By Grace Wyler
By GRACE WYLER
As the Lordstown General Motors complex starts to ramp up production on the new Chevrolet Cruze, the company is preparing to launch a campaign to convince buyers that Chevy’s highly anticipated compact car is a step above the competition.
The Environmental Protection Agency this week rated the Cruze’s 1.8-liter Ecotec engine — standard on the base model — at 26 miles per gallon in city driving and 36 mpg on the highway for the standard manual transmission. The automatic transmission will get 22 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.
The EPA rated the 1.4- liter turbocharged engine — standard in the Cruze LT and LTZ models — at 24 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.
The Cruze Eco is expected to get 40 mpg on the highway; the car will not be released until later this year.
The ratings on the standard Cruze models are similar to the Chevy Cobalt, which averaged 25 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.
The ratings are comparable to other nonhybrid compacts such as the Toyota Corolla, the Honda Civic and the Ford Focus.
But GM hopes that the Cruze’s upscale features — such as its interior detailing and enhanced safety — will set the car apart from its competitors.
“We set out to redefine the compact segment by offering customers more of the features they want for less money than comparably equipped competitive models,” Chevrolet’s small-car marketing director Margarent Brooks said in a statement.
“The Cruze offers significantly more value than the competition — and the vehicle it replaces — with standard equipment that is appreciated by today’s consumers.”
The company is encouraging its dealers to have rival compact cars on site to allow potential buyers to compare the Cruze against its competition.
Local Chevy dealers said that, although they believe the Cruze will beat out the competition, they do not plan on using this marketing strategy.
“It is already a popular product in an area that is predisposed to buying American cars,” said Greg Greenwood, owner of Greenwood Chevrolet in Austintown and Hubbard. “I’m not sure how effective the strategy would be in a place that it is already so receptive to GM products.”
He said that allowing customers to compare the Cruze to other cars will likely be a very successful selling strategy in larger markets outside of the region.
David Sabolsky, general sales manager at Spitzer Chevrolet in North Jackson, said that, given the dealership’s proximity to the Lordstown plant, he does not think many of his customers would be interested in the option.
“A guy that works in the plant is not going to want to test-drive a Toyota,” Sabolsky said. “In this area, we already have a very captive audience.”