SAN FRANCISCO -- Chevrolet's retro HHR wagon faces a challenge: how to make a splash with trendy buyers who are turning to modern shapes such as the Scion xB.
"We are going to position it as very youthful, fun, high-energy (with) hip music, bold colors and graphics," says Jim Campbell, Chevrolet's car marketing director.
The HHR is a small front-wheel-drive wagon that draws heavily on styling cues first seen on the 1949 Chevrolet Suburban - and more recently on the Chevrolet SSR, a roadster-like pickup that debuted for the 2003 model year.
The HHR will be marketed as a reasonably priced vehicle with unique styling that sets it apart from competitors.
The base HHR LS stickers for $15,990, including shipping. It comes with a long list of standard equipment, including air conditioning, remote start (automatic transmission models only) and an audio system that features a plug-in for iPod users.
While the HHR (which stands for high heritage roof) is 2.2 inches shorter than a Ford Focus wagon, the tall roof design gives the interior a relatively large cargo area
"Key competitors include the Honda Element, the Scion xB, Chrysler PT Cruiser; vehicles that have unique styling - whether you like it or not," Campbell says. "They have attempted their version of utility on the inside. We think we have the right formula for styling and utility."
The HHR's versatility will be promoted in advertising. For example, with the back of the front passenger seat folded forward, the wagon can carry an 8-foot kayak or ladder with the liftgate closed.
The 60-40 split rear seats fold flat, creating a level cargo floor.
Jim Campbell, Chevrolet's car marketing director, says the 2006 HHR wagon will be positioned as youthful and fun.
Concealed storage compartments have been designed into the top of the instrument panel, and in the area between the rear seats and the cargo floor to hide cameras and iPods.
Exterior and interior design touches attempt to create a perception of luxury, such as jewel-like reflectors used for the front headlights and thin strips of chrome-like material that accent the interior.
Speaking of the HHR's styling, "The lines, the curves, we will play up all of that in our advertising," says Edward Peper, Chevrolet general manager.
Chevrolet kicks off its national ad campaign for the vehicle on Sept. 5. Details were not revealed at the HHR press event here.
Peper estimates that 80 percent of Chevrolet's dealers will have at least one HHR in stock when the campaign begins.
The wagon shares General Motors' fwd, Delta vehicle architecture with the Saturn Ion and Chevrolet Cobalt.
Standard equipment includes, power door locks and outside mirrors, deep-tinted side window and rear windows, cruise control and a rear wiper.
Options include side curtain airbags, sunroof, antilock brakes, six-disc CD player and four-speed automatic transmission. Antilock brakes are optional on the base model.
You may e-mail Rick Kranz at [email protected]