The Chevrolet Cavalier convertible is gone for good unless the automaker can price the compact ragtop more affordably, says a top Chevrolet executive.

Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire convertible production in Lansing, MI, was halted in late 1999 to accommodate Cadillac Eldorado output (see Ward's Automotive Reports — Dec. 13, '99, p.1).

“We've got to find a more favorable price point if we're going to do entry-level convertibles,” says Chevrolet Marketing General Manager Kurt Ritter. “Our dealer input coming back was that the price point was too high for a significant customer base out there, particularly younger folks.”

Mr. Ritter believes the S-10 eXtreme pickup and forthcoming Blazer eXtreme sport/utility vehicle (SUV) will keep Chevy relevant to buyers with a budget shopping for a sporty ride. But it is clear the automaker can't abandon Cavalier. Almost half of its sales are to customers under 25 years old, and it still has the highest first time buyer percentage of any General Motors Corp. vehicle. The Cavalier Z24 concept car shown at the Specialty Equipment Market Assn. show in Las Vegas last November is being given strong consideration for production. “We need something sporty. We need to do something 4-door,” says Mr. Ritter.

Two-door versions also are struggling with the current Blazer midsize SUV vehicle and the Tracker compact SUV. “It's clearly a 4-door world,” Mr. Ritter surmises.

The Chevy chief says 2-door Tracker sales, which account for only 10% of current Tracker orders, will increase when the cute-ute finally gets a V-6 engine at the beginning of the '01 model year. Blazer 2-door deliveries also have hovered around 10% of the SUVs total sales, though orders have increased within the last year or so to 20%-25% and should enjoy a huge boost when Blazer eXtreme hits the streets this fall. Mr. Ritter expects Blazer eXtreme sales to fall between 20,000-25,000 units annually. “Maybe a little bit more,” he adds.