Cruze on road to rebound

LORDSTOWN – After facing some bumps along the road, it appears the Chevrolet Cruze is back on the right track.

The popular small sedan produced at the General Assembly Plant in Lordstown, with 15,216 deliveries in September, saw an 8.4 percent increase over the same month in 2015 when deliveries were at 14,032, according to numbers released by the automaker Monday.

In August, Cruze sales jumped 52.4 percent over the previous year as the popular small car rebounded from its 36 percent drop in July.

“We always believed we could do it and this shows the hard work and dedication our membership has been putting into producing a quality vehicle,” said Rob Morales, president, United Auto Workers Local 1714. “We’re doing what we need to do to be successful and it’s starting to pay off. We’re making the cars and getting them out to customers and the dealerships, that’s what’s important.”

Since the Cruze’s second generation went into production at Lordstown earlier this year, the plant has been reviewing and, where needed, revising some of its operations.

The Cruze, GM’s best-selling compact car, is sold in 115 countries. More than 3.5 million units of the popular small car have been sold around the world since 2008, and more than 1.25 million of those have been made in Lordstown, where some 4,500 workers are employed, since the car launched here in 2010. The Cruze’s second generation went into production at Lordstown in February.

Earlier this year, GM leaders said the three daily shifts Lordstown had been running to produce the Cruze for domestic distribution hadn’t been enough and that sales could have been better if inventory had not been limited.

In June, GM told its Lordstown workers that because consumer demand for the Cruze’s second generation was not being met here, the company decided to supplement its supply with Mexican-made units for U.S. distribution, starting this fall.

Plant leaders have said many of the production issues have not been inside the plant, but outside and related to supply issues.

In July, a contract dispute between GM and a vital parts supplier that had filed bankruptcy threatened production at the automaker’s North American assembly plants including Lordstown.

But the Detroit automaker and Worcester, Mass.-based Clark-Cutler- McDermott Co., or CCM, agreed to part ways, alleviating concerns over potential plant closures.

That month, the plant transitioned to making 2017 Cruzes.

In August, shipments of the new 2017 models were suspended about a week because of a supply-chain issue. At the time, the local plant was running three shifts a day to make the new Cruzes.

Plant leaders at the time said the issue was not related to CCM, but another supplier. However, they declined to comment further.

The Cruze, despite falling several paces, maintained a top spot on GM’s sales, ranking in fifth place last month. The vehicle, which claimed second place in August, continued struggling in its year-to-date numbers, falling 22.5 percent in the first nine months with 138,012 deliveries compared to 177,970 in 2015.

Overall, GM’s sales fell less than 1 percent to 249,795 from 251,310 last year. The automaker’s year-to-date sales were also down, by 3.8 percent, from 2.3 million in 2015 to 2.2 million this year.

Last month, Buick sales jumped 14 percent thanks to strong sales of the new Envision small SUV and Cadillac sales rose 3 percent as the new XT5 SUV and CT6 sedan hit the market. But Chevrolet sales were flat and GMC sales fell 9 percent.

The automaker’s top-selling vehicles were the Chevy Silverado 1500 with 45,380 deliveries, down 15.5 percent from 53,725; Chevy Malibu, 21,521, up 26.1 percent from 17,066; GMC Sierra, 18,068, down 8.5 percent from 19,754; Chevy Equinox, 15,261, down 29.1 percent from 21,537; and the Cruze.

vshank@tribtoday.com