It’s finally happened: the last remaining American automaker is bailing on compact passenger sedans – at least for the foreseeable future.
While its long been rumored that a number of GM vehicles were on the chopping block, one of the biggest surprises about the company’s recent announcement was the death of the Chevrolet Cruze in North America.
The Cruze was never as successful as the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, but nevertheless consumers bought lots of them. Thanks to the model’s spaciousness and affordable $16,975 base price, people could easily overlook the fact that the car wasn’t necessarily best-in-class.
Carsalesbase data shows Chevrolet sold 184,751 Cruzes in the United States last year, and that’s a significant number even if it trails the 377,286 Civics and 308,695 Corollas that were sold in 2017. The model also outperformed the Ford Focus, which managed to sell 158,385 units last year.
The number is large enough that the Cruze outsold the whole entire Oldsmobile lineup in 2002 as the brand was inching closer to being a memory. The model also eclipsed the 178,300 Pontiacs that were sold in 2009 before that brand, too, was handed a ‘death’ penalty.
While it’s easy to say consumers want crossovers instead of cars, a quick look at the sales chart shows the Cruze outsold the Trax by more than 100,000 units in the United States in 2017. Of course, that particular crossover starts at $21,300 and is getting pretty long-in-tooth, but still…
This leads us to an issue that a number of automakers will soon be facing: a lack of affordable models. When Dodge killed the Dart, the brand’s entry-level model became the aging Journey, which cost thousands of dollars more. The same thing happened at Chrysler, where the brand’s entry-level product is now the Pacifica that starts at $26,995.
Not that long ago, affordable sedans were seen as stepping stones to get people into the Ford, GM or FCA family. While they might be buying an affordable sedan today, the hope was that buyers would remain loyal to the brand and become lifelong customers who would eventually return to purchase more expensive products in the future.
Of course, brand loyalty is finicky and automakers have to balance demand against the pressures of building affordable sedans in the United States. There’s also the chance this could only be temporary as GM has plans for an assortment of new electric vehicles including a “low roof car.” Right now, though, traditional sedans by U.S. automakers are becoming extinct – and fast. Makes you wonder what’ll happen when people get bored of SUVs though, doesn’t it?