Guest Post: Holden vs. Chevrolet Cruze

Of the different segments of the new car market in Australia, the most important by volume is that of small cars. The Holden Cruze is one, and it has been a big hit for General Motors, replacing the unloved Holden Viva in 2009. It’s Holden’s best-selling vehicle and the fourth best-selling vehicle in Australia. The Cruze is manufactured by General Motors in Australia, the United States, Brazil, China, India, Kazakhstan, Russia, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

Chevrolet began to manufacture the Cruze at its plant in Lordstown, Ohio in 2010, following a $350 million upgrade. At a ceremony marking the start of production, GM’s president of North American operations, Mark Reuss, said, “This is everything for us.” It was believed to be the most significant introduction of a new vehicle since GM emerged from bankruptcy in 2009. GM hopes that consumers would buy the car “because they like it — not simply because it is cheap.” Before it went on sale in the United States, the Cruze amassed more than four million miles of quality and durability testing, making it one of the most real world-tested GM products to exist. It has achieved five-star safety rankings in all the markets where it’s sold.

Possibly the most exciting news is of Walkinshaw Performance’s hotted-up version of the Holden Cruze. This package boosts power by 75 percent and improves torque by 55 percent, enabling a Cruze to accelerate from 0 to 60mph in 6.6 seconds, which is three seconds better than the standard.

The Cruze hatchback isn’t sold in the United States. US buyers of small cars overwhelmingly prefer sedans to hatches. One reason could be that hatchbacks suffer from greater cabin noise, although in the case of the Cruze, Holden said that extra soundproofing had made the hatch marginally quieter than the sedan. It has slightly less boot space.

There have been calls for the Cruze hatchback to be introduced to the United States. Many a Holden Cruze review has heaped praise on the car. In the authoritative Automotive News, Richard Krantz said the hatchback was more attractive than the sedan, and that GM would be surprised by the sales response if it were to be sold in the United States. In the Wall Street Journal, Jonathan Welsh said that US consumer sentiment towards hatchbacks was changing, as demonstrated by the fortunes of such models by Mazda, Subaru and Volkswagen. If the Cruze hatchback ever were sold in the United States, it would be built at Lordstown rather than imported.

The Holden and Chevrolet Cruze are almost identical, but perhaps the most striking difference between the two is that the former is less likely to catch fire. 475,418 Chevrolet Cruze sedans constructed between October 2, 2009 and May 31, 2012 were recalled due to a defect that could cause oil to make contact with the surfaces of a hot engine or exhaust system surfaces and start a fire. 413,418 of the vehicles were sold in the United States, 61,299 in Canada and 701 in Israel. Holden said that it wasn’t aware of cases of this problem occurring in Australia.

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