By Kalea Hall
From the looks of it, the Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze is considered a top contender in the compact-car segment.
The talk of it focuses on the class-leading technology, styling and safety features.
The feel of it is that it’s a hit.
“I believed all along from when I first saw the car that it would eventually be the No. 1 vehicle in its segment,” said Glenn Johnson, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112, which represents about 3,000 assembly workers at the GM Lordstown plant.
Now the launch of this top contender has hit a roadblock in a two-week production suspension, but Johnson says they will get through it.
“We have gone through worse things,” Johnson said.
During the same week the restyled 2016 Chevrolet Cruze started to receive positive reviews from auto blogs and media outlets, GM announced the suspension because of supplier issues after the Japan earthquakes.
The suspension begins today and will continue during the week of May 2.
Three other GM North America plants – Fairfax, Kan.; Spring Hill, Tenn.; and Oshawa, Ontario – also will have suspended production because of the earthquakes.
The suspensions are not expected to have a significant impact on GM’s four-year production plans in North America.
“Once the down time is completed and our production schedules and part availability allow, we will begin making up those lost units, which we expect to be complete by the end of the year,” said Thomas Mock, Lordstown plant spokesman.
Some of the workers at the plant, where 4,500 are employed, will receive layoff notices for the suspension while others continue to work.
What the work will be is still being determined.
“It gives us the opportunity to fine-tune some things,” said Robert Morales, who represents about 1,400 workers in the fabrication plant at GM Lordstown. “When we come back, we will be ready to hit full speed again.”
Meanwhile, the reviews of the Cruze keep coming and are mostly positive.
Several bloggers and media members had the opportunity to test-drive the new Cruze for a marketing event in Nashville, Tenn.
The goal of the Cruze is to bring new people in the Chevrolet family and keep them there. Its engine, styling, technology and safety features are all geared to do just that.
As for the engine, GM Authority Blog’s Sean Szymkowski writes that the new Cruze “feels more nimble and willing” than the first-generation.
The engine is a 1.4-liter turbocharged four cylinder that sends power to a six-speed automatic transmission – coupled with the lighter vehicle, the Cruze is expected to make for fun ride.
The Cruze comes with stop/start technology that improves fuel economy, GM Authority Blog notes in its review.
“When sitting at a stoplight, the engine will be off,” the GM Authority review reads. “If the driver creeps forward, the car comes to life again and stays that way. It does not shut off again. It helps the system feel less intrusive, and frankly, less annoying.”
Where the Cruze shines is in its class-leading technology including OnStar, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and – on the safety side – there’s the lane-departure warning and back-up assist.
“Where competitors shine in better usage of materials, the Cruze provides a swift kick with content,” GM Authority’s review reads. “Seriously, this is what will move the Cruze from dealer to driveway. It all works incredibly seamlessly.”
Inside Car News and Automotive News both recently highlighted the fuel economy the new Cruze gets: 42 miles per gallon highway and 30 mpg in the city.
The Detroit News writer Henry Payne wrote:
“With sculpted lines and wrap-around eyewear handed down from its cool red-carpet siblings, the all-new, 2016 Chevrolet Cruze is no longer the vanilla cone of the compact segment.”
Payne notes the Cruze’s connectivity, increase in rear leg room and an interior that “takes a back seat to no one.”
“Form follows function – with passengers connected to the outside, world engineers spared no detail in furnishing a quiet, plush cabin: laminated front glass, soft materials, extensive sound deadening, and a silky, torquey, 153-horsepower 1.4-liter turbo engine married to a six-speed automatic transmission,” Payne writes.
Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, hasn’t had the opportunity to drive a Cruze yet, but he has heard positive reviews of the compact, which shipped out to dealers this spring.
GM “really didn’t have a competitive small car for a long time,” Brauer said. “Now, they have multiple ones. [GM] continues to make sure [the Cruze] is competitive in a segment that’s extremely competitive.”
The positive reviews are an encouragement for the workers at the plant, Johnson said. “I think it’s going to be a hit.”