Craze over Cruze rolls into Cleveland

By Don Shilling

CLEVELAND — Chevrolet will promote the Lordstown-built Cruze with a grass-roots marketing campaign in addition to traditional advertising.

Margaret Brooks, marketing director for Chevrolet small cars, said Friday at the Cleveland Auto Show that she is planning promotions that would take the Cruze to people where they live and encourage them to go for a test drive.

She declined to be specific other than that a “number of activities” are being planned.

Because the Cruze is expected to be a high-volume seller, a “very significant marketing effort” will coincide with its launch, she said.

The Cruze is to be launched in the third quarter at General Motors’ complex in Lordstown. Area residents can see the car at the auto show, which starts today and runs through March 7.

One key detail of the car is missing from the display — its price.

Brooks said pricing isn’t being announced yet but added that the Cruze will have a “price you would expect for a compact car.”

She said it will be priced to be competitive with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, noting that those models start at about $16,000 or $17,000 and extend into the low $20,000s.

Chevrolet doesn’t plan much in the way of incentives, she said.

“Consumers will buy it because they want the car,” she said.

GM is promoting the car as being larger and more fuel-efficient than other compact cars. Officials haven’t been specific about mileage but have said it will achieve “up to 40 mpg” on the highway with an automatic transmission.

Brooks said 40 mpg will be achieved by a high-efficiency model that will come out “shortly after the launch but within the launch window.”

No mileage details have been released on the regular models, she said. Chevrolet has used the XFE designation for high-mileage versions of the Chevrolet Cobalt and other cars, but GM hasn’t announced what the high-mileage Cruze will be called, she said.

The Cruze will come in three models. The LS will be the base model with a 1.8-liter engine. The LT and LTZ versions will have a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that will deliver higher performance.

Brooks said the turbocharged engine is an “uplevel” engine, but she wasn’t willing to discuss price differences between the models. She said Chevrolet expects between 60 percent and 70 percent of buyers to choose one of the models with a turbocharged engine because of the better performance and mileage.

Normally in the U.S., an upscale engine means higher performance but worse fuel economy, she said. Adding a turbocharger changes that, however, and allows the Cruze LT and LTZ models to have added power from a smaller engine, she said.

A turbocharger forces more air into the engine’s combustion chamber, which increases output.

Al Manzor, program-engineering manager for the Cruze, said the added power comes early as the car is accelerating and stays constant for the rest of the acceleration.

The Cruze will go from zero to 60 mph in a fraction more than nine seconds, he said.

“Customers are going to be surprised when they drive the car. They’re going to think it’s a much-larger engine that’s powering the car,” he said.

The Cruze also has improved fuel efficiency because it will have a six-speed transmission, which will provide a gear for cruising at highway speeds.

The Cruze has been launched in Asia and Europe from various factories overseas. Various changes have been made, however, to prepare the car for the North American market, Manzor said.

The quietness of the ride has been improved with an acoustic windshield and the addition of sound-deadening materials in 30 locations inside the car, such as between the engine compartment and the passenger compartment and between the windshield base and the instrument panel, he said.

The ride and handling also have been improved with changes to suspensions, springs and struts, he said.

Brooks didn’t discuss sales projections for the Cruze but said Chevrolet is confident enough that it is adding a third shift of 1,200 workers to the Lordstown complex for the Cruze. GM officials made that announcement Tuesday.

“We think the Cruze will change the rules of the game for the concept segment,” Brooks said.

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