The Chevrolet Cobalt may take its name from a dark, cool shade of blue, but its sales are hot.
Cobalt sales increased 6 percent in August. At 19,430 cars, it was General Motors' second-best selling model, running behind one of the most venerable names in the GM line up, the Impala.
This is good news on a Labor Day weekend in the Mahoning Valley, where good labor news can be as rare as a Smart car keeping up with traffic on the autobahn.
In 2006, Chevrolet has sold 163,343 Cobalts, an increase of 10 percent over last year's pace, and each one was built at the Lordstown plant. A Pontiac version of the car, the G5, was introduced last month, adding to the potential success of the Lordstown plant.
The loss of the third shift at the Lordstown plant was a blow to the Valley. But it was softened by the retirement and buyout plan offered to workers at the plant, which avoided the massive layoffs that could have accompanied the loss of a shift.
Now, due to the popularity of the Cobalt, GM has authorized hourly overtime to extend some daily shifts and full Saturday shifts some weekends.
A critic's view
The Cobalt is catching the eye of automotive writers and critics. A column in Saturday's Vindicator by Warren Brown, a Washington Post writer, described how pleasantly surprised he was by the improved quality of a Cobalt he recently drove from New York to Washington, compared with preview models made available to the press last year.
He described the 2.4 litre SS sedan he tested this way: "If automotive bang-for-the-buck can be translated to the most horsepower, fuel efficiency, safety and amenities for the least money spent, the Chevrolet Cobalt is as good as the current generations of the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra or Toyota Corolla, if not better."
That's not just good to hear, it is significant because Brown is comparing the Cobalt to the very cars it was introduced to compete against.
This Labor Day weekend, workers and managers at the Lordstown plant can relax. And they should enjoy their leisure, because part of some weekends in the coming months are going to be spent meeting the demands of the public for the Cobalt and G5.