Cruze in Cleveland

CLEVELAND – The new Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel will be one of several GM small cars showcased at the Cleveland Auto Show next week.

The Lordstown-built car is expected to crack open the small sedan diesel market in the United States, which is dominated by the Volkswagen Jetta.

Dave Green, president of United Auto Workers Local 1714 in Lordstown, said his shop had to reconfigure and redesign the existing gasoline-powered Cruze for the diesel engine.

“We will build gas-powered vehicles, switch over to some diesel, and then back to the gasoline vehicles,” Green said. “We are waiting to see what the demand will be.”

Glenn Johnson, president of UAW Local 1112 in Lordstown, said most of the changes at the plant involved the realigning of jobs and the placement of fuel systems.

“We’ve been working on this for 12 to 15 months,” Johnson said.

The diesel Cruze is expected to get about 42 mpg. It will cost about $26,000 and ship to dealerships this summer.

“We believe the real-world fuel economy of the diesel Cruze will be exceptional,” Engineer Gary Altman said. “It is a huge advantage. We clearly expect to be segment leading in range.”

The 2-liter engine being used in the diesel Cruze is based on the company’s European model but adopted to the American market.

“What we’ve done is taken the premium engine that we used in three of our European vehicles and modified it to meet the North American market,” said Michael Siegrist, GM’s small engine design engineer for the Cruze.

In the past few years, GM sold more than a half-million diesel cars around the world, including more than 33,000 Cruzes.

Bob Parcell, manager at the Lordstown plant, said they would like to break into Jetta’s market of about 50,000 vehicles sold in the United States.

“We believe we can take a big piece of that segment,” he said. “Our diesel engine beats the Jetta in every category. We are hoping to bring over some of the Cruze customer market over to the diesel side of the market.”

Diesel vehicles represent about 3 percent of the U.S. vehicle market.

The company is expected to introduce a number of new Chevrolet models this year.

“With the introduction of the Sonic, Spark and Cruze, Chevrolet has three competitive small cars all priced under $20,000,” said James Bell, a spokesman with GM. “With gasoline prices going up, that is important.”

Chevy is the lead passenger car manufacturer in Ohio with a 13 percent share.

“Of the 227,000 passenger cars sold in Ohio, almost 32,000 were Chevrolets,” he said.