Rolling out

LORDSTOWN – After striving for years to win over owners of foreign vehicles, General Motors has added another weapon with the newly launched diesel Chevrolet Cruze. The move already is paying off, a Warren car dealer said Thursday.

“A younger couple with a baby from the Cleveland area came in to buy one. They were a foreign car owner before,” John Maze, Diane Sauer Chevrolet general manager, said during a drive-away event that drew 61 dealers in eastern Ohio to GM’s Lordstown Complex.

Maze said most shoppers are interested in the diesel car’s fuel economy and pollution controls, but the Cleveland couple liked another of the car’s qualities – torque, which plays into power and acceleration. The diesel Cruze small car produces 264 foot-pounds of torque versus 236 for its U.S. diesel rival, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, GM officials said.

Offering 46 highway miles per gallon of fuel – tops among any non-hybrid electric-gasoline vehicles, GM said – and a quiet, clean-burning system, the Cruze diesel is being produced in low numbers at Lordstown along with the gasoline-engine Cruze. The popular gasoline Cruze has sold more than 2 million units globally, helping make Chevrolet one of the top brands for the key age-25-and-younger crowd.

Officials said GM hopes to sell 35,000-plus diesel Cruzes worldwide.

The new Cruze is designed to counter the traditional view of diesels as smoky and noisy. The automaker outfitted the car with extra sound-deadening material for a quieter ride.

To cut pollution from the engine, the Cruze has a diesel exhaust fluid unit in the trunk. The unit uses a liquid solution to reduce nitrous oxide emissions that come from burning diesel fuel.

The box takes the place of a spare tire. Instead, the car has an inflation kit to allow motorists to drive to a repair shop.

GM officials said lack of a spare tire hasn’t been a problem with the company’s other vehicles that try to improve fuel economy by reducing weight. Steve Dusquenne, manager of after-market sales for northeast Ohio, noted modern tires are more durable, and that drivers are more likely to use the company’s five years roadside assistance program than change a tire.

Priced at $25,695, the base 2LT diesel Cruze costs a couple of thousand of dollars more than the comparable gasoline-engine 2LT Cruze, but officials said the improved fuel economy provides savings, especially for long-distance commutes on highways, where the car is rated at 42 miles per gallon. The Cruze can travel 717 miles without refueling, compared to 605 for the Jetta.

With the Jetta being built in Mexico, GM officials also noted the Cruze is the only domestic diesel.

Diesel Cruzes have been in short supply as the 4,500-worker Lordstown plant begins to build the car. The drive-away event was designed to get at least one diesel to dealers from Cleveland to Zanesville.

Maze, of Sauer Chevrolet, said the dealership already has sold a couple of diesel Cruzes. It has one of the cars in stock, with another being built. He said diesels will be a “small percentage of sales, but they’re likely to grow as they catch on.”