Test Cruze Diesel is rolled out

LORDSTOWN — The locally made Chevrolet Cruze once again will be available with a diesel engine starting early next year.

Employees at the General Motors Assembly Plant in Lordstown the past several weeks have been rolling out test diesel versions of the popular small car’s 2017 model.

Nick Morgan, GM’s Chevrolet Communications spokesman, said the diesel engines will be an option for the Cruze’s second generation that went into production at Lordstown earlier this year. Reintroducing the diesel Cruze sedan, he said, is part of the company’s transition from making the first- to second-generation Cruze.

“We know there’s absolutely room in the marketplace for it, and it’s something consumers want,” Morgan said.

And there’s potential for GM to fill a void left by Volkswagen AG’s emissions cheating scandal that erupted last year. The German automaker is now prohibited from making diesel vehicles in the United States. Last week, a federal judge approved the largest class-action settlement in the history of the American auto industry between Volkswagen AG and about 475,000 owners of diesel cars that don’t meet U.S. emissions standards. The company admitted last year the cars were programmed to cheat on emissions tests. The company will spend up to $10 billion to either buy the cars back or fix them and compensate owners.

Meanwhile, GM also plans to introduce its diesel version of its Cruze hatchback, a 2018 model-year vehicle, that will be available in the fall of 2017.

The company debuted the hatchback, built at GM’s Ramos Arizpe plant in Mexico, in January.

Due to a higher compression rate in the engine cylinders and greater density of energy in diesel fuel, diesel-powered engines are able to produce more power per gallon than gasoline-powered engines.

Prices for the diesel variants have not yet been announced.

But both the Cruze sedan and the hatchback will be available with manual or a nine-speed automatic transmission, and each will be powered by a 1.6-liter turbodiesel.

Glenn Johnson, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112, said if history is any indication, the company can count on customers who are interested in a diesel version of the Cruze.

“Anytime you can add something new to the portfolio it gives our customers more options,” he said.

He said anytime GM plans to put something into the markeplace the product goes through a series of validation steps before it’s made available to consumers.

“It all about timing and what GM decides to do,” Johnson said. “When you launch a new model, obviously you want to get the model launched so it has the greatest volume and then put pieces back in place that were key in the success of its first generation.”

Lordstown started building an earlier version of  the Cruze Diesel using an engine made in Kaiserslautern, Germany, in 2013 shortly after the company unveiled it. It was the first diesel passenger car the company produced since the 1980s. The next year, readers of The Diesel Driver magazine named the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel best diesel car of the year. But the company quietly stopped making the vehicle last year.