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General Motors Co. is introducing four cheaper base models on big-selling vehicles to better compete and attract value-minded buyers.

For the 2015 model year, GM has new starting prices for the Chevrolet Cruze and Equinox, the Buick LaCrosse and GMC Terrain. Sticker prices for the new base models vary, but GM cut between $1,500 and $2,600 from previous starting prices. In some cases, they are now lower than competitors'.

"This approach is designed to increase awareness and consideration of our vehicles," Buick and GMC spokeswoman Kelly Cusinato said in an email.

Alex Bernstein, a car-pricing analyst with CarsDirect.com, a California-based online car-buying service, said he happened upon the starting price of the Cruze L compact car about a month ago. It was $1,575 cheaper (before destination charge) than the previous base Cruze LS.

"There really wasn't a big announcement about it," he said. "They kind of quietly added it to their website."

He did more investigating and found new entry models for the other three vehicles in GM-dealer order guides. And unlike some base vehicles, these aren't "stripped-down models," Bernstein said.

The Cruze L, for example, comes with power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, radio with CD player and MP3 capability, OnStar 4G LTE wireless hotspot — and the same standard six-speed manual transmission as the LS (an automatic transmission isn't available on the L). The Cruze L doesn't have floor mats, XM radio or a spare tire (instead it has an inflator kit); it starts at $16,170, plus a destination charge of $875.

The Equinox L midsize crossover starts at $22,120, down $2,400 from the previous base. Shipping adds another $875.

Chevrolet spokeswoman Annalisa Bluhm said the Cruze L and Equinox L are part of a GM strategy to attract buyers to the vehicles as they cross-shop competitive makes and models.

"Both are in critical segments: Compact car is the third-largest segment in the U.S., and compact SUV is the fastest-growing and largest vehicle segment in the U.S.," she said in an email. "Both L trim-level options give us a great chance to introduce the brand to new customers with competitive products featuring unexpected features."

CarsDirect found the Cruze L is $2,320 less expensive than the cheapest Honda Civic LX. And the base LaCrosse 1SV is now $1,220 lower than the Toyota Avalon — previously the LaCrosse had been more expensive.

GM wouldn't rule out more adjustments to vehicles' starting prices, but wouldn't discuss future plans for competitive reasons. "We are looking across the portfolio to see where we can better align our price bandwidth with our competition," Cusinato said in an email.

The entry-level LaCrosse 1SV midsize sedan and Terrain SL compact SUV are not at dealers yet. The Buick and GMC websites will be updated in the next few weeks to coincide with arrivals at dealerships, Cusinato said.

LaCrosse 1SV buyers will find 17-inch wheels on the V-6 version instead of 18-inchers. Terrain SL buyers will find that body-colored mirrors and floor mats aren't included.

Consumers typically don't buy a vehicle's base model in high volumes, though it varies by vehicle and segment, GM said. In some cases, buyers opt for the base model less than 10 percent of the time, Cusinato said.

Bernstein cautions that GM's new base models may not be eligible for incentives. The Cruze L, for example, was ineligible for January incentives offered for other Cruze trim-levels.

"Although, it's less expensive, it doesn't carry the same rebates," he said. "We hope shoppers will keep an eye out for (that)."

Cadillac confirmed this month it had lowered the price of some CTS trim levels by as much as $3,000 as it revised trim packages, but kept the base price at $46,000.

mburden@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2319

Twitter.com/MBurden_DN

GM cuts prices on some models

New trim name

Lowest base price (before)

Lowest base price (after)

Difference

2015 Chevrolet Cruze L

$17,745

$16,170

-$1,575

2015 Chevrolet Equinox L

$24,520

$22,120

-$2,400

2015 GMC Terrain SL

$26,560

$24,070

-$2,490

2015 Buick LaCrosse 1SV

$33,635

$31,065

-$2,570

Source: Carsdirect.com

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