Chevy goes small at the New York Auto Show

Chuck Russell discuses the Chevy Cruze Eco. Chuck Russell discuses the Chevy Cruze Eco.
The 2011 Cruze RS will go on sale later this year. (photos ©Dan Meade) The 2011 Cruze RS will go on sale later this year. (photos ©Dan Meade)

By Dan Meade
Provided by WorldNow

If you were to ask a person from the crowd what Chevy they most wanted to see at this year's New York Auto Show you would likely expect them to say the new Corvette or the much-publicized electric Volt. But Jim Campbell, the US Vice President, Chevrolet Marketing of Chevrolet, wanted to draw attention to another segment of his product line.

At Chevy's press event Campbell spoke mostly of the new small compacts that his company is in the process of rolling out: the Spark, the Aveo, and two brand-new models: the Cruze RS and Cruze Eco. Will these cars bring in the crowds like Chevrolet's other models? That's what Campbell is betting on. 

He called the Spark an "all new mini-car for North America," described the Aveo as a "hot-hatch" and claimed that the "Cruze will lead the way for Chevrolet." These compacts are not hybrids, but rather trimmed down, aerodynamic gas-powered cars that are built to maximize efficiency while keeping the sticker price low.

For example, the Cruze Eco, which shared over 500 hours of aerodynamic wind-resistant tests with the Volt, features a lower grill air shuttle to keep air flowing into the engine (keeping it cool at lower speeds) and is made of lightweight metals, enabling it to have "hybrid levels of fuel efficiency, without the cost of a battery." Or as Chuck Russell, the Vehicle Line Director of the Cruze, put it, "the devil really is in the details."

Russell explained how the Eco achieved "mass optimization" by shaving millimeters off hundred of weld flanges, reducing the thickness of the metal used to construct the Eco, using high-technology speaker magnets and ultra lightweight wheels. Putting those specifications in lay terms, Russell explained that "all together, these modifications help Cruze Eco achieve fuel efficiency on par with many hybrids."

The Cruze RS is set to be in showrooms during the third quarter of this year, with the Eco following in the fourth quarter. Once on the market, Chevy has set its goal for the Eco at the rather modest level of being "the most fuel efficient non-hybrid compact car in North America." 

Campbell had one other point that he wanted to stress: the Cruze is being made in Chevrolet's Lordstown, Ohio plant, which just added a third shift, creating 1,200 American jobs in the process. That news that should resonate well with consumers after last year's government bailout of GM.

Dan Meade is the Auto editor for WorldNow and has been covering the New York Auto Show since 2008.

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