DETROIT -- General Motors believes it has a hit with the new Chevrolet HHR wagon but must figure out how to build more of them.
"What we're trying to do is ramp up the capacity of the components and the plant so that we can build without having to go build another plant for it," says Lori Queen, GM's vehicle line executive for small cars.
Robert Lutz, GM's vice chairman for product development, says GM plans to produce 120,000 HHRs annually. Production will "probably go up from there," Lutz adds.
Initially, 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. Last month, Queen insisted the plan always was to build 100,000 HHRs annually.
Queen says GM is running maximum overtime to build the vehicles at its Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, plant.
She shies away from Lutz's 120,000 annual production target. "I'm hoping we can, but I don't know," Queen says. "I'm trying to understand if I can get to that level." Queen says she must determine whether components and plant capacity are available.
Last month, Chevrolet sold 8,602 HHRs. Sales of the wagon outpaced those of the Scion xB (4,459) and Honda Element (4,988). Chrysler sold 11,742 PT Cruisers last month.
The HHR starts at $15,990, including shipping.
According to the J.D. Power Information Network, the largest bloc of buyers -- 42.7 percent -- were Chevrolet owners. But Lutz says nearly half of the HHR sales comes from owners of competitors' vehicles.
"Any time we get that, we know a vehicle is working for us," Lutz says. "The top markets for it are Southern California, Houston and Dallas, which are areas where it's always hard to achieve breakthrough with a domestic passenger vehicle."
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