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商业 - 汽车

浴火重生,通用爱上小型车

Doron Levin 2011年11月14日

通用接下来将如何出牌?推出雪佛兰Sonic——对通用汽车生产热销小型车的能力来说,这将是另一个重大考验。

    通用汽车公司(General Motors)之所以一度轰然倒下,原因众多,其中之一就是它迟迟不能在美国市场推出一款富有竞争力的小型车。然而现在,雪佛兰克鲁兹(Chevrolet Cruze)取得了惊人的销量,表明破产后重整旗鼓的通用汽车已经今非昔比,与过去相比已经有了很大的不同。

    克鲁兹可谓大获成功。整个10月,通用售出了20万台克鲁兹,比本田思域(Civic)、福特Fusion和现代伊兰特(Elantra)这三款长期畅销的小型车都多。更重要的是,克鲁兹与这个领域最畅销车型——丰田(Toyota)花冠仅有一步之遥。突然之间,这家在20世纪90年代靠生产高油耗的卡车和越野车(SUV)而变得硕大无朋的公司在汽车业竞争最激烈的领域赚了个盆满钵满。

    更让人印象深刻的是,通用斩获如此可观的销量不是靠大幅打折或采用那些老套的花招,比如批量销售给短期租车公司之类。上周三,通用公布了第三财季17亿美元的净收入,期中包括北美地区支付利息、交税和摊销前的22亿美元营业收入,与一年前相比,净增了约1亿美元(在通用的总销售额中,紧凑型车仍然只占相对较小的份额)。

    对于这款车,评论界好评不断、消费者口碑良好,因此,购车者纷纷涌向各家销售点。不过事实上,迄今为止,汽车购买圣经、《消费者报告》(Consumer Reports,著名汽车杂志——译注)还没有给这款车以“推荐”的评级,因为它们还没有收集到足够多的可靠性数据。基本款克鲁兹售价约17,000美元起,每加仑燃油可行驶36英里。而汽车专业网站Edmunds.com对其的评价是,通用汽车终于生产出一辆小型车,关门的时候能发出“砰”的一声沉实有力的声音。

    据Edmunds.com称,目前,克鲁兹在经销商处的存货到月底时已降至每天限供25台。这么少的数量表明,通用汽车在俄亥俄州洛兹敦的装配厂正开足马力满足零售需求。经济金融分析机构“环球透视”(IHS Global Insight)公司的分析师亚伦•布莱格曼称:“汽车业几乎没有什么问题不能用出色的产品来解决。人们似乎喜欢克鲁兹。它省油,内饰也比多数人所料想的通用汽车要好。”

    仅仅是几年前,还几乎很难想象通用汽车能推出这么一款重磅的产品。此前通用也推出过紧凑型小车,比如雪佛兰的Cobalt和Cavalier。但在通用的战略规划人员看来,通用的主业是销售更大型、更赚钱的车型,这些紧凑车型则有些偏离了主业,让人恼火。由于美国是基于所有车型经过加权后的销售额计算公司平均燃油经济性的,因此通用之所以推出小型车,主要是为了遵守联邦法律。通用在小型车上无所作为,从亚洲进口的省油小车和来自欧洲的时尚小车却将市场份额瓜分殆尽。

    不过,要保持克鲁兹的热销势头并非易事。上周,本田汽车美国销售中心总监约翰•孟德尔称,本田公司很快就会推出“焕然一新”的全新款思域。众多评论人士已经纷纷拍下了它的靓照(记忆中,《消费者报告》是首次没有推荐新款思域)。本田是小型车领域的领跑者之一,通用能把它甩在身后着实推动了克鲁兹这款小车销售的突飞猛进。而消费者对于售价4万美元的雪佛兰Volt,即“延程型电动汽车”的兴趣也有助于克鲁兹的热销。与这款车相比,克鲁兹尺寸相同,价格则实惠得多。

    通用今后的制胜诀窍将是,每款新车型上市都能让消费者源源不断地涌向雪佛兰的经销商处。为了强化品牌,通用的首席营销官约尔•伊瓦尼克抓紧发动了雪佛兰的广告攻势。所推出的品牌口号“雪佛兰驰骋至深”(Chevy Runs Deep)似乎在美国赢得了一些反响,今年在美总销量比2010年增加14.4%。

    通用接下来将如何出牌?推出雪佛兰Sonic——对通用汽车生产热销小型车的能力来说,这将是另一个重大考验。这款车比克鲁兹还要小,将是一款超小型车。从未有哪家汽车厂商曾试图用这种车型撬开美国市场。如果通用能让这款车和克鲁兹一样大获成功,那它对驱散曾经败走麦城的回忆将功莫大焉。

    译者:清远

    Among the many reasons for the collapse of the old General Motors was its chronic inability to field a competitive small car in the U.S. Now, stunning sales of its Chevrolet Cruze show that post-bankruptcy GM is a very different company than it once was.

    The Cruze has been wildly successful. Through October, GM (GM, Fortune 500) sold over 200,000 units, more than the Honda (HMC) Civic, Ford Fusion and Hyundai Elantra -- three popular small cars with long track records. What's more, the Cruze is within striking distance of the segment's top seller, Toyota's (TM) Corolla. Suddenly, the company that grew fat in the 1990s on gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs is cleaning up in one of the auto industry's most competitive sectors.

    Even more impressive, GM accomplished such robust sales without deep discounts or shopworn gimmicks like volume sales to daily rental fleets. On Wednesday, GM posted net income of $1.7 billion for the third quarter, which included $2.2 billion of earnings before interest, tax and amortization in North America, an improvement of about $100 million from a year ago. (Compacts still make up a relatively minor percentage of the vehicles the company sells overall.)

    Car buyers have been flocking to dealerships based on strong reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations, despite the fact that the car buying bible, Consumer Reports, has so far withheld its "recommended" rating because it hasn't gathered sufficient reliability data. A basic Cruze, which starts around $17,000, gets up to 36 miles per gallon. Edmunds.com, the automotive website notes, finally GM has manufactured a small car whose doors close with a solid "thunk."

    Dealer inventory of the Cruze at month's end had fallen to a 25-day supply, according to Edmunds.com, a low number suggesting that GM's Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant is straining to keep up with retail demand. "There are very few problems in this industry that can't be solved with good product," said Aaron Bragman, an analyst for IHS Global Insight. "People seem to like the Cruze. It has good fuel economy and a better interior than many had expected from a GM car."

    A hit like this at GM was almost unthinkable just a few years ago. Compacts that came before, like the Chevrolet Cobalt and Cavalier were, regarded by GM strategists as little more than annoying diversions from the business of selling larger, more profitable vehicles. Because the U.S. calculates corporate average fuel economy on the basis of sales weighting of all models, the smaller GM vehicles were needed mostly to comply with federal law. Thrifty Asian imports and tony European models mopped up sales, while GM's efforts languished.

    Maintaining the Cruze's sales momentum won't be easy, though. John Mendel, head of Honda's U.S. sales operations, said last week that the Japanese automaker already is rushing a "refresh" of its new Civic, which was widely panned by reviewers. (Consumer Reports failed to recommend the new Civic for the first time in memory.) Having one of the segments front-runners effectively demoted has certainly helped the little Chevy surge ahead. Interest in the $40,000 Chevrolet Volt, an "extended-range electric," also helped to sell Cruzes, which are the same size and a lot less pricey.

    The trick for GM will be to keep customers flowing to Chevrolet dealerships for each new model introduction. Joel Ewanick, GM's chief marketing officer, has tinkered with Chevy advertisements in an effort to strengthen the brand. The tagline "Chevy Runs Deep" seems to be getting some buzz in the U.S., where the brand overall is 14.4% ahead of 2010 in sales.

    Next up? The Chevrolet Sonic -- and another crucial test of GM's capacity to make popular little vehicles. Even smaller than the Cruze, that model will be a subcompact, a segment few automakers of any kind have managed to crack in the U.S. If the company scores another Cruze-sized hit, it would go a long way toward erasing memories of the old GM's failures.

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