Opinion: It’s Chevy’s Game, And Hyundai Is Winning52
And so it came to be that a Hyundai Veloster seemed to be the star of a recently-held small car showing in the Colorado mountains. It was the turbo model, cradling a 1.6 liter direct injection engine good for 201 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. And youngsters, including recent high school and college graduates, admired its modernly aggressive styling, tech-laden interior, and street-cred-inspiring specifications. During the almost two-hour-long private gathering, not one person mentioned the Chevy name. At least not when we were around.
And that’s how Hyundai — an automaker that, less than ten years ago, seemed to be the laughing stock of the industry — is taking car buyers by storm, all the while pushing storied brands with heritage, tradition, and culture out of the way. The fact is that car enthusiasts breed sales success. They create passion, buzz, and vigor around an automaker, brand, or vehicle; then, they tell their friends, colleagues, family, and strangers in the subway. And they feverishly defend the brand and its products — whether debating in person with a colleague, or posting on the online forum battlefields.
There is now an entire generation of American car enthusiasts to whom Hyundai, VW, Honda, Subaru, Mitsubishi and/or even Scion is performance, and who could care less about powerful, V8-roaring beasts like the Camaro or Corvette… and their respectively high price tags. And for a full-line automaker/brand like Chevy, this is inexcusable.
Perhaps even more eye-opening is the fact that Chevy has the goods! It has a mainstream compact car with a better chassis that offers a much better driving experience than the Veloster or Elantra could ever dream of! That car is called the Cruze; and still, almost four years since its global debut, the Cruze doesn’t have anything to offer to a gear head on a budget. Even worse, GM has a comparable engine to what’s found in the Veloster Turbo; it’s available in a high-performance variant of the subcompact Opel Corsa — the Corsa OPC.
But wait for the 130R and 140S concepts, you say? Who cares when Hyundai has a real, tangible product that is available today? And the Turbo model will hit dealers this summer.
Before we get too far into splitting hairs by bringing up CAFE regulations and the effects of performance models on these fuel economy standards, we should mention the fact that the Veloster Turbo is rated at 38 MPG on the highway. Efficient, power-dense, compact performance? You bet. Somehow, Hyundai — an automaker that doesn’t hold a candle to GM’s revenue, profits, sales volume, or global manufacturing ability — has figured it out. But GM — and Chevrolet — have not. Or at least refuse to acknowledge the market.
- Sweepstakes Of The Month: Win a 2023 Corvette Z06 Convertible. Details here.
Total BS that the Cruze has no high performance model or a coupe. You’re right in asking why Hyundai can do it and Chevy can not. WTF?
At least the veloster has too much risky looks to be a sales succes
It’s never easy breaking new ground (which the Veloster does). But even then, it will bring new customers to Hyundai — which will turn into brand ambassadors/champions and won’t be able to shut up about it to their friends, family, etc. — resulting in more sales of more “traditional” products like Accent, Elantra, Sonata, and Azera.
I disagree. A friend of mine discovered the Elantra recently and I happened to mention the Veloster (which she had not seen before). She looked it up online and now she cannot stop talking/thinking about it. We even went and looked at it and so on. She is smitten…and so are a lot of folks around here. My friend’s only complaint: it needs another door around the rear since the rear door is so short. Frankly, I’d never buy it because I’m biased and it doesn’t have a Chevy badge. But if it did have a Chevy badge I’d be selling body parts for one! LOL!
Screw the door; I’d even like to see that 3rd excuse for an entry removed entirely! 🙂
It’s cool from a demo perspective, but not very useful in real life…
Alex, I tend to agree. I don’t understand why GM has to sacrifice performance for mpg or mpg for performance when it comes to their engines. They always seem to sacrifice one for the other. Look at the new Buick Encore. They are putting in a 1.8L inline 4 cylinder engine. It is a 3300lbs vehicle. It will be underpowered at a 140hp in order to get the high mpg. That is the same problem with the two engines in the GMC Terrain. The two engines offered in the Terrain suck. Your choice is either power or higher mpg, not both. They can easily put in a turbo diesel in many of these smaller vehicles. I have only owned GM’s and my current vehicles are a 2011 Cadillac SRX and a 2012 Regal w/turbo engine. I think this is the one major flaw GM has.
uhm buick encore has the 1.4t instead of 1.8.
Actually you are right, which proves my point even more.
I was just thinking they might as well either put a 2.5T on the Terrain/Equinox. But then in Hyundai’s case, their cars are light so it’s either that people sacrifice ride quality for fuel efficiency or something else.
Interesting in many ways… A 2.0T (2.5T doesn’t exist) would be fine… But I wonder if it’s any more effective than the 3.6 LFX.
I know 2.5t doesnt exist but not unless they put the new 2.0T found in the malibu and rework the fuel economy for about the same or higher than current model. and keep the LFX. Because Ford is putting ecoboost 4 on their crossovers and also putting the 2.5 4cyl on standard escape.
It would have to be the new 2.0 Turbo. But I’m not entirely convinced that such a powerplant offers much value compared to a base 2.4/2.5 or the up-level 3.6.
A 2.0T would kind of be like the outgoing 3.0 LF1 — not powerful, not fuel efficient… not good at anything in particular.
So would that be the same case goes for the Edge and Escape?
I would assume so for the Edge — yes. The Escape is smaller (than Edge and Equinox), so it may be ok there.
bc they put one on the explorer and MT thinks it’s a total trash.
That’s right GM always seems to wait till the end of the product lifecycle to get engine right on the lower-priced cars.
But then again this would probably be the only car that I ever buy from Hyundai if I feel like i should have a import tuner. But I think Chevy (and Ford IMO) really have to step their games up to compete with everything else. The Dodge Dart does look very promising though.
Alex, you nailed this article in so many ways, Chevy however should not have ever been GMs answere to Hyundai… Mainly because of its history leading up to presence, but to your point Hyundai has pulled off quite the transformation. I think as GM reinvents Chevy we will see some fun energy, hopefully…
Alex, well written. The bottom line here is that GM execs are just pnot progressive. They are not forward-thinking, always looking back and then joining the game with a late product. It’s all about lowering the decision-making within an organization, something that has been difficult for large, industrial American corporations. They feel a loss of control, but it’s the control that kills innovation.
The Code 130R and Tru 140S are moot because of the fact they are just concept right now, and aren’t even built yet. Both cars were designed with the young enthusiast in mind. And yet, they merely sit on their auto show pedestals. These vehicles should have already launched.
Yeah they should be coming out with the Subaru/Scion/Toyota triplets. When is the earliest they could be out in the wild, 2015?
I’m 52, so to me – the Veloster is ugly as heck. Nothing new about a 3 door – Mazda tried it a few years back and it wasn’t a huge success, and neither did it make a big splash.Scion hit paydirt when it made sporty or quirky affordable cars that were infinitely upgradeable and gave people a chance to be creative on a budget. Sell the car, and then sell the upgrades that add flash and individualism.
Where I agree with Alex 100% is that Hyundai realized it’s products’ quality had improved, but it’s bodystyles absolutely vanished into the terrain with their vanilla drabness. Hyundai took design chances. They directed their American design firms to cut loose and just riff. Their “fluidic sculpture” design theme on Elantra and Sonata was a smash hit. The new Tuscon Crossover is out soon with a Where I live Elantras are showing up everywhere. For every Cruze I see 13 Elantras. Alex hits the nail on the head here about capturing the minds of the youth.
Look at Tesla’s Roadster. No snot-nosed kid on YouTube could even dream of affording one at over $110k, but the sleek electric sportscar captured their techie hearts beating supercars from 0 – 60. When I was a kid I dreamt of Ferraris and Porsches and set my sights more realistically and purchased a 1970 454 Monte Carlo and became a huge musclecar nut. About then, American car companies tanked on quality so I set my eyes toward Nissan sportscars and Hondas.
As I got older and wiser I saw the American car’s in the shop and the Toyota’s going 100’s of thousands of mileson not more than oil changes. Today I’m excited to see quality again become a standard for domestic cars and am saving for a Volt, my first American car ( besides my ’57 pickup ) in over 28 years!
Capture the minds and hearts of people in the lower price ranges and they’ll stay with you to buy the more expensive models when they prosper. If you’re driving a “daily driver” but see sleek forward-thinking designs on the roads, you set your aspirations to have one. Hyundai has found a sweet spot for capturing the imaginations of young people who will one day become Hyundai drivers.
While GM, Ford and Chrysler look to the past for inspiration, companies that will grow are looking for something new. The new 2013 Sante Fe Crossover will be shone at the New York Auto Show. Look at the new shapes – a “wave” design they say was inspired by the wind. I don’t see inspiration in GM’s current showcars. The first Mustang was a stretch. It was an outreach to young single car dreamers. GM needs to take some chances.
I’ve spoken to many diverse people recently about GM and also the Chevy Volt. Most admire the tech, but wonder about price. Then they nod and say they’d never ever buy a GM product because of bad experiences of the past ( think ’80s GM ). What GM can do today is inspire the upcoming generations with quality, fresh bodystyles and options that break away from their hood-crease nostalgia habits.
there are a lot of good points in the article and in comments as a person very familiar with the GM brands you are right that we do not hit all the segments and subsegments in the marketplace. We had to come from near ending the company just a few years ago to making good money now but during that time money had to be put into bread and butter products that make lots of money now that we have done that the sub segments will be filled up over the next few years to compliment the bread and butter products we have. I think you will be surprised in future products for all of our brands with being the best in the industry as our goal. thanks all for your support over the years and we need your support going forward, watch New York show and all of the products, you ask why NY is getting alot of news the answer is the market.
Thanks for the update JD. I sincerely hope that it’s literally just a matter of filling in the gaps for the important high-volume segments, then moving on to the more exciting niche stuff. Of course, Hyundai didn’t have the troubles that GM went through several years ago… They just quietly amassed a war chest of cash and talent and put it to work.
Chevy is there with its mainstream models, but those low-volume niche segments are very important still.
Hope you are rigth JD, but as of today, while i m looking for a new car, i can definately say that i would buy a Cruze if it had a 1.6 TDi version or even a lower 1.4 TDi,
but all chewy is offering is a 1.6 gasoline and a 2.0 diesel, (in my country out of the question since tax increases significantly at the cutoff of 1.6)
so although i realy love cruze for its design, i will have to buy something else ..
And also Toyobaru is coming out with BRZ/FR-S so I know there’s probably a lot of teenagers would probably want this also.
Here in LA, Hyundai has been nothing short of a sensation. Just a couple weeks ago, I went with a friend to check out a Veloster. He’s a year older than me – I’m 52. He’s getting rid of his Accord (off lease) and just wanted something that wasn’t boring. We walked onto the Hyundai dealer lot and noticed something fairly quickly. There was not one single Elantra or Veloster. We asked the salesman and he said the last Veloster drove away an hour ago.
The Veloster’s flamboyant styling, reasonable price and high kit has attracted a slew of younger buyers (my friend not withstanding). As you might expect, most of the Chevy Cruzes I see are rentals and while there are also plenty of Elantra rentals, I see plenty of privately-owned examples. I also see lots of new Velosters which is interesting considering it’s a relatively low volume niche model. When one is parked, it attracts admiring stares and pointing.
The Subaru/Scion rear-drive twins are hitting showrooms now. If you haven’t heard, the reviews are good and the low volume is pretty much sold out for 2012. By the end of next year, I’m sure there will be a turbo version of these affordable rear drive coupes.
GM cars like the Cruze and Verano are missing the mark, primarily because the styling is either too safe or just not exciting enough to get people talking and the younger generation buying. On the other hand, while the Ford Fiesta and Focus haven’t been the big hits Ford was hoping for, they get people looking and turn some heads. That is going to happen even more often with the sensational new Fusion and upcoming Escape. Hell, even Dodge is going to have some heightened interest in the new Dart with a promised SRT version coming in 12-18 months.
So far, the jury is out on the Spark/Sonic and whether or not they will attract a new generation of Chevy customers. Time will tell.
GM has a fantastic toolbox and worldwide parts bin and talented engineers and designers who would love to do more exciting vehicles. I hope that happens sooner, rather than later.
veloster is nice but ,,,,,is good for what the look you look good but can’t do nothing with this car….
What gets me about the Cruze is that GM spent a LOT of $$ (you don’t get Alain Menu, Rob Huff, and Yvan Mueller to drive for you for nothing) to win the WTCC(World Touring Car Championship) and then a) don’t race the Cruze in North America and b) don’t make a performance version of it !! Are they Crazy !
I have to agree, if the Veloster is a success, and I have a lot of respect for the company’s products, then it is because the General has once again chosen not to compete. If they feel they need a BMW 1 and 3 Series competitor with the 130 concept then why would they cut a whole generation of North Americans out of their High Performance offerings ? I don’t know what the GM “geniuses” are thinking of but , in 15 or 20 years the Corvette will be in real trouble (if it isn’t already) !
No sorry…… just uuuuuuugly, awkward and bland!!! Been looking at the Veloster for a while now and have just seen it for real. Very quickly just going to blend in with all the other generic grey cars out there.
You must have some kind of eccentric taste in design and styling if you think the design of the Veloster is in any way boring or bland. Let me guess… you’re in love with the Pontiac Aztek.
LOL…. sorry Alex not at all, I don’t even know what an Aztek is… you see here in South Africa we don’t see much of the North American cars, hence a sea of grey bland orientals all over our country!!! Mmmm in my garage at this stage 2011 Audi TT RS and a 2012 BMW M1 so styling is a rather serious issue for me and I really like the direction GM is going, there seems to be something special going on in the depths of GM HQ over the past 2 years. Here in South Africa our market is flooded with the Eastern derived vehicles, not all bad or bland mind you but very few and far between when it comes to styling and they definitely do not possess staying power when it comes to the styling factor. They just age so quickly and that is so obvious with their constant model changes and facelifts… you just cannot keep up and this irritates me. Sorry Alex no disrespect but it’s only my opinion and this Veloster is just another car designed by committee and the jello mould factory.
Interesting. I’m of the completely opposite opinion. Everything about the Veloster’s styling speaks (well) to me: the LED headlamp surrounds, the aggressive facia, the aggressive wheels, the center-mounted exhaust… if anything, I’d vote for the removal of the third door. Anything and everything about it screams the opposite of “designed by committee” or “jello mould factory” — to me.
Looks like we have ourselves a prime case of the “styling is subjective” impasse.
Sure Alex… impasse for sure but thanks for your insight. Interesting how different parts of the world see cars. Here the Koreans are seen as volume sellers, well equipped but no character or soul. This we know can only come from heritage (my comment about designed by committee which is far more than a LED headlamp or wheels). There is this sombre notion here in SA that North Americans just don’t build on their heritage enough and you sure have all the stuff to do that with!!! When it comes to vehicles it just seems North Americans are very quick to trash their own… Very different to the Germans mind you, they continue to build on their car heritage and look where their car industry is today. There has been accusations here pointed at the big three and I completely agree, in this case why is the 140S and the 130R not on show room floors? GM has the insight and the ability to deliver but why hold back on product that clearly is a winner? Another interesting fact over here is South African’s in general view a Chevy to be of a much higher more aspirational vehicle than say a Nissan or a Hyundai. Chevrolet here has such a strong and extremely loyal following, it’s like a passion out here…. This is what the Koreans and the Japanese brands struggle with out here. Brands such as Peugeot Citroen and Alfa Romeo kick Hyundai design butt, have a look at the Peugeot rcz and Citroen DS4 racing, great design all the extras at a brilliant price…. Out here these European brands make the Hyundai seem bland and even the Veloster compared to these two looks awkward….. Anyway thanks for the bringing out this topic, I have had my 5cents worth LOL but just Google the Citroen DS4 racing let me know what you think of this car….would it be a seller in the US?
Randall — not a year later! Sorry for my much-belated reply.
The DS4 is interesting, but I wonder if Peugeot-Citroen have the skills to engineer and design a vehicle on the level of the global players such as GM, Ford, or VW.
That said, the car’s design seems to be on the feminine side and I’m not sure which category such a vehicle would fit into, as it looks part CUV, part hatch. In short, I’m not sure that such a car would succeed in the U.S., especially given that the Citroen name is non-existent here (and we all know how much “brand” plays in the car-buying decisions).
Also, you’re entirely correct that GM has the resources, know-how, and scale to build vehicles such as the 140S and 130R. For some odd reason, the cars have not been brought to market. Neither has a Cruze hatch (in the U.S.). I’m hopeful that the next-gen product push (2013-2015) will equal out GM’s planning and manufacturing abilities, and resolves these issues.
Nice hearing from you again Alex, On the Citroen DS racing design comment it probably suites European tastes more than it would in North America. Interesting though I recently heard a rumour you might be able to confirm is that GM is in talks with Peugeot-Citroen to take over an undisclosed stake of that company. If true I am rather interested to know what the motivation would be to acquire a shareholding in an auto maker so far removed from the General’s home turf… I so completely agree with you on your 140S and 130R comment, it’s if they have won the lottery but refuse to cash it in. I have even pleaded with GM South Africa to pass on the message that we need to see a GM that is more agile with taking great products to market. We know they can, well at least in Europe they did a while back when Opel in the late 90s had the Opel tigra concept on show and due to the amount of positive consumer feedback I believe it was in production within 10 months. You indicated that the Cruze hatch is not yet available in North America, yes another one of GM’s strange decisions. The Cruze hatch was launched here two months ago and here is my personal impression…. Mmmmm not GM’s finest offering, the rear end is just bland bland bland, and a bit of an embarrassment if you ask me. They could have kept the hatch and rather give us the 1.4 turbo RS Sonic which we still cannot get here, we only have a 1.4 a 1.6 naturally aspirated and a 1.3 turbo diesel. On the Cruze front we have just been given the facelift versions with new auto boxes, and Cruze sedan is still selling like crazy here together with the new Trailblazer. GM South Africa are within the top 3 on the sales charts in South Africa.
Just hope GM gives us some excitement very soon.
Thanks again for the reply Alex
Randall — GM has entered into an official alliance with PSA Peugeot-Citroen, buying up 7 percent of the French automaker in the process:
The partnership is mean to increase the scale of GM Europe (Opel) in purchasing, logistics, and even vehicle development:
Ultimately, GM is looking to decrease R&D costs while increasing the capacity of their plants. However, it’s possible that the long-term plan is to sell off Opel to Peugeot, if rumors are to be believed:
Personally, I like the entire Cruze line, including the hatch. Sure, the boot could see a more refined design, but I don’t mind it. I don’t love it either, though. The next-gen Cruze (coming in 2015) should fix that.
Thanks for the insight about the South African auto market. Good to know 🙂
Over here where i live(NM) at my college, there are plenty of Cruzes around and some Sonics. But I guess Chevy better come out with performance version or at least performance package of those two.
It certainly appears that the Sonic is attempting to capture some of the Scion market through it’s marketing campaign. Trouble is, it’s NO Scion. The day we see a Chevy Sonic SS or a Chevy Cruze SS, then it’s on.
True. The marketing is certainly youthful and fun. But then again, a Scion doesn’t have any performance characteristics or aspirations (except for the FR-S).
Except those ricer parts on the XB, XD, and TC
When I see a veloster it reminds me of the movie Predator. When the Schwarzenegger first saw the predator and said ” YOU’RE ONE UGLY MOTHER F–KER! “
Randall, I think the Citroen DS4 Racing is very cool, I think a lot of the French hot hatches would sell well in Canada especially given our general propensity for small hatchbacks. Having said that, I don’t think they would do well in the USA – hatches don’t do well there, I think because SUVs are what they prefer for “grocery getting”.
In Canada we tend to prefer to use one vehicle for both everyday and “strafing” our favorite corners.
Further, Canadian enthusiaists tend to grow up with heel & toe downshifts and cutting perfect apexes while the average American learns perfect starts and lightning upshifting. We prefer Mosport and Laguna Seca while our American cousins love Bristol and Indy. I realize this is generalization, especially as I spend most summers in the USA following ALMS roadracing but I’ve found that more Americans became roadracing fans as they got older…
Given that we have only about 10% of the population of the USA, I doubt we’ll ever seen the DS4 here. Citroens don’t have a particularly good reputation for reliability here, have they proven themslves in SA ?
I find your comments interesting as I worked for years with a fellow originally from South Africa and we found that Canadians and South Africans or at least Afrikaans (as he is) are more alike that either would expect. Perhaps our shared British influence ? He got me hooked on following F1 on BBC. Although now I think I prefer SPEED’s American slant on it…
As I am presently looking for a new “driver” (I presently have a Chevy HHR turbo “SS”)I’d appreciate any insight you can give on Chevrolet’s Cruze as available there, as we are way behind you in any small Chevy performance. Our highest output motor is a 140 1.4 turbo in the Cruze “RS”, there are hints that there is a more powerful turbo coming…do you have it yet ? And do you have the hatchback version ?
yes while the generalization is that americans don’t turn. and we canadians are more like the europeans. we will still defend amarican cars against the euro’s generalizations because we have figured out that some of them can turn and turn quite well.
Thanks Jim…. some great reading!!! BTW my sister and her family live in Calgary and have been there for over 15 years now and loving it, I visited them once in 2009 and yes I did notice how different the Canadians are to your neighbours in the US. I must say I just love that, been geographically so close yet worlds apart…. just awesome. I wish here where I live we had the diverse driving styles which you all are exposed to, for motorsport this is just the perfect place to be in. To answer your question relating to the Cruze and other small Chevys in South Africa. I need to also just comment that here the GM relationship has been rather different. The German GM division “Opel” has had a long very strong history in South Africa and in 94 when our political situation changed the Chev brand was brought back alongside Opel, almost competing with each other and it then always was clear that the Opel engineering and technology had an edge over the Chevrolets. GM South Africa currently have the Cruze in 3 engine derivatives, 1.6 non turbo with 108Hp, a 1.8 non turbo with 140Hp and a 2.0L Diesel with 149Hp. We also have the Sonic and the Spark here, the Sonic has a 1.4 non turbo at 100Hp, a 1.6 non turbo at 114Hp and Spark with a 1.2L at 81Hp. Chev also still sell the older Optra and Aveo here, we also have the new Orlando with the same 1.8L engine as the current Cruze.
These all have been out here for about 3 years now and about to be revised, our 2012 Chevys are going to see a complete upgrade by mid-year and dealers are already advertising the following engine upgrades. New 2013 Chev Trailblazer with a 2.8L diesel at 177Hp. The Cruze seems will get a Opel derived 2,0L turbo and the talk here is it will be sold as the RS version with 276Hp. This engine I am told is directly from the Opel performance centre in Germany or in the UK lives in the Astra VXR. It also seems the hatch will get this motor before the sedan. So it seems an exciting few months down here for GM. I just really hope Chev in the US start speeding up the delivery of these performance options in North America. As I mentioned earlier the Opel division has always had an extremely good reputation for brilliant engineering and they have always brought real exciting performance engines to the market very fast. Currently here in South Africa GM sell the Opel Corsa OPC, a 1.6L turbo at 189Hp for a small car this machine is just out of this world, here it kicks the Audi A1 butt around the track all the time…
Hope this has given you some hope that GM may be bringing the Cruze up to performance spec very soon.
Randall — thanks for the rundown. Could I ask where you’re hearing about the Cruze 2.0 turbo?
We know that the 2013 global Cruze mid cycle refresh will bring the following changes (at the link), but the 2.0 has been steadily denied by GM execs over the last couple of years.
Alex – all info I am receiving is from the local GM dealers. The Speculation though is whether we will be receiving the 2.0L in the Cruze or in the Astra GTC (OPC) derivative both brands are sold here by GM alongside each other in the same showrooms. Incidentally a similar 2,0L was available in the previous model Astra OPC here in South Africa…. The Astra sold real well here so it will be no surprize for GM to include this motor in one of their new models in South Africa. Here are some specs of the previous 2.0 turbo that was sold here in here. http://opelreviews.com/page/4/ so it is a waiting game for us here whether that 2,0L 280Hp turbo will be available in the Cruze hatch or the Astra Hatch.