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Chevy adds content to small cars

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Chevy adds content to small cars

Rick Kranz

Automotive News -- March 29, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

Chevrolet is reinventing its small-car strategy with the Cruze, Aveo and Spark.

"Everything you know about the small cars that we have done for the U.S. in the past does not apply anymore," says Margaret Brooks, product director for Chevrolet's small and compact cars.

The Cruze compact and Aveo subcompact will move away from economy-car status, with a long list of standard equipment, such as air conditioning and heated outside mirrors. The Spark minicar, though, will be targeted at budget buyers.

Chevrolet's strategy relies on engineering outside the United States. U.S. sales for the German-engineered Cruze begin in the third quarter, followed late in 2011 by the Korean-redesigned Aveo. The Spark goes on sale in 2012.

Today, Chevrolet's small-car lineup consists of the Aveo, Cobalt and HHR. Combined U.S. sales of the three models was 214,082 in 2009, down 37 percent from 2008. The Cruze will replace the Cobalt; the HHR will be dropped in 2011.

Brooks says Chevrolet revisited its standard-equipment strategy for the Cruze and Aveo to appeal to buyers "moving down from bigger cars."

"They are not looking to be in the lowest-priced vehicle in the lineup," she says. "They want a richly contented vehicle. We are going to market with really nicely equipped cars."

Brooks adds: "Cruze is clearly a core product for Chevy."

As for the Spark, which will be the lowest-priced Chevrolet, the standard-equipment level will not be as extensive. "Spark has a different role to play," she says.

Cruze

The Cruze is the successor to the Cobalt, although the price point will be higher and the list of standard equipment longer. The Cruze comes with air conditioning, power windows and door locks -- all options on the Cobalt -- plus 10 airbags.

GM has not revealed the Cruze's base price. The Cobalt has four airbags and a starting price of $15,710 with shipping.

Brooks says that for the Cruze, "Most people are surprised the target customer is more apt to be in the 40 to 50 age group, more apt to be an empty nester" or a family needing a second vehicle.

The Cruze is aimed at the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

The Cruze was developed by GM's Adam Opel r&d center in Ruesselsheim, Germany, on the automaker's new global compact platform. U.S. production is slated for Lordstown, Ohio. One model, a four-door sedan, will be offered.

Aveo

Brooks says: "The Aveo is a sporty car in the European sense, and it is going to have sporty ride and handling characteristics to go along with it." An Aveo, she says, "has a more youthful personality than a Cruze."

The car is engineered by GM Daewoo Auto & Technology in South Korea on GM's new global small-car platform. The Aveo will be assembled in Lake Orion, Mich. Two models are planned, a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback. Competitors will include the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris.

Spark

The Spark will be the smallest car GM sells in North America. GM has not announced where the U.S. version of the Spark will be assembled.

One model, a five-door hatchback, is planned. The Spark is engineered by GM Daewoo on GM's new minicar platform. The European version is 143.3 inches long, about 3 feet longer than the Smart ForTwo.

Today, the two-passenger Smart "is one competitor" for the Spark, Brooks says, but "we think there will be additional cars coming in that space."

Volume in the minicar segment is hard to predict, Brooks says. But, she adds: "We do know from our research, there are customers, especially in urban areas, that really like the compactness of the car, the affordability, the fuel economy."

Thinking small -- Chevy's new small cars

Sale date Role

Cruze 3rd quarter Core vehicle

Aveo Late 2011 Sporty entry

Spark 2012 Niche model

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100329/RETAIL03/303299956/1432#ixzz0jZG2U5rg

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What they're doing with the Cruze is exactly how you make people come down from bigger cars- same thing that Ford is doing with the Focus. Lots of standard equipment, nice plastics, more sophisticated options (like Rainsense and NAV), bigger interiors and cargo space. I think that this will pay off for both GM and Ford. Haven't seen a new focus in person but got up close and personal with a pre-production Cruze at the Auto Show this year. I was pretty impressed with the quality of the interior materials which is, along with styling, my A1 gripe with the Cobalt.

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