By BRENDA J. LINERT
LORDSTOWN - Spy photos taken recently in Germany and released this week offer a glimpse of the next-generation Chevy Cruze set to be built in the Lordstown plant.
Photos of the prototype released by Germany's Autoscoop.biz were taken for the first time in Ruesselsheim, Germany, when the car was spied driving out of the Opel research and development department, Autoscoop.biz's Guy Avital wrote by email.
Despite the car's current success for manufacturer General Motors, a Detroit analyst said changes to the new Cruze are needed to keep the car fresh.
Upgrades this year to foreign competitors in the Cruze's small car segment will make the Cruze one of the "older" cars in the category, said Tracy Handler, principal analyst for IHS, a global market information and analytics company.
Handler said changes implemented in the next generation Cruze will be "minor tweaks" to things like the front and rear facia to help keep the car fresh.
"And those are always important," Handler said. "GM used to let things sit for a while and they realized they have to keep things fresh to compete in the segment."
Retooling work in preparation for the new generation Cruze assembly at the Lordstown plant announced in August has been under way for several months, Lordstown plant spokesman Tom Mock said.
"We have already done a good deal of work here," Mock said, noting much of the work took place over a three-week plant shutdown in December that allowed workers to clear space for the retooling.
The $200 million project announced last summer promises General Motors' commitment to keep building cars in Lordstown for years to come. About 4,150 hourly workers are employed there.
While reports have indicated the next generation Cruze will begin with the 2015 model year, Mock said no firm date has been released yet and the production timing of the next-generation Cruze will be announced later.
Company and union leaders have said design changes on the upgraded model will include new exterior and interior styling, improved fuel economy and an improved interior compartment and more storage space.
According to Autoscoop.biz, the next-generation Chevrolet Cruze will be the first car to use GM's new global compact platform.
Autoscoop.biz's Avital said the new Cruze will be slightly longer than the current model, with most of that length toward the rear of the car, improving passenger and luggage space. That means a more swooping body shape and new head- and tail-light designs.
The next Cruze is also expected to offer better fuel efficiency than the current model.
On a related note, IHS's Handler has high hopes for this year's release of GM's new 2014 Cruze Turbo Diesel, also set to be manufactured in Lordstown in time for summer sales.
"Personally I think it's wonderful. I think the timing is right for the diesel. It's one of the most interesting dichotomies," Handler said. "I have not driven the new Cruze diesel, but I hear it's really well done."