crossover (or at least was the first to make a big deal with it), these are the crossovers that have more in common with cars than any of the other classes. And GMC is a TRUCK brand, period.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      In the first place, the majority of GMC dealers are paired with Buick, so you’ve got the sales there.

      Winner Winner Chicken Dinner…

      The goal should be that GMC/Buick dealers can be “full line dealers” not GMC needs a full lineup of X and Buick needs Car Y to plug a hole in its lineup.

      This is what leads to cannibalization of sales. How much pricing room is there between Trax and Encore anyway? (Trim for trim)

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      How do Pontiac-GMC dealers handle the Enclave/Acadia Denali twins now? Same car different wrapper. They now have the Chinese Envision/GMC Terrain to sell side by side, same car different wrapper. So some new version of the runty Opel Mokka/Encore/Trax sub-standard bongo car would be no different, Encore vs Something-or-other. People will believe any bull, buy almost anything and I can hear the salesmen now, “No they’re not the same. The GMC is a truck, but the Buick is a luxury vee-hickle.” Just so’s everyone’s clear.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        The Enclave was permitted to stay “BIG” while the Acadia has shrunk into something bigger than a Terrain but smaller than a Enclave.

        Terrain and Envision? Biggest difference between the 2018 Terrain and the current Envision is one is available with a third row and one is not.

        GM as an entity would best work if there was just a “GM Store” with all the brands being sold and NOT all these separate distribution channels. But that opportunity sailed with the bankruptcy and dealer franchise laws.

  • avatar
    ajla

    These things are like tribbles.

  • avatar

    Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

    Buick/GMC dealers already have a subcompact crossover to sell. The Buick Encore.

    I still say the quicker Buick gets shipped to China and GMC goes away, the better it’ll be long-term for GM. Let Chevrolet continue to expand all the way into Buick/GMC territory, that pixie dust will rub off on their less-expensive models. Let Cadillac expand upmarket. Pocket the now-unnecessary marketing money. Better yet, invest it in better Chevies and Caddies.

    This is what Ford has done for decades. Time for the General to follow suit.

    • 0 avatar
      Speed3

      IF FCA is going to sell Jeep to the Chinese I sure hope GM is smart enough to cash out and sell Buick to the Chinese too.

      Maybe Great Wall can buy both and Buick Jeep can be the American/Chinese version of Tata’s Jaguar Land Rover! Haha!

  • avatar
    JerseyRon

    “General Motors decided to concentrate attention on its Pontiac brand, which resulted in the oft-forgotten Torrent.”

    Forgotten is so true. Coincidentally, saw one this afternoon in a parking lot. Had to look at the badge a couple of times to figure out what it was. And then didn’t remember that such an SUV had ever existed.

  • avatar
    Speed3

    Subcompact Crossover sales are not putting down that much volume. Do we really need 4 GM vehicles of every crossover size!?!

    Equinox-Terrain-Envision-XTBleh. Blazer-Acadia-AnotherBuick-XTS(or is it XT5?). Traverse-AnotherGMC-Enclave-XTbarf.

    The Trax and Encore are plenty for this segment. Maybe spend the money upgrading the Encore’s interior or putting a real engine into it.

  • avatar
    BrentinWA

    If GMC is supposed to be “Professional Grade,” why are they so worried to have something in their lineup that screams “Amateur” such as a sub compact crossover?!

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    its way past time for a wrangler competitor. preferably japanese, like maybe something from suzuki? its only been 40 freaking years. probably also time for somebody to bring back something “avalanchey”. the dreadnought class SUV is also sorely missing an entry too. people love their excursions. preferably with a straight 6 cummins!

    as for the naysayers- the miata filled a niche, and is still doing so. possibly too small for another player to come in. most of what ive mentioned above are also niches, and if someone can build them and market them correctly it might be worthwhile.

  • avatar
    ytiradp

    Everyone seems to forget there’s still a segment that the Encore and Trax can’t compete, which is where the Compass and Rogue Sport sit. There’s also models like the Countryman that have carved out a niche for itself. GMC could just slide it’s model into that space bigger and more spacious than the twins, with different powertrain options. GMC has hinted at a model that’s unique to it’s lineup, which could be based on a shortened version of the Terrain/Equinox platform, which allows them to speed up it’s development. There’s a lot of options in this space considering neither Chevy nor Buick offer a model that measures in the range of the premium/luxury subcompact segment that are 172-175 inches long or as wide as the something like the Evoque/E-Pace. They could also go the customization route since there isn’t a model under GM banner that has that kind of market following. All speculation of course, so it’ll be interesting to see what they do if they finally make something.

    • 0 avatar
      missourigrinder

      You should see the Cadillac XT4 hitting dealerships next year and I’m guessing that from what I have read GMC will share a badge with it the following year but currently un-named . If true I will have the pleasure building it . Very anxious myself to see what the future holds in the segment .

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