July 18, 2013 at 12:23 PM ET
According to several news reports, the launch of the next-generation Chevrolet Cruze will be pushed back by up to a year, which could weaken the maker’s position in a highly competitive and growing segment of the U.S. market.
While senior Chevy sources tell TheDetroitBureau.com that the replacement for the compact model “may slip a little,” they insisted the project is “still within the window” of timing originally built into the plan.
The Chevrolet Cruze has become one of General Motors’ most important products, both in the U.S. and globally – where Chevy now sells more than half of its vehicles. The compact model debuted in Europe and South Korea in 2009, about the same time GM emerged from bankruptcy, and came to the U.S. a year later. Since then, worldwide sales have exceeded 2 million.
Cruze has rapidly grown in the American marketplace, picking up a 17 percent sales gain for the first half of 2013 – making it second only to the best-selling Toyota Camry among passenger cars -- and Chevy aims to build even more momentum later in the year with the launch of a new, high-mileage diesel version.
Sales aside, the Cruze is one of a number of GM vehicles that scored at or near the top of their segment in the latest J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey, which measures quality during the first 90 days of ownership. Chevy was one of two brands in the top five on the IQS and GM, as a maker, was number one overall for the first time ever.
If anything, that highlights the concerns GM planners have about getting things right when the next Cruze comes to market. “The key is to get the product right the first time out the door,” said the Chevrolet source.
GM officials “don’t comment on future products,” but there seems to have been at least a modest slippage in the timing of the next-gen Cruze. Insiders reached by TheDetroitBureau.com, however, insisted the program is months behind schedule but not a full year, with the next Cruze likely to still arrive during 2015. It might now be badged as a 2016, however.
A report in Reuters cited several sources, including union leaders at a plant in Stratford, Ontario supplying the Cruze assembly line in Lordstown, Ohio. In a newsletter, according to Reuters, Karen Fleming, chairwoman of the Canadian Auto Workers Union local representing the Ontario parts plant called the delay “disappointing.”
The reported delay was apparently due to engineering changes That is in line with what TheDetroitBureau.com’s own sources indicated have pushed the Cruze project to the edge of that “window” on timing.
There’s little doubt the largest of GM’s brands is concerned about getting things right with the hot-selling small car – especially after the disappointment it experienced with the launch of a new version of the Chevrolet Malibu for 2013. The midsize sedan has yielded sales lower than anticipated, which has forced what has been described as an “emergency refresh” coming to market for the 2014 model-year.
GM isn’t the only maker focused on sticking to a rigid timetable. Others have adopted policies much like the old wine ad, in this case, they won’t roll into showrooms “before their time” to ensure they meet customer expectations in terms of fuel economy and quality.
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