Dealers ready for Cruze Turbo Diesel

Lordstown production for the 2014 Chevy Cruze clean Turbo Diesel will start slow, with focus on sales in just 13 target markets, General Motors officials said this week.

The Cruze TD will hit showrooms around June for select markets, chosen for high numbers of long-distance commuters and strong diesel sales. Among them will be West Coast cities in California and Oregon, some central U.S. markets and East Coast cities of Boston, Washington and Baltimore, said Cristi Landy, GM’s director of small car and electrified vehicle marketing.

While the Youngstown market won’t be among the immediate targets, local dealers on Thursday were whetting their appetites for the opportunity to offer their customers another option on the popular model.

Landy, who was at the Chicago Auto Show Thursday for the Cruze diesel’s official unveiling, said this week she expects the car to be rolled out nationwide within a month or two after the June launch.

She declined to share volume predictions, but said, “We feel we will make enough to match demand and we can adjust volume as we need to. We will have some flexibility there.”

Manufacture of the Lordstown-built car using a German-made engine will begin in April.

Landy and her GM colleagues this week said marketing the new vehicle will focus on power, range and performance. She said the new diesel technology will bring torque, quick acceleration and excellent highway fuel mileage, estimated at around 42 mpg for an automatic transmission.

”I am pretty happy about it,” said John Maze, general manager at Diane Sauer Chevrolet in Warren. ”The Cruze is such a great seller. Every time we get an opportunity with new technology, it’s a good thing.”

Maze said he was aware GM would be looking to offer the vehicle as another option for a smaller segment of buyers, including those with longer commutes seeking fuel efficiency.

”I think this could be a good choice, and they are not trying to sell it to the masses,” Maze said Thursday.

GM’s market plans may be spot on, closely mirroring sales of what will soon be the small-car’s diesel competitor, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Volkswagen diesel sales can vary widely, often depending on the price of fuel, said Rick Giordano, sales manager of the only local new car dealership for Volkswagen, Preston Auto in Boardman.

Giordano noted that diesel auto buyers usually are aware that, despite average price at the pump, longer commutes often translate to fuel savings with diesel engines.

Still, he estimates that of the Jettas his dealership sells, about 80 percent are gasoline engines rather than diesel.

New competition in the diesel small-car market won’t necessarily be a bad thing, Giordano noted. Both cars will offer comparable size, fuel mileage and sticker price.

Increased offerings of diesel passenger cars is a bold statement about the future for clean diesel cars in the U.S., said Allen Schaeffer, the executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a nonprofit national organization dedicated to raising awareness on diesel engines, fuel and technology.

“The Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel will be a key factor in taking the success of clean diesel as a competitive fuel-efficient technology to the next level,” said Schaeffer from the Chicago Auto Show. “The Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel is coming at just the right time. New car sales are exceeding expectations and confidence in the new generation of diesel cars is at an all-time high, as evidenced by the double-digit increases in diesel sales in 20 of the last 24 months.”

Schaeffer also noted the availability of diesel fuel continues to expand to beyond more than half of all U.S. stations.

Automakers are set to introduce more than 20 new clean diesel vehicles in North America this year, Schaeffer said.