By Jamison Cocklin
The public gets its first glimpse of the Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel when the Cleveland Auto Show officially opens at 11 a.m. today.
When it hits U.S. and Canadian markets this summer, the diesel Cruze will be the only domestic diesel model available in North America.
At a media preview Friday, senior GM officials and Lordstown’s leadership team were on hand to give a better explanation of GM’s latest model and how the new diesel engine they say will completely change the way drivers view an American compact car.
The diesel Cruze, they say, has the torque and horsepower that make it feel like a larger V6.
Glenn Johnson, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112, which represents Lordstown employees in the complex’s assembly plant, said production of the new diesel Cruze will begin during April or May.
The facility already has assembled 53 test models, said Bob Parcell, Lordstown plant manager.
GM officials and Lordstown’s leadership spoke to reporters against a backdrop of several Cruze models, including the new diesel version, parceled out along the floor of Cleveland’s I-X Exhibition and Convention Center, where the auto show will take place over the next week.
GM chose the Cruze to debut its first North American diesel engine because it’s the brand’s No. 1 selling model worldwide, with nearly 2 million sold since its debut in 2010.
GM has produced more than a half-million small diesel-engine cars in other markets across the globe, particularly in Europe where the cleaner-burning engines are a pull for consumers.
Two and a half years since the first Cruze rolled off the assembly line at Lordstown, 278,000 were delivered to dealers in U.S. and Canada last year, said Tom Mock GM’s communication manager at Lordstown. He added that it dominated compact-car sales in the Mahoning Valley in 2012, accounting for 38 percent of the segment’s sales.
“It’s the people, the dedication of our employees on a daily basis — it’s why they come to work every day, and those numbers show it,” Johnson said in describing last year’s achievements.
Parcell said nearly every conceivable metric at the Lordstown facility improved last year. Safety, quality and warranty standards were all up by about 30 percent, compared with 2011.
Also last year, in a first for Lordstown, Consumer Reports listed the Cruze among 16 “newly recommended” models based on improved reliability.
“It was a great year,” said Dave Green, president of UAW Local 1714, which represents workers at the fabrication plant. “Now with the diesel Cruze and the next-gen Cruze, we’ve got some real longevity.”
The diesel Cruze will launch with a six-speed automatic transmission. Its 2.0-liter turbo-diesel engine is estimated to produce 148 horsepower and an estimated 258 pounds per foot of torque, with a performance capability of 0-60 miles per hour in 8.6 seconds, all features that either match or beat the segment-leading Volkswagen Jetta TDI, said Gary Altman, chief engineer for Chevrolet small cars.
GM officials put the diesel Cruze’s miles per gallon at 42 or more. Central direct injection enhances power and combustion efficiency. A variable-displacement oil pump helps save fuel by optimizing oil pressure, which reduces friction in the engine.
The engine will be built in Germany.
Michael Siegrest, assistant chief engineer on the project, said the motor was developed in a little more than two years.
“There’s a lot of fuel-efficient vehicles out there, like hybrids, but they’re not fun to drive,” Siegrest said. “This new Cruze has incredible performance and amazing fuel economy. My favorite part is acceleration on the highway; when you punch it — it doesn’t downshift — it takes off.”