DETROIT -- Chevrolet's planned introduction this week of a European Cruze wagon at the Geneva auto show is sure to raise the question: How about selling the wagon in the United States? Or a Cruze hatchback? Or a coupe?
The answer to all three of those is an emphatic no -- at least for now, General Motors officials say.
GM's decision to steer clear of variants for its top-selling car diverges from the strategies of most competitors. Hyundai Motor America this spring will introduce a coupe and hatchback versions as it seeks an incremental sales boost for its compact Elantra. Last year Honda Motor Co. launched a redesigned Civic coupe. Ford launched its redesigned Focus last year in both a sedan and a hatchback.
GM's sedan-only strategy for the Cruze also runs counter to, well, old GM. The automaker always sold different body types of Cruze predecessors, the Cobalt and Cavalier, in the United States, and they were not as successful as the Cruze has been.
There are plenty of reasons why GM isn't chasing incremental volume by offering various Cruze flavors. But the main one is all about profit.
GM CEO Dan Akerson and CFO Dan Ammann have outlined a goal of increasing pretax global profit margins to 10 percent within the next several years, from 6 percent last year. Adding tooling to U.S. assembly plants would add costs that GM might struggle to cover given the anemic demand for wagons and hatchbacks in the United States.
"I think the right questions are being asked: Are you really going to be able to make enough money to justify the investment?" GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said. "You risk adding a vehicle that might not sell as well as you had hoped, and then it hurts the margins."