GMC Needs a Subcompact Crossover; Brand Boss Says GMC “Should Have Been First in the Segment”

Small crossovers are a natural fit for a brand that sells not a single passenger car, but GMC has been sorely lacking in smaller utility vehicles for much of its tenure.

The first-generation GMC Terrain, something of a tweener-sized utility vehicle, didn’t arrive until 2009. For its predecessor, General Motors decided to concentrate attention on its Pontiac brand, which resulted in the oft-forgotten Torrent.

But down another rung on the ladder sits subcompact utility vehicles. GMC brand boss Duncan Aldred says General Motors’ all-light-truck division “should have been first in the segment.” Instead, the Buick Encore and Chevrolet Trax generate 13,000 monthly U.S. sales, thereby controlling America’s subcompact crossover category.

GMC? On the sidelines, waiting for the next generation of GM subcompacts to spawn a crossover for the very brand that should have had one in the first place.

Nearly five years have passed since the Buick Encore arrived on U.S. shores. Shipped across the Rio Grande, the Chevrolet Trax landed at U.S. dealers nearly three years ago. Through the end of July 2017, over 455,000 copies of the Encore and Trax have been sold in the U.S.

While the Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V, and Subaru Crosstrek have all achieved greater U.S. sales volume this year, the fourth and fifth-ranked Encore and Trax own 29 percent market share in the subcompact segment. FCA, with 21 percent market share, is next-best.

But General Motors hasn’t allowed the most obvious brand in its quiver to swim in that pool. That should soon change.

“To me, there is more room for SUVs in the GMC stable,” Duncan Aldred tells Automotive News. “An obvious place for GMC to be if it expands is that small SUV segment.” Aldred says a smaller-than-Terrain utility vehicle that’s positioned below the $26,365 2018 Terrain would be the logical next step.

The 2017 Buick Encore is priced from $23,915; the Chevrolet Trax starts at $21,895.Subcompact crossover sales grew 6 percent in the first seven months of 2017, year-over-year. Sales of the GMC lineup overall are up 2 percent to 310,587 units through July, with much of the boost coming from the midsize Acadia crossover, downsized and all-new for 2017. GMC’s pickup truck sales are down 9 percent, and the transition to a new generation of the Terrain produced a 15-percent decline in sales of the Terrain, currently GMC’s smallest utility vehicle.

[Photo Illustration: Matt Posky, General Motors; Image: General Motors]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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