Can We Interest You in a Cruze? GM Sticking with Sedans

It’s gotten to the point where those seen buying a traditional sedan or hatchback are viewed as being unlikely candidates for procreation. After all, you can’t raise a kid in the absence of a vehicle belonging to a segment where “rows” matters more than horsepower or fuel economy. I blame Lee Iacocca for sparking the non-car trend.

Anyway, with Fiat Chrysler out of the small and medium-sized car game, and Ford eager to follow, General Motors feels this new automotive landscape could work to its advantage. Never mind all that doom and gloom (and some very GM-centric rumors).

Speaking to Automotive News, Alan Batey, GM’s North America president, expressed a sentiment heard when Chevrolet brought back the Cruze diesel in numerous configurations as a way of soaking up disgruntled Volkswagen devotees. That sentiment being keep building it, and they will come.

“We have to continue to listen to our customers and react to their needs,” said Batey.

“And right now, there’s a lot of customers that want to buy cars, and they’re big segments. That some of our competitors have decided to exit them, that just creates a bigger opportunity for us.”

The jury’s out on just how many new customers GM might attract from the impending loss of the Fiesta, Focus (in sedan form, anyway), Fusion, and Taurus. With sales of those vehicles dropping markedly in recent years, any bump to GM’s volume could be short-lived. However, it could help extend the lifespan of its passenger car models to some degree.

Earlier this year, rumors arose of the impending demise of the Chevrolet Sonic and Impala, though the smaller of the two did stage a reappearance on regulatory documents for the 2019 model year. Large cars are in the worst shape these days. GM’s Hamtramck assembly plant staged an extended shutdown late last year, and small cars aren’t sitting comfortably, either. Thanks o bulging inventories, downtime became common at the Chevrolet Cruze’s Lordstown, Ohio plant in the past year, with now runs on one shift — down from three when the model debuted.

Batey said he sees no need for further downtime in 2018, but admits things can change in a hurry.

“Based on what I know today, I think we’re in a good position and I don’t see any further downtime against our car plants,” he said. “But, again, if something happens and we see a shift, then we’ll react to it.”

As for the Sonic and Impala’s future, Batey remained tight-lipped.

While Ford sees a future filled with EVs and crossovers, that doesn’t mean no one bought its cars. Sure, it seems the Focus sedan is most often seen performing some sort of fleet duty, but U.S. sales still totalled 158,385 in 2017 (down from 269,272 five years earlier). The Blue Oval also sold 46,249 Fiestas, 209,623 Fusions, and 41,236 Tauruses last year.

As Automotive News points out, GM’s passenger cars sales shrank 18 percent last year, but it also has more available manufacturing capacity compared to Ford. This decreases the need to jettison low-profit models in order to free up room for big-buck SUVs and trucks.

Meanwhile, Hyundai, Toyota, and Honda have no intention of dropping their own traditional passenger cars. Even if Ford owners want to remain in the segment, the market offers plenty of choice. That should be enough to worry GM.

a version of this article first appeared on thetruthaboutcars.com

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