Top-selling Cruze getting a facelift

LORDSTOWN – Chevrolet will debut its updated 2015 Cruze this week at the New York International Auto Show, with changes to the locally built small car focusing on exterior appearance, interior convenience and greater “connectivity,” the automaker said.

Production of the refreshed model is expected to begin at the Lordstown General Motors plant in early fall, with the compact hitting showrooms in mid-October. Changes to the 2015 model are at least a year ahead of plans for the next-generation Chevy Cruze that analysts predict will premiere in time for 2016.

“It’s just another positive development in our journey with the Cruze, and we have a bright future ahead of us,” said Tom Mock, GM’s spokesman for its Lordstown complex.

The Cruze’s facelift for 2015 refreshes the appearance for LS, LT, RS and LTZ models.

The small car’s new front facade and other exterior styling are inspired by its big brothers, Chevy Impala and Malibu. GM described the interior controls as more “intuitive,” and high-tech changes include new text message alerts, Apple Siri integration and OnStar 4T LTE with available Wi-Fi hotspot. The car also will have voice-controlled features to enhance safety when responding to text messages in the vehicle.

“The customers want fresh new ideas. We have got to be up for the challenge,” United Auto Workers Local 1714 President Robert Morales said, especially making note of the car’s technology upgrades.

GM officials said those upgrades include stronger, broader coverage than smartphones on the same network that is easy to use. If the vehicle is on, the connection is on, allowing passengers to connect personal devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets to high-speed wireless Internet. Each vehicle can accommodate seven devices at one time.

Owners also may download applications for vehicle data, music, news, travel or more from the Chevy AppShop directly to the vehicle, then organize, update or delete them as needed.

“It shows GM’s willingness to stay fresh and stay cutting edge,” Glenn Johnson, president of UAW 1112, said.

Work on the Lordstown complex continues as the company prepares for a more extensive upgrade with launch of the next-generation Cruze. The company in 2012 announced plans for a $200 million retooling of the plant to make way for the new Cruze, but since then, company and local union officials have declined to release a specific timeline for that launch.

Cruze has been called the cornerstone of Chevrolet’s North American small-car lineup and is Chevrolet’s best-selling car around the world, with more than 2.5 million sold globally since its launch in mid-2010. Already in its fourth year of production, the car continues to set sales records. U.S. sales for the first three months of this year are 17 percent ahead of the first quarter off 2013. January and February Cruze sales were the best ever for each month. Locally, Cruze has led sales of all vehicles in the Mahoning Valley 10 out of the last 12 months.