DETROIT - Confident that the Chevrolet HHR is a hit, General Motors plans a robust 2006-model production of 100,000 units.
"They've got me on max overtime and running every one I can make," Lori Queen, GM's vehicle line executive for small cars, told Automotive News.
The HHR is built at the Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, plant.
The wagon starts at $15,990 including shipping with the top model in the $24,000 range, a Chevrolet spokesman says.
As GM moves to value pricing - setting stickers closer to transaction prices, often while offering more equipment - the HHR will prove that the strategy will work, Queen says.
During an interview at the Los Angeles auto show in January, Gary Cowger, then GM North America president, said Chevrolet expected to sell 80,000 to 100,000 units annually. In June, GM revised that goal to about 60,000 a year, said Jim Campbell, director of Chevrolet car marketing.
But Queen insists the plan was always to build 100,000 HHRs annually.
"There have been pessimistic buying forecasts, but we're convinced we'll sell every car we can make," she says.
GM started shipping the HHR to auto dealers in late June. In August, 5,760 HHRs were sold, outpacing the Scion xB, but trailing the Honda Element and Chrysler PT Cruiser. (See box above.)
According to J.D. Power's Power Information Network, the largest bloc - 42.7 percent - of buyers were Chevrolet owners.
Ford was the second most frequently traded brand at 11.1 percent, followed by Dodge at 6.4 percent and Chrysler at 6 percent.
"The dealers keep telling us, 'I put one out on the showroom floor, and it sold that night,' " Queen says.
Waiting for vehicles
Queen would not say how many more HHRs will be built this year.
Dealers say they have orders and are waiting for vehicles.
"Give us as many as we can get," says Keith Lang, general manager of Tennyson Chevrolet in Livonia, Mich., told Automotive News.
"Everyone that's come in has gone out the door as soon as we got it."
Lang said he has sold five HHRs since June.
Herndon Chevrolet in Lexington, S.C., has received only two HHRs, says President David Herndon. The dealership sold the wagons to the first customers who test drove them, he says.
"We had them for a day," Herndon says.
Herndon says he'll get another HHR this week, but he has 10 ordered.
Says Ken Mims, sales manager at Larry Puckett Chevrolet in Prattville, Ala., "We had two and sold two. I wish I had some more. The price is very attractive, and it's very well received."
Mims won't get two more HHRs until early next month, he says. Meanwhile, customers are calling him to inquire about the vehicle.
Selling for sticker
According to PIN data, the HHR's average transaction price in August was $20,199.
Dealers say that there is a small margin on the vehicle, leaving little room to cut prices. So they are selling the wagons for sticker price, they say.
Although a Chevrolet spokesman says GM wants the vehicle to appeal to "younger folks," they recognize that older buyers like the wagon.
PIN data show the average age of HHR buyers in August was 49.