Ford is cutting down its U.S. car lineup to focus on trucks and SUVs, leaving only the Mustang and the upcoming Focus Active standing. So what will the Blue Oval’s eternal rival, General Motors, do with its cars?
GM will keep its sedans for now, but their future doesn’t look too bright. The automaker is primarily preserving its car lineup because it’s in a profitability sweet spot. GM has paid off the investments needed to develop its current-generation sedans and hatchbacks, but most aren’t so old that they need to be replaced. It’s unclear if GM will invest in replacements when the time comes.
“The segments are still significant,” GM CEO Mary Barra told WardsAuto and other media during the automaker’s quarterly earnings call. She joined Volkswagen in the dwindling chorus of sedan supporters. “Because we’ve made the investments, we need to deploy little to no capital going forward, so we view [cars] as an opportunity. What you’ll see us do is play very efficiently in a segment that, although it is declining, there is still an opportunity.”
Even as SUV popularity erodes sales of sedans and other cars, GM thinks it can keep its current lineup on dealer lots while generating a profit, something Ford did not think was possible with its much older lineup. But this may be a stay of execution, not a true reprieve.
On the same call, GM CFO Chuck Stevens said the automaker “has already indicated that we will make significantly lower investments,” in sedans in North America, Reuters noted.
GM recently announced a series of small updates for the Chevrolet Malibu, Cruze, and Spark. But it has been widely reported that Chevy will discontinue the Sonic and Impala. Buick only has one sedan in its lineup, the LaCrosse, as well as the niche-market Cascada convertible. In what may be the clearest statement that GM is serious about cars, the Buick Regal is sold only as a hatchback and station wagon, an attempt to compete more directly with SUVs on practicality.
Cadillac has spent the last decade and a half developing sporty cars to rival the German automakers, but the GM luxury brand is now being criticized for not pivoting toward SUVs. Boss Johan de Nysschen was recently ousted, but during the earnings call CEO Barra said that doesn’t mean Cadillac will change its strategy, reports WardsAuto.
So that’s GM, but what about the third Detroit automaker? Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has more or less done what Ford is planning to do. In 2016 it discontinued the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart, despite the fact that both models were relatively new. Among FCA’s mainstream brands, that left the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans, and the Dodge Challenger coupe amidst a much larger contingent of SUVs and trucks.