GM explores sales growth momentum tactics with China Cruze release

Automotive World, August 29, 2014

In a bid to redouble safety efforts and boost the Chevrolet brand in its biggest market, GM has decided to debut a redesigned Chevrolet Cruze sedan in Shenzhen, China.

The Cruze was Chevrolet’s best-selling model in China last year, and is one of the six new or refreshed models under the brand being brought to the nation this year by the OEM.

“The new Cruze is the first model based on GM’s new global platform for midsize compact cars,” said Shanghai GM President Wang Yongqing. “With GM’s global intelligent technology, it sets new benchmarks for styling, efficiency and user-friendliness in its segment.”

Developed to meet global five-star safety standards, the new Cruze comes with a range of active and passive safety features. It is the only vehicle in its class with active park assist, which takes the worry out of parking. The side blind zone alert system warns the driver of potential hazards when changing lanes. The model’s airbags are designed to protect pedestrians as well as occupants.

Automotive World spoke to Bill Russo, Managing Director at consultancy Gao Feng Advisory Company, Ltd, who explained that China has become the growth engine of the global automotive industry, and noted why the market has become such an important one for GM: “GM sold nearly 3.2 million units in China in 2013, and has so far this year seen growth of over 10% year-over-year.”

The new Chevrolet Cruze represents GM’s newest entry in the midsize compact car segment. The Cruze was developed for China on GM’s latest architecture and a choice of new 1.4 Turbo and 1.5-litre Ecotec engines. Russo noted that the compact car segment is the largest segment of the Chinese market, and explained that it is critical for GM’s overall market share performance: “In fact, several GM models including the Chevrolet Cruze, Buick LaCrosse and Buick Regal were launched in China before they were launched in the US. The Cruze is one of 19 new or refreshed models to be introduced by GM in China in 2014 – but given the size and importance of the product segment in China, this is a very crucial launch for GM to regain their sales growth momentum.”

Fuel efficient and safe

Despite GM’s recent recall frenzy, in which the OEM was forced to pay a US$35m settlement for failing to act on an ignition switch defect for ten years that led to the recall of approximately 2.6 million vehicles, Russo argues that the OEM has weathered the storm of the recent recalls and notes that its sales in China have certainly not lost momentum. To maintain this success in China, the OEM has noted the potential for further safety and efficiency improvements to fulfil customer needs. The Cruze offers a great deal of content for a product in this segment, priced between Yuan 109,900 and Yuan 169,900 (US$17,900 – US$27,700).

Although 72% of the new Cruze’s body consists of high-strength steel, the extensive use of aluminium and lightweight materials in key areas such as the engine, chassis and interior makes it 10% lighter than the current-generation Cruze, enhancing fuel economy without compromising safety.

The car also boasts an active park assist feature which is unique in this class of vehicle, mid-mounted injection engine technology and a wide range of fuel-saving features such as start/stop technology and ultra-low rolling resistance tyres, which make it 24% more fuel efficient than the current-generation Cruze. The engines offer peak fuel economy of only 5.9 litres per 100 km. In addition, they are up to 50% quieter than engines in competitive models.

Russo continued, “GM’s product offensive will only help generate more interest among consumers going forward. Getting the new Cruze into the market with differentiated features will help rebuild the image of GM as a manufacturer of safe and dependable cars.”

Rachel Boagey

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