By Karl Henkel
The only thing hotter than the recent weather is the continuing demand for the Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze.
A month after posting its best sales numbers — 25,160 in April — General Motors Co. reported Wednesday it sold 22,711 in May and is quickly narrowing in on 100,000 U.S. sales in 2011.
“Customers continue to demand better fuel economy, and our commitment to produce high-quality, fuel-efficient vehicles is paying off,” said Don Johnson, vice president, U.S. sales operations. “We expect that fuel prices will continue to be volatile, and we’re prepared to continue meeting the needs of an ever-changing market.”
Overall GM sales declined 1 percent in May compared to the same month last year, but its fuel-efficient vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Malibu, Equinox and Cruze, all saw gains over May 2010’s numbers.
Cruze retail sales, which made up 18,996 units, are 150 percent higher than the Chevrolet Cobalt, the car it replaced.
“The car is a winner; we knew that,” said Jim Graham, president of United Autoworkers Local 1112. “Our people work very, very hard to make our cars the safest on the road.”
GM in May recalled 154,112 Cruzes because of potential steering-shaft and automatic-transmission-shift-link problems, but industry analysts said the measure was precautionary and, as predicted, didn’t hamper Cruze sales.
Meeting the demand for the Cruze was a question mark for GM and Lordstown this time last month after the company sold nearly as many cars as it produced during April.
Graham said inventory levels were at 31 days, nearly half of the 60-day inventory industry standard.
Graham estimated current inventory levels to be about the same. Lordstown built 27,343 Cruzes in May.
If the demand for the Cruze continues, it could pose a dilemma for GM. The Lordstown plant is scheduled for a two-week vacation beginning the week of July 4, but Graham said that time off could be up in the air.
“Everything is subject to change at GM, so we don’t know what is going to happen in regard to those two weeks,” he said. “I hope they get those two weeks off because everyone’s been working really hard.”
Lordstown spokesman Tom Mock said for now, the scheduled vacation, which comes two weeks after the scheduled launch of the 2012 Cruze, will happen as planned.
Details about the new model year will be officially revealed by GM sometime next week, said Cruze spokeswoman Lesley Hettinger.