With the next generation Cruze making its debut in China last month, General Motors has committed to building the next generation Cruze for North America in its big assembly complex in Lordstown, Ohio.
GM said is investing $50 million for a new flexible Trim Shop and upgrades to the Press Room at the Lordstown Complex for the next-generation Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan.
“This investment will enhance our customer responsiveness while providing our team with the tools and processes needed to be the best at building the next generation Cruze,” said Lordstown Plant Manager Bob Parcell.
The Lordstown plant built the 1 millionth Cruze just last month and it was the seventh best-selling car in the U.S. through March this year. It is GM’s best-selling vehicle behind the Chevy Silverado this year.
The company’s $50 million bet on its compact offering isn’t just a matter of keeping up with the Jones, or in this case, the Corollas, Civics and Focuses. Chevy’s compact is becoming a player in that very crowded segment.
In fact, through the end of April, the its sales are up 11.8% from 77,763 units sold at this time last year to 86,937 units delivered this year.
The Cruze has already moved past is metro Detroit competitor, the Ford Focus, thus far this year outselling it by nearly 16,000 units. It’s closing in on the Honda Civic, which is at 98,707 units, but has a way to go before it catches the Toyota Corolla at 106,798 cars through the end of last month.
Part of the sales push has been the company’s willingness to take a chance with the Cruze. In 2013, Lordstown launched the all-new Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, which offers the best highway mileage of any gas only or diesel engine in America and was recently named by diesel enthusiasts as the Diesel Car of the Year for 2013.
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Those results gave Chevy good reason to load up the freshened Cruze for 2015, which made its debut at the New York International Auto Show last month, with many of the technological extras its competitors have to allow it better compete in the segment.
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That includes the new OnStar 4G LTE system, one of the first of a coming wave of systems that will provide motorists and passengers with an onboard WiFi hotspot. Among other things, the 2015 Chevy Cruze will have Apple Siri integration, the ability to incoming text messages read out to drivers, and it will office an AppShop with a growing list of smartphone-linked apps for music, news, weather, travel features – and access to vehicle data.
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However, the Cruze isn’t immune to the bigger problems at GM. The maker unexpectedly announced a stop-sale on versions of the compact equipped with 1.4-liter turbo engines. A few days later, it issued a recall to replace a right front axle half-shaft that can fracture and separate while driving. Unlike the maker’s embarrassing ignition switch recall, however, there’ve been no reports of accidents or injuries and the problem so far does not seem to be causing a problem for Chevy dealers.
Michael Strong contributed to this report.