So who has the right compact strategy? Is it Chevy or Ford?
Ford announces the C-Max, says there's a good market for a compact people mover. It's a minivan, although Ford avoids that terminology. The C-Max seats seven -- five adults plus two children, really. The vehicle is based on the compact Ford Focus platform and will be sold globally. The C-Max debuts here as a 2012 model.
Chevrolet unveils a similar vehicle to bankers, analysts and the press (more than a year ago), says U.S. sales will begin in 2011. The Orlando, based on the Chevrolet Cruze platform, also has seven seats (five adults and two kids). Chevy also calls it a crossover, but it looks and feels like a minivan. Sales are planned globally.
Then in April, suddenly, the Orlando plan for the U.S. is scuttled. Chevy insiders say the Orlando performed poorly in U.S. clinics; buyers don't want a compact minivan.
Who's right, Chevy or Ford?
Ford's global plan includes a 2012 Focus five-door hatchback. While a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback will be offered here, Ford says U.S. buyers will favor the hatchback over the sedan. Sales begin early next year.
Chevy creates the Cruze, and offers sedan and five-door hatchback models outside North America. The U.S. market only gets the sedan. U.S. buyers don't like hatchbacks, says Chevy.
Ford will sell a Focus wagon outside North America. No sales are planned here.
I'm hearing Chevy is developing a Cruze wagon. Europe is a big wagon market. As for the United States, mum's the word.
I think there's a market here for a sharp-looking compact wagon, a vehicle that would expand each automaker's sales.