THE Holden Cruze will pitch into a one-on-one showroom battle with the Holden Astra once the tap is turned off Australian manufacturing in 2017, the carmaker has confirmed.
Holden let drop last week that rather than have to make a choice over selling a cheap Cruze small car, or a lower-spec version of its closely related Euro-designed Astra cousin, one would play off against the other.
“We will sell more Cruze with the next generation,” said Holden sales director, Peter Keley, at a media function in Melbourne. “Cruze is at the end of its product life-cycle … and we will replace that vehicle and we will sell more small cars in the future than we do today.”
With the Holden Astra already confirmed to arrive in late 2016, Keley’s confirmation that Holden will offer the next generation Cruze means that the brand will deliver a two-pronged attack aimed at the Mazda 3, Hyundai i30 and Toyota Corolla. Currently, the Australian-made Cruze is Holden’s second-best selling passenger vehicle behind the Commodore.
The details of the strategy are yet to be confirmed, but is likely to see the next-generation Cruze sedan sold along a more extensive Astra line-up, which will include multiple body styles beyond the hatch.
Holden managing director Mark Bernhard told Wheels that the Cruze remained a crucial part of its line-up. “Cruze is really important to us today, because it’s part of our manufacturing base. Cruze and Commodore together are not just important to us, but also to the supply base,” he said.
“As we move forward, we know the small car segment’s critically important, so we look at all the different options that we can put into that segment to make sure we maximise our share of that segment.”
One potential strategy for Holden could be to offer the Cruze as a cheaper, value-driven model while the Astra is pitched as a higher-priced, premium offering. Another reason Holden may offer two vehicles is to hedge on currency fluctuations. With a European sourced Astra, and potentially South Korean-made Cruze, Holden wouldn’t be at the mercy of a single currency, like its rival Mazda 3 and the Hyundai i30.
Toyota currently has an each-way bet, as it imports the Corolla sedan from Thailand alongside its Japanese-made hatch.
Bernhard stopped short of clarifying Keley’s confirmation, but wouldn’t deny the remark either. “It’s hard to say having a Cruze and an Astra would draw more people in. To draw people in, it’s our focus around the customer experience piece, our focus around building the brand and providing a full portfolio of products for the customers that meets what’s becoming an increasingly fragmented market,” he said.
Part of Holden’s broader strategy includes a shift away from being ‘the Commodore car company’ as the market has fragmented. “Historically, we’ve tended to be overly-generic in the way we’ve looked at the Australian market.” Bernhard said, emphasising Holden’s small car and SUV focus. “We’re not relying on where the market was, what we’re aiming for is where the market’s going.”
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