To the doubters who don’t believe the American auto industry can build a competitive compact car, General Motors has something to say.
Though final March sales figures are due tomorrow, GM was eager to share the expected success of the Chevrolet Cruze. Through February of this year, Chevy has managed to push 32,187 Cruzes into the hands of new owners. That number is expected to make it past 50,000 for first quarter 2011.
It’s easy to see why GM is bullish on its Cruze prospects. Chevy’s last small car, the Cobalt, sold a grand total of 97,376 coupes and sedans in 2010. The year prior, in 2009, the number was 104,724. In 2008, the Cobalt managed a total of 188,045. The sales decline, understandable due to the cyclical nature of product, didn’t go unnoticed. Now, if the Cruze can manage over 50,000 sold in the first quarter of a year, they should be well on pace to surpass 200,000 units in 2011.
There are favorable reports coming out of traditionally strong import markets in the United States. In California, the Cruze is selling 370-percent-higher than the Cobalt last year. In Florida and New York, the gains are nearly as great at 230 and 225 percent, respectively.
The Cruze sales are good news for conquest rates too. According to GM, nearly two-thirds of Cruze customers are new to the bow-tie brand, and 48 percent traded in a non-Chevy vehicle. Another 18-percent of customers had no trade in, which possibly suggests first-time buyers. Thirty-four percent traded-in a Chevrolet.
Though the Cruze is performing, it’ll always face stiff competition in the tough C-segment. The Toyota Corolla currently leads the chase with 46,441 sold through February. The Honda Civic barely edged out the Cruze with 33,755 sold through the first two months of the year. And although it’s trailing in volume, there’s anticipation the redesigned Hyundai Elantra could claim some customers (21,948 sold through February).
The battle is far from over. The 2012 Ford Focus is just rolling out this year, and the Civic is getting a light refresh before its 2012 model year redesign. And let’s not forget the Kia Forte, Mazda3, Nissan Sentra, and reformulated and lower-priced Volkswagen Jetta, which could snake a couple thousand sales too. This is shaping up to be one of the most competitive compact car sales races yet.
Sources: GM, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota