Preparing for launch

Just months from the official launch, workers at the General Motors Lordstown complex have been prepping to begin production of the first clean-diesel auto made by General Motors since the early 1980s.

Test runs for the assembly line of the new Chevy Cruze diesel have been taking place at the plant intermittently over the past couple months, including some as recent as last week, plant spokesman Tom Mock said Friday.

While no specific launch date has been released yet, buyers likely can anticipate the car on dealer lots sometime in April. So far, test assemblies have gone well with no major issues detected in the assembly or “audit” inspection process, Mock said.

”Everything seems to be running on schedule,” he said.

The Cruze and its competition in the small car segment are expected to be topics of discussion for industry analysts at the North American International Auto Show kicking off this week in Detroit.

Diesel versions of the Cruze already are being sold in Europe. But diesel engines, long known overseas for their fuel efficiency and power, have had a small presence in U.S. passenger cars. Analysts have said they expect that to change.

“The market for diesel cars in the U.S. is small at present, but is expected to grow due to Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements and expected increases in gas prices,” said Mike Omotoso, powertrain analyst at LMC Automotive. “So far, the German automakers haven’t had any diesel car competition in North America. GM could do well with it, particularly with younger buyers who don’t have the old prejudices against diesel.”

Analysts from the Society of Automotive Analysts, or SAA, including experts on General Motors, will kick off the two-week auto show event in the Motor City with discussions today on what they predict for the year ahead.

It is billed as the largest gathering of the year of SAA members.

Coverage in Monday’s Tribune Chronicle will include Jim Davlin, treasurer for GM, an automaker whose largest shareholder, at least for now, is the U.S. Treasury.

Also today, visitors to a media preview of the show will get their first look at the all-new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette and Silverado.

The auto show will feature more than 50 automakers and more than 500 autos on display. About 800,000 visitors are expected to visit the show in Detroit’s Cobo Center. The event opens to the public Jan. 19.