General Motors (NYSE:GM) unwrapped the next generation of its Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan with an eye on global markets.
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The Cruze is Chevrolet’s best-selling model around the world, amassing 3.5 million units sold since the car began production in late 2008. Given the rise of small sport-utility vehicles in America, drivers outside the U.S. hold the key to the Cruze’s overall success.
GM hopes a fresh design and sought-after technology features will enhance the Cruze’s global appeal when the new car hits showrooms beginning early next year.
“This is a world car,” Alan Batey, president of GM North America and Chevrolet’s global chief, told FOX Business Network’s Jeff Flock in an exclusive interview Wednesday. “We’re not here just to compete. These are the types of cars we need in our portfolio to win.”
For 2016, Chevrolet made the Cruze slightly larger but lighter with a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine under the hood. GM estimates fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon on the highway.
Design cues can be traced to the 2016 Malibu midsize sedan, which made its public debut at the New York International Auto Show in April.
Technology is a critical selling point since the Cruze is Chevrolet’s second most popular vehicle for buyers under 25 years old. The compact car is one of 14 Chevrolet models that will offer both Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CarPlay and Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android Auto, two infotainment systems.
When redesigning a vehicle, automakers are challenged to balance the needs of consumers at home and abroad. Chevrolet will ship the Cruze with features tailored to local markets, but market research has shown that gaps between popular features in the U.S. and overseas have narrowed, according to Chevrolet spokesperson Annalisa Bluhm.
Powertrain options will continue to include a diesel engine. The Cruze first went diesel for model-year 2014, and Chevrolet will add a new diesel engine to the lineup in 2017.
Consumers everywhere also want in-car technology, higher fuel economy and advanced safety features, Bluhm added.
The Cruze, which is currently sold in 115 countries, counts the U.S., Canada, China and Brazil among its top markets.
Cruze sales at home totaled 273,060 units in 2014, a 10% gain versus the prior year. Through the first five months of 2015, the Cruze trails just the Silverado truck and Equinox crossover on the brand’s U.S. sales chart.
With a new Cruze, GM is seeking to gain market share from the likes of Toyota (NYSE:TM) and Honda (NYSE:HMC). Toyota’s Corolla has led the compact segment this year, posting 159,486 deliveries.
As a whole, sedans are taking a back seat to small SUVs that offer more cargo space and a higher ride height. Bluhm acknowledged that consumer trends in the U.S. are shifting away from cars, highlighted by Chevrolet’s decision to bring its Trax crossover to America this year.
“We encourage customers to come to our dealers and make the choice that’s best for them. All of that is part of our brand strategy,” Bluhm said.
The Cruze reveal on Wednesday capped a day of several announcements from GM, which also introduced the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro convertible.
Chevrolet teased the Camaro last month ahead of an expected fourth-quarter launch. The convertible version, featuring a fully automatic top, will roll off assembly lines in the first quarter of 2016.
GM shares fell 3.1% to $35.16 Wednesday after analysts at Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock to neutral from buy. Since the start of 2015, GM has climbed just 0.7% versus a 2.4% increase for the broader S&P 500.
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