By Karl Henkel
It takes a lot to surprise Jim Graham.
Graham, United Auto Workers Local 1112 president at the General Motors facility, said he fully expected the Chevrolet Cruze to sell as well as it has during its first 10 months in existence.
“It doesn’t surprise me in the least,” Graham told The Vindicator on Friday. “Right off the bat, even before we produced it, we knew the engineering was there, the quality was there and the safety aspect was there.”
The Cruze in June repeated as the top-selling vehicle in the compact-car category, was the top-selling car in the industry and topped 22,000 sales for the third-straight month. GM sold 24,896 of the Lordstown-built sedans in June and has sold 122,972 of them in the first six months of 2011.
The Cruze edged the Ford Focus (21,385 in June), Toyota Corolla (18,872) and Honda Civic (17,485) for the June compact-car title.
Before May, no American-built car had led sales in the category in the previous five years, let alone two consecutive months.
The Cruze now makes up 14.6 percent of the compact-car segment, up from 12.8 percent in May.
“Right now, the Cruze is a very hot commodity,” Graham said. “The people are starting to understand that the American automakers are capable of making a great car.
“We hit a home run.”
The Cruze’s June sales were 153 percent higher than June 2010 sales of the Chevrolet Cobalt, the car it replaced.
The Lordstown plant produced 27,632 Cruzes in June; 18,195 were 2011 models.
The remainder were the new 2012 models, only slightly modified from 2011, an aspect analysts have praised.
“The 2011 version was sort of at the forefront anyway,” said Kristen Andersson, an analyst for TrueCars.com. “They’re on the right track, and the consumers are responding.”
Overall it was a solid month for GM, which saw a 10.2-percent increase in sales compared to June 2010. Two of its most popular cars — the Cruze and Chevrolet Malibu — accounted for approximately 22 percent of GM’s overall sales.
“With continued strong consumer demand for GM’s fuel-efficient vehicles, June was another solid month for us,” said Don Johnson, vice president of U.S. Sales Operations, in a statement. “The month caps a successful first half of 2011 for us in the U.S. market — our sales are up, and we’ve gained share profitably.”
Chrysler Group LLC’s saw 30 percent increase from a year ago. It sold 120,394 vehicles, its best June since 2007. Ford Motor Co. sales rose 13.6 percent.
Toyota Motor Corp. declined 21 percent, and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. dropped 27 percent.