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RICK KRANZ

If Cruze is so important, why doesn't GM offer 2 in the U.S.?

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News
I believe Chevy would be surprised by the sales response to the Cruze hatchback in the United States.
Saleswise, the Cruze is one of Chevrolet's most important vehicles.

So why not give U.S. Chevy dealers two flavors?

The Cruze is Chevy's new compact sedan, a model that replaces the Cobalt. So far, the car has received a long list of accolades from the press, something uncommon with previous GM compacts. The car has the potential to be a big hit for GM and its dealers.

While U.S. sales began this week, the car has been sold globally for over a year.

Next month, at the Paris motor show, Chevrolet will expand the one-model Cruze line to two with the introduction of a sleek, five-door hatchback. Frankly, the photos show a more attractive offering than the sedan.

Sales begin next year, but GM has no plans to sell the five-door here.

The reason: Buyers in Europe prefer a hatchback to a sedan by over a 3-1 majority. Hatchbacks don't appeal to U.S. buyers, I'm told. But I have a difficult time accepting that reasoning. I guess I'm in the minority -- I would pick a five-door compact over a four-door every time. I believe Chevy would be surprised by the sales response.

In conversations with the folks at Chevy, their main competition here is the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. A Civic coupe is offered, but this buyer base overwhelmingly prefers a sedan.

No one talks about Ford, though. And Ford's upcoming 2012 Focus line includes a very attractive group of models -- a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback and, later, a compact minivan that seats seven.

The five-door Cruze would make Chevy dealers more competitive with Ford, plus give dealers a potential advantage over its primary target, Civic and Corolla offerings.

So Chevy dealers, is one Cruze flavor enough, or do you need two?

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