Posted by: David Welch on August 22, 2007
General Motors Corp. Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner is hardly the kind of executive who makes off-the-cuff product announcements. But at a recent round table with some reporters, Wagoner hinted that GM may bring one of the mini cars it showed at the New York Auto Show in April to the U.S. GM showed off a trio of minis that have been engineered and designed for the Asian market by the auto maker’s GM-Daewoo unit. The company said it may add one of them to the Chevrolet line in the U.S. Wagoner wouldn’t give a firm answer last week, but he hinted that he’s keen on selling one here. “I just looked at them the other day,” Wagoner said, “and not just because I wanted to look at them.”
Huzzah! When it comes to impressing car buyers in times of expensive gasoline (the pumps read around $3 a gallon with no end in sight) it’s not just hybrid technology that wins the day. It’s selling cool small cars. Here’s where the Detroit three routinely come up short. GM, Ford and Chrysler have just about handed the compact and subcompact markets to foreign rivals. Any one of the three minis GM showed could help prove that the auto giant—known for its pickups and suvs—can make hip subcompacts. After GM showed them on the stage in New York, the company set up a website where consumers could weigh in with a vote on the cars. About 1.7 million votes poured in, with the Groove (pictured above) placing second with 39% of the ballots. Even though it trails the edgier Beat, GM insider say the Groove may be the best mini for the U.S. market. Meanwhile, GM is cutting production at six pickup and suv plants because fuel prices have dampened sales. You think it’s time to put some real effort into the small-car business?