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Sedan to Cruze it in

Hatch-like: Holden believes its Cruze crosses the boundaries between sedan and hatch in the small-car market.

Holden hopes hatch buyers will not baulk at the sedan-only Cruze

Holden logo26 May 2009


GM HOLDEN hopes its sedan-only Cruze will draw strong sales from hatch buyers, following the trail blazed by Mazda3, Mitsubishi Lancer and Honda Civic sedans.

With the hatch version of Holden’s all-new small car still up to 18 months away, Holden is confident that buyers will be attracted to the Cruze’s low price, interior presentation and long standard features list.

The fact that the Cruze’s two-and-a-half-box styling, where the boot is partially integrated within the car’s overall silhouette rather than hanging off the rear window like an afterthought, works in Holden’s favour, according to Holden sales, marketing and aftermarket executive director Alan Batey.

He said a large boot with a split/fold rear seat should go a long way to appeasing those seeking the versatility of a hatch, while cross-shoppers will respond positively to the Cruze when it is pitted up against rivals for safety, economy and powertrain choice.

“With the petrol and the diesel, the fuel economy and the five-star safety rating, we basically tick all the boxes with the Cruze,” Mr Batey told GoAuto.

He believes the Korean-made small sedan can even eventually approach the best-selling Toyota Corolla as a favourite with both the fleet industry and private buyers.

“I think we can (take on the Corolla eventually), but it will take time because there is a lot of competition out there,” he said.

“There is going to be a period where for us to get our demonstrators out there and show people what we’ve got on offer.

“But I don’t think there is any reason why the Cruze cannot be a very, very strong fleet contender, in terms of government and commercial fleets … and the diesel is important as well, with its fuel economy and features.”

13 center imageMr Batey said that, contrary to usual small-car buyers’ habits, consumers might respond strongly to the better-equipped CDX version.

“If you take our CD model and walk up to the CDX, basically the difference is $2000, and you get leather trim and alloy wheels, and from a salesman’s perspective that’s a really good sales proposition, so I think we can do 50:50 (sales split) when typically it can be 80:20 (in that segment),” he said.

“That’s mainly because it has the two features that people relate to immediately.”

For this reason, Mr Batey said that Holden was ready to introduce a CDX diesel engine option if there was sufficient customer demand for it. For the time being, only the CD offers the diesel option.

“We didn’t do the CDX diesel at launch because we wanted our dealers to have really good availability of the cars that we think people are going to want.

“Our fleet customers are telling us that the CD, with its equipment levels, is absolutely what they are looking for.

“But we will absolutely release a CDX diesel if there is demand. We’re trying to get the right mix at launch. The more you add, the more you can that mix wrong. It’s the only reason why it isn’t here.”

About one in five Cruze sales is expected to be a diesel.

Holden is also looking at adding higher performance variants of the Cruze next year, with a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol model looming highest on the horizon to take on the likes of the Mazda3 SP25 and Honda Civic 2.0 Sport.

“In the future you are likely to see that,” Mr Batey said.

“We have history there, we have heritage there, we’ve got great DNA in that space, and we will execute it well.

“It’s another opportunity for us. What we’ve done with the Cruze today is where the volume is. And to bring an aspirational small model is an opportunity.

“But we are very conscious that we don’t want to over-proliferate ourselves, where we find it difficult to communicate to people, or we end up with a line-up that is difficult for people to understand.

“For now we need to keep it simple. Cruze right now is CD and CDX, petrol or diesel. It’s a dream from a sales perspective.”

The Cruze name is also likely to extend to the locally made hatch version, as well as remain on the sedan that switches from being a full import to joining it on the Elizabeth production line, later in 2010.

“We don’t want to launch this car with all the advertising and promotion that we’re going to put behind it, and then a year and a bit later switch to something else. I don’t think that’s very good from a sustainability perspective. And I don’t think that will help with residual values for people who buy the car over the next 18 months. We want to be very conscious of that.”

So does this mean that the 25-year old Astra nameplate, set to peter out with the AH range in Australia over the next few weeks due to unfavourable exchange rates with Europe, is set to never to return onto the rump of a Holden small car?“We have learned to never say never,” Mr Batey said.

Read more:

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Holden hatched

Melbourne show: Holden comes clean on Cruze

Holden design chief ‘excited’ about the future

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