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Boop Op A Doop
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Chevy makes risky bet on retro-styled HHR

But some say GM is late to the party with its entry in the novelty vehicle challenge.

By Ed Garsten / The Detroit News



HHR joins the novelty crowd


A look at novel compact crossover vehicles:


2006 Chevrolet HHR

MSRP: $15,425 - $16,425


2005 Honda Element

$17,450 - $21,725


2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser

$14,270 - $29,220


2005 Scion xB

$14,245 - $15,045

Source: www.edmunds.com


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SAN FRANCISCO -- Is the new Chevrolet HHR a bold blend of retro-styling and modern function or a tardy, uninspired knockoff of the Chrysler PT Cruiser?


The answer depends on whom you ask.

With the boxy HHR -- which stands for "Heritage High Roof" -- General Motors Corp. is coming to the market with a high-risk vehicle next month at a time when they need desperately need a hit.

GM says the HHR is a cross between a 1949 Chevrolet Suburban and the Chevy SSR convertible pickup.

"It's kind of a wild card for Chevrolet," HHR designer Phil Zak conceded during a recent test drive near San Francisco.

Chevrolet is the automaker's best selling brand, accounting for more than half of GM's sales. The HHR is designed to bring in buyers that wouldn't normally consider a Chevy.

"If GM is to be successful, then Chevrolet has to be successful," said Jim Campbell, director of Chevrolet car marketing.

Chevrolet has narrowed the sales gap with Ford Motor Co.'s Ford brand to 21,844 units this year, compared with a difference of about 89,000 units in 2004, according to Campbell. But GM's overall U.S. sales are down 6.7 percent this year and it is banking on new models to reverse the slump.

To keep costs down, GM is assembling the HHR on the same basic chassis structure as the Cobalt small car, but it is taller and offers bigger, more flexible cargo space.

The amalgam of new and old, together with a passing resemblance to the five-year old PT Cruiser, has some analysts doubtful that HHR's will connect with buyers. The PT Cruiser made a smash debut in 2000 but demand dropped by 25 percent after two years on the market.

Joe Barker, a product analyst with Farmington Hills consultants CSM Worldwide Inc. wonders about the HHR's styling but said it has a lot of positives.

"The crossover wagon segment has been one of the fastest growing segments," Barker said. "Some attributes are attractive, such as interior refinement and an MSRP (sticker price) under $16,000."

Karl Brauer, the editor in chief of Internet buying guide Edmunds.com, said the HHR could easily flop. Its design is too derivative of the PT Cruiser. And the base 143 horsepower, 2.2-liter Ecotec engine isn't powerful enough, he said. "It blows me away General Motors can release this vehicle," Brauer said.

Bob Lutz, GM's vice chairman for global product development, says the HHR has a completely different shape than the PT Cruiser, offers more cargo space and presents an attractive option for those ready to trade in their Cruisers.

"I don't see anything illegitimate about it," Lutz said in a recent interview. "The HHR gives people the utility of a small minivan, but it's a lot cooler."

Chevrolet hopes to build interest in the vehicle through Internet-based marketing such as podcasts and by showing it off at trendy clubs and concerts. Some traditional television and print advertising is also planned.

Chevy isn't aiming the HHR at buyers in a specific age but is hoping to attract buyers with "a younger mindset," like those who are now looking at the boxy Honda Element and Scion xB, Campbell said.

Last year, combined sales of specialty crossovers such as the PT Cruiser, Element and xB reached more than 200,000 units. GM hopes to sell between 60,000 and 80,000 HHRs a year.

Such features as remote keyless entry, air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, 16-inch wheels and a five-speed manual transmission are standard on all models.

Digital audio devices such as the Apple iPod can be played through the HHR's audio system by connecting to a front jack.


You can reach Ed Garsten at (313) 223-3217 or [email protected].

http://www.detnews.com/2005/autosinsider/0506/21/C01-222535.htm
 

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I DO WINDOWS
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I hope it sells well ... But it’s just a bland box to me, I have no interest in it at all. Hope it fit's a growing family's need for transportation, at a good price.
 

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I hope it does well too! The price is right and if the dealers don't mess it up with gouging, it could work. The lack of horsepower is a real downer. It has lots of space for a lot of things and passengers but lacks in power. I believe there is an advanced upgrade with a bit more power, but still, HP is a biggie, even to Van/PT owners. :confused
 

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cruzned said:
I hope it does well too! The price is right and if the dealers don't mess it up with gouging, it could work. The lack of horsepower is a real downer. It has lots of space for a lot of things and passengers but lacks in power. I believe there is an advanced upgrade with a bit more power, but still, HP is a biggie, even to Van/PT owners. :confused
I think with gas heading up to $3 per gallon people are going to be less enamoured of hp. Plus the market is people who can only afford a couple hundred a month in payments. Gas payments is going to matter a lot in this market.
 

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Could be a little to late on the design and engine size, time will tell.

I think a better risk for GM would have been a new Camaro and Firebird. Ford is walking all over GM with the new Mustang.

There are still people out there who want the performance edge and look no matter what the gas prices end up at.

I don't know who GM has for their marketing department, but I think more than a few need to be fired and those left need a severe smack up along side the head.
 

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Boop Op A Doop
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HD-Fatboy said:
Could be a little to late on the design and engine size, time will tell.

I think a better risk for GM would have been a new Camaro and Firebird. Ford is walking all over GM with the new Mustang.

There are still people out there who want the performance edge and look no matter what the gas prices end up at.

I don't know who GM has for their marketing department, but I think more than a few need to be fired and those left need a severe smack up along side the head.

I've been saying the for years! Couldn't agree more! GM needs to step up their Design & Marketing & Advertising Departments. It's not like they aren't paid well!
 

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Good Luck

I saw this vehicle on the HRPT. It does look like a PT Cruiser on steriods. I didn't care for it at all. I hope for GM that it appeals to more than a few. What was cool is the '06 trailblazer SS but the HHR can't be compared to the Trailblazer.
 

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West Coast Pit Crew
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Free Marketing Advise GM!

Instead of blowing up a PT Cruiser here's and idea, bring back the 68 Camaro look :thumbs Fords selling new Rustangs by the thousands in California on a old idea! If you can't design something different redesign the old IT WILL SELL ;)
 

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I DO WINDOWS
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I went to the dealer to look at ordering one, :mad The year after they quit making them. But this is not in the same category as small, thrifty, regular life needs. I do think that G.M. has better vision than me, for the overall market. I'm just grateful they swung around with the SSR.
 

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