|Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.|
Any way you measure it, Chevrolet's Cruze had a great year.
For 2011, U.S. sales totaled 231,732, and all sales came from one configuration: a four-door sedan.
Well, it turns out Chevy's got an ace up its sleeve.
General Motors is putting the finishing touches on the Cruze wagon.
The rear portion of the wagon has been stretched several inches, and a tailgate with a sloping rear window has been added. The description is based on spy photos that have popped up on Web sites.
Once before GM chose to skip the U.S. market for a Cruze variant. The good-looking and very practical Cruze five-door hatchback is sold outside the United States. I know some U.S. dealers wanted the hatchback in the Cruze line, too.
But what about the wagon? Will the U.S. market be snubbed again? GM won't say.
Today the only competitors offering small, affordable wagons here are Hyundai, with the Elantra Touring, and Volkswagen, with the Jetta Sport Wagon.
I see some opportunity here.
The Elantra Touring replacement will be introduced next month at the Chicago Auto Show, and the folks at Hyundai hint that the redesigned car might be marketed as a hatchback . The "Touring" name might be discarded.
As for the Sport Wagon, I would expect that a Cruze wagon could be priced a few thousand dollars below VW's model.
It appears there's space in the U.S. market for a Cruze wagon.
This seems like an opportunity for Chevrolet.