Things aren’t looking too good for the Chevrolet Cruze. Demand has never recovered from the recession era and the Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant has moved to just a single shift to build the compact car in the United States. Analysts have already begun expecting the worst for the Cruze.
As formidable a small car the Cruze is, the car has done its part. The nameplate showed GM could build a competitive small car, and it was the right vehicle at the right time in the early 2010s. These days, it’s not. Electrification garners buzz and the masses flock to crossovers, SUVs and trucks.
It’s time for the Cruze to die.
But I don’t believe the Cruze should soldier into the automotive graveyard without a successor. No, in fact, GM and Chevrolet already build a far superior compact car. It’s called the Chevrolet Volt. The two ride on the same D2XX architecture, which makes the Volt closely related to its internal-combustion-engine bearing cousin. I’ve driven both the second-generation Volt and Cruze; the Volt is far superior in day-to-day usability, comfort and, of course, the Volt shames the Cruze in the fuel economy department.
GM has bet the farm on electrification in the future, and if it wants to truly play in the space, the automaker should put its money where its mouth is. I’m well aware the Volt is a pricier alternative to the Cruze sedan, but how about this: a range of Volts. Hyundai already caught on and offers three flavors of its Volt-rivaling Ioniq. There’s a regular hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and a battery-electric Ioniq—a car to suit any buyer.
The least expensive of the trio—the Ioniq Hybrid—starts at $21,700. That’s thousands more than the Cruze’s base price, but if the situation is as bleak as it seems, the Cruze is already a losing proposition. GM might as well score some well-deserved PR points with a lineup of greener compact vehicles. And there’d even be room for our proposed “VoltCross” plug-in crossover SUV in our imaginative Volt portfolio.
Unless the American car buying public has a small-car epiphany, the Cruze will never rise to the occasion as it did years ago. It’s not a bad a car, and it’s a shame it’s overlooked for sub-compact crossovers. And that’s the point. If the Cruze is going to be a lame duck in the sales race, why not—to borrow a phrase from elsewhere inside GM—”dare greatly” and cement itself as a leader in electrification before Korea and Europe do it first.