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Chevy's New Cruze Needs a Hard Sell

Posted by: David Welch on September 1, 2010

Some big questions are being asked of the Chevrolet Cruze compact, which is just about hit the market. First, will its conservative styling draw showroom traffic? Will GM’s new marketing minds—namely new marketing Vice President Joel Ewanick and his hand-picked Chevrolet marketing chief Chris Perry, both Hyundai veterans—come up with a way to get consumers interested in this car and the Chevy brand. And will consumers, who are accustomed to shopping Chevy for a low-priced compact, pay up for the $17,000 Cruze? The outgoing Cobalt sold for $1,300 less, though Chevy says the new car has more content and therefore is still a good value.

Every one of those questions will pose a challenge for a car that GM absolutely needs to be successful as the automaker tries to rebuild the Chevy brand. Make no mistake, this will be a big marketing challenge. Chevy has never really had a good compact. The Cobalt was an also-ran, and that’s very generous. The Cavalier before that was also a cut-priced loser. When people think of Chevy, they think of trucks, SUVs, Camaros, maybe the Impala, maybe the Corvette. Small cars have never been the brand’s raison d’etre. So now they are trying to get fatter pricing on a pretty conservative car sold by a brand with no reputation for selling small cars.

The good news is that if GM can get people to give the car a look, the Cruze has some great selling points. I sat in the car at a Chevy event yesterday. The cabin is first rate with attractive design, solid materials in the dash and comfortable seating. Chevy brags that if you load up competing models like the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Ford Focus with comparable options, the base model Cruze LS is anywhere from $635 to $1,770 better value.

The best news Chevy has may be the Eco version of the Cruze. A regular Cruze gets 36 miles per gallon on the highway, 2 mpg more than the Focus. The Eco model gets 40 mpg. There’s no hybrid system or high-tech solution. GM’s engineers just wrung out weight, made a few aerodynamic tweaks, added a gear to the manual transmission and gave it some low-rolling resistance tires. It was an old-tech solution to a long-standing problem. At highway speeds, for example, a shutter closes and blocks part of the grille. That cuts wind flow under the can and makes the Cruze slicker in the wind. Simplicity.

Will enough buyers take notice? That’s going to be the real challenge. Sometimes in the car business it takes a few generations of good models before consumers realize that the brand selling them is worth a look. Ewanick and Perry experienced that with Hyundai. They may have to do the same with Chevy.

Reader Comments

Haroon Rashid

September 2, 2010 3:44 AM

Joel Ewanick, Chris Perry compliments on Cruze Eco 40 mpg., value for money vis-a-vis Toyota Corolla. GM almost vanished in many markets as the sub-continent of Indo-Pak, the SAARC where Toyota Corolla is locally CKD assembled, and Chevrolet Joy entered the market in 2004 from the bankrupt Korean Daewoo Matiz unit which GM started turning Chevrolet sub-compact in export market in the sub-continent. Toyota recently had major recall, despite its very deep roots in the market. Not a single Corolla was recalled in Pakistan market which is CKD local assembled. However due to bad marketing, poor/worst product support that ruined GM name with a local franchsie. GM ideally should consider some markets as strategic, points. Among which is the SAARC region, Middle East.


September 2, 2010 7:16 AM

The Cruze's telescoping steering wheel is a welcome feature that many more expensive vehicles are still missing.

Steering-wheel mounted cruise-control is also a must-have that the Cruze delivers-on. The 2011 Corolla and 2011 Jetta fail in that regard, each suffering from a chintzy cruise-control stalk hidden behind the wheel.

Jungle Jim

September 10, 2010 4:43 PM

Hats of to Mr. Ewanick and Goodby Silverstein for the leap taking Chevy in a more consumercentric direction so quickly. Good news for the industry is Ewanick is raising the bar to Hyundai levels for all........and fast.

Rob Hole

September 11, 2010 3:26 AM

According to the news being reported at , it doesn't seem like its going to be a hard sell... According to GM, its their top selling vehicle around the world since its been launched in over 60 countries. it currently outsells their trucks and with the launch planned next week for US & Canadian dealers to begin receiving their inventory of Cruze's... I think GM has a promising chance with this car as the Cobalt/G5 was a rushed production car.

Mortgage Lenders

October 18, 2010 7:54 AM

New Chevrolet Cruze needs a Hard Sell Posted by: David Welch on September 1, some big question is prompted by the 2010 Chevrolet Cruze compact, nearly hitting the market. First, his style showroom traffic conservative drag? Does the spirit of GM marketing - namely, new Vice President of Marketing Joel Ewanick and its handpicked Chevrolet marketing manager Chris Perry, the two veterans Hyundai - find a way to entice consumers interested in this car and the Chevy brand. And that consumers who are accustomed to buying a cheap compact Chevy Cruze pay up to $ 17,000? The outgoing Cobalt sold for $ 1300 less, but Chevy says the new car has more content and is therefore still a good value.

motorcycle security

December 22, 2010 9:45 AM

This looks good!This is an important car for GM India.The Climate control is very effective.And I think the Cruze will only do well on braking distance according to their opinion. Others who actually try out the vehicle will likely think differently.


December 29, 2010 11:32 PM

The Cruze is a lot of car for the money and it looks better than a eco low end.

I know someone who payed the same price for a yarus which is much less car.


February 15, 2011 11:53 AM

The Cruz is a very nice little car- tasteful, conservative styling, decent mileage, and a very nice interior. It will probably find a market, and may prove to be a viable alternative to say, a Corolla. However, with really numb steering, and a buzzy, hard working engine, it will be no competition to the likes of a Mazda 3 for folks who love to drive.

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

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