LOOKING TO CRUZE


GM sets higher goal for model’s mpg

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

Apparently, 40 mpg is not good enough for the Chevrolet Cruze.

General Motors is trying to squeeze 44 mpg out of the new small car that will be launched from its Lordstown complex in April, Motor Trend reported. That’s with an automatic transmission.

Shooting for 44 mpg is a higher goal than GM revealed in January when it displayed the Cruze at a car show in Detroit.

Chuck Russell, vehicle line director for the Cruze, said then that GM was targeting 40 mpg for a Cruze with a manual transmission and a bit less for the automatic version.

Motor Trend, an industry magazine, said, however, that GM has brought in a special team of engineers to create a Cruze XFE model that will include an automatic transmission. GM has used the XFE moniker, which stands for “extra fuel economy,” on high-mileage versions of the Chevrolet Cobalt, which is now built in Lordstown, and the Chevrolet Silverado.

No details were provided on the engineering changes being considered to the Cruze, but the Cobalt XFE featured small air deflectors to improve aerodynamics, tweaks to the engine-management computer, changes to the gearing and tires with less rolling resistance.

The Cobalt XFE is rated at 26 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, compared with 24/33 for Cobalt’s other models.

A GM spokesman was unable to provide someone in the company to comment on Cruze changes.

Union officials in Lordstown said efforts to upgrade the Cruze don’t surprise them because GM has said the Cruze will be one of the key products in a more fuel- efficient lineup.

Ben Strickland, shop chairman for United Auto Workers Local 1112, said the Chevrolet Volt is receiving publicity because it is a plug-in electric vehicle that will run short trips without using any gas. Because of its advanced technology, it will be a more expensive vehicle that will be out of the reach of many middle-class consumers, he said.

With the Cruze, however, GM wants to offer high fuel efficiency at an affordable price, he said.

Jim Graham, president of Local 1112, said GM executives have made it clear to the union and management in Lordstown that the Cruze launch is critical to the future of the company.

“That’s why there’s a lot of thought and a lot of engineering going into this. We have to make this work. There is no second chance, and we’re up to the challenge,” he said.

As GM tinkers with the engineering of the car, work also is being done on the labor agreements in place at the Lordstown complex.

Both Local 1112, which represents workers at the assembly plant, and Local 1714, which represents workers at the metal stamping plant, are meeting with management about revising local labor agreements that cover seniority, shift preferences, overtime, skilled trades and other items.

Strickland said changes are necessary because of a new national contract that was passed in May just before GM entered bankruptcy. That contract set a template for local contracts, and existing contracts must comply with 93 percent of what is contained in that template.

Strickland said the Local 1112 agreement has about 91 percent compliance. Some minor changes are being negotiated, he said.

Dave Green, president of Local 1714, said that local’s contract is about 89 percent in compliance, and negotiations are continuing.

shilling@vindy.com

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