Cruze continues to compete with trending crossovers, SUVS


By Kalea Hall

khall@vindy.com

LORDSTOWN

Last March, the next- generation Cruze was just entering the market.

Despite its sleek style, enhanced technology and added safety features, over the past year the new Lordstown-built Cruze had to fight the consumer trend toward crossovers, sport utility vehicles and trucks. This led GM to cut its third shift at the plant and to shut down production for three weeks in March.

“Right now, it’s a trend that has hit us,” said Robert Morales, president of United Auto Workers Local 1714. “For seven years we were able to sustain three shifts. One thing we do know is we believe in our car.”

In March 2016, Cruze sales figures reflected the selldown of the first-generation Cruze and entrance of the next-generation Cruze with a total of just 9,881 sales. The Cruze’s sales in March this year were up 88.3 percent with Mexico-built hatchback Cruzes included in the total sales. Sedan sales in March 2017 were 15,054, and Cruze hatchback sales were 3,553 – for a total of 18,607 sales.

“At 18,000, that’s not a bad place to be,” said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst for Edmunds. “It’s probably lower than where they’d like to be. It’s a very tough market.”

Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Autotrader, said cars are still a big segment.

“Small cars are a way to lure in first-time buyers and budget-minded buyers,” she said.

To date, Cruze sales, including the hatchback, are up 44.8 percent over last year with a total of 53,923 Cruzes sold.

In February, the Cruze was named a “Top Pick” by Consumer Reports in the compact-car category. The Cruze is the first domestic compact car in more than a decade to receive the “Top Pick” title. From 2013 through 2016, the Subaru Impreza took the title. The Cruze’s 153-horsepower, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine, its roominess and gas mileage of 30 mpg city and 47 mpg highway were highlighted in Consumer Reports’ “Top Picks” report.

Chevrolet and Buick brands drove sales for GM in March.

The Detroit automaker’s total March sales were 256,224, up 2 percent from last year. GM’s retail sales were up 5 percent to 203,113, and fleet sales were down 9 percent.

During the first quarter of this year, GM’s retail sales were 546,838 units, up 1.9 percent over last year. GM said its gains were driven by crossovers, which were up 21 percent. GM’s total sales during the first quarter were 689,521 units, up 1 percent year-over-year.

Other automakers reported a decrease in sales during March.

“We are seeing inventory building and incentives rising,” Krebs said. “It’s taking more money and more effort to move [inventory]. We are seeing the biggest incentives, of course, focused on sedans and alternative-fuel vehicles.”

Overall Ford Motor Co. U.S. March 2017 sales totaled 236,250 vehicles — a 7 percent decline from last year.

American Honda Motor Co. Inc. reported total March sales of 137,227 Honda and Acura vehicles, a decrease of 0.7 percent over March 2016.

Toyota Motor North America Inc. reported U.S. March 2017 sales of 215,224 units, a decrease of 2.1 percent from March 2016.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles U.S. LLC reported U.S. sales of 190,254 units, a 5 percent decrease year-over-year.

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