2010 Detroit: Chevys Small Car Plans

“The Golden Age of Small Cars,” says Margaret Brooks, Chevy’s Small Car Marketing chief.

Automobile Magazine: You’re rolling out three new small cars, the Chevy Cruze, which replaces the Cobalt; an all-new Aveo, and a new nameplate, the Spark, a minicar. All of them, presumably, will need to have base prices of less than $20,000. How do you balance three different small cars in the Chevy lineup?

Margaret Brooks: We have three different vehicles for three different segments of the small-car market. We think the small-car segment will grow [significantly]. This is going to be the golden age of small cars. The regulatory environment will drive customers to small cars, both in terms of the price of fuel and in taxes. The Cruze is in the compact segment, which is very important, the #3 segment in the auto industry, right behind midsize cars. The Aveo is a subcompact, and the Spark is in the minicar segment, the newest automotive segment of the North American market and a new market for Chevy.

But won’t these three cars overlap in terms of pricing?
We will see some overlap, but we will have very logical ladder pricing. Yes, some customers will have to weigh, should I get the smaller car, fully loaded, or the bigger car with less equipment?

What is the biggest competitor for the Cruze?
We think the Cruze will compete very well across the compact segment, with cars like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Ford Focus. We think it will compete equally with all of them.

What one characteristic of the Cruze makes it the most competitive?
Well, I think we compete effectively on many levels, not just one. Specifically in terms of styling, since the Cruze is upscale both inside and outside; roominess; fuel economy (we expect up to 40 mpg from the 1.4-liter Ecotec turbo engine; safety, quality, and refinement.

Customers in the compact segment are very rational. They do their homework. But we’ve already been selling the Cruze in 60 countries, and we’ve done 4 million durability testing miles on it. And it’s achieved a 5-star safety rating everywhere else it’s sold.

Did you make any significant changes to the Cruze for the U.S. market?
We’ve implemented more noise-abatement features [sound insulation], and we’ve slightly modified the rear suspension.

When do the Cruze, the Aveo, and the Spark go on sale?
We’re rolling them out one-by-one. The Cruze goes on sale in the third quarter of 2010, probably late summer. The Aveo goes into production in 2011, but we haven’t announced an on-sale date yet. And the Spark minicar will come after the Aveo, sometime within the next two years.