Cruze rollout fuels great expectations


When: 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. today.

Where: GM Lordstown Complex East, 2300 Hallock-Young Road. Celebration will be in front of the administration building.

Who: GM North America President Mark Reuss, Gov. Ted Strickland, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, Lordstown Mayor Michael Chaffee, leaders of United Auto Workers Locals 1112 and 1714 and many others.

local business and community leaders.

By Grace Wyler



Expectations are high as General Motors prepares to roll out its 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, a Lordstown-built compact that has been deemed critical to the company’s new lineup.

GM officially launches the Cruze with a high-profile kickoff at the Lordstown complex at 10:30 a.m. today. Mark Reuss, GM’s North America president, will join union leaders and elected officials to extol the virtues of the new car.

After decades of lagging behind foreign automakers in the compact segment, GM is depending on the Cruze to rebuild its standing in that market.

The growth of Japanese automakers such as Honda and Toyota has depended on their strong models in the compact and midsize segments, said Doug Scott, a consultant with GFK Automotive.

With the Chevrolet Malibu already competing against other midsize models such as the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry, Chevrolet is depending on the Cruze for “a one-two punch,” Scott said.

“You need a small and midsize car to have a really great car brand, and now Chevy has that,” he said. “Without the Cruze, GM would stumble along.”

While the volume of Cruze sales will be an important measure of the car’s success, GM is relying on the new model to help its reputation more than its bottom line, said James Bell, an executive market analyst with Kelley Blue Book.

A successful Cruze launch could bolster public perception about GM — still derisively referred to by some as “Government Motors” — as the company prepares for an initial public stock offering this fall, Bell said. The IPO would likely end the federal government’s majority ownership of GM.

“If the Cruze is successful, it will boost the entire company,” he said. “It will do a lot for its overall reputation.”

The Cruze also is an important part of the company’s rebranding strategy, which aims to show buyers that Chevrolet has more to offer than trucks and sport utility vehicles, Bell said.

“They hope this will tap a market that, for 30 years, has ignored Chevrolet,” he added.

This week, Chevrolet launched a Cruze advertising campaign to lure small-car consumers who may have ignored the company in the past. Two 30-second commercials, narrated by actor Tim Allen, hit airwaves Tuesday.

The ads, featuring the new Cruze tagline “Get used to more,” highlight the car’s modern features, such as OnStar navigation and Bluetooth wireless connections.

The marketing campaign will target first-time car buyers in their 20s and “empty-nesters,” customers between age 45 and 60 who are looking for a smaller, more fuel-efficient car after their children leave home, said Margaret Brooks, Chevrolet’s small-car marketing director.

“We think the Cruze is going to bring a lot of new buyers to Chevrolet,” Brooks said. “We see this as an opportunity to take that one, last high-volume segment and come in with a really great product.”

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