By killing the Chevrolet Cruze last year and now the Sonic in a few months, General Motors is leaving itself with just two vehicles that start at less than $20,000. That includes the new Trailblazer, which aims to put Chevy on more consumers' radars by landing in one of the industry's fastest-growing segments: small crossovers.
The Trailblazer complements the Trax, which posted a 30 percent U.S. sales gain last year but is too small for some buyers, by giving Chevy a roomier option with a more mature look. And unlike the Trax, it was designed from the ground up with U.S. consumers top of mind.
"We're thinking the Trailblazers are going to catch on in a big way," said Paul Waatti, industry analyst at AutoPacific.
With a starting price of less than $20,000, "initially it might take away some sales from the Trax, but I think they can live side by side, like the [Buick] Encore and the Encore GX," said Waatti.
The base trim in many vehicles typically makes up only 5 to 10 percent of the volume mix, said Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit. But the accessible price point is an effective marketing tactic to draw more customers to the brand, she said. "It gives people a mindset to know when they can come in and start looking. It ends up being really important in terms of consumer shopping and making sure you are on consideration sets," she said.
Later this year, Chevy will launch advertising tactics that resonate with a younger cohort of buyers, said Bradford Franz, senior marketing manager for Chevy SUVs. But the price point has been one of the initial draws. "Being able to talk about the package that Trailblazer brings for under $20,000 was just an incredible sound bite to have," said Franz. "So we chose to capitalize on that."
A variety of options in the small-crossover segment have become crucial for Chevy after it discontinued the Cruze and continues to prioritize crossovers and SUVs over sedans.
"That's the way that buyers seem to be going at this point. The Cruze is gone, so this needs to work for Chevrolet," Brinley said.
AutoPacific forecasts 115,000 Trailblazers will be sold in 2022, compared with 95,000 HR-Vs.