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Chevrolet to get a new compact car for sale early next year

DETROIT -- General Motors will unveil a Chevrolet compact car at an auto show this fall, with production slated to begin early next year, say sources familiar with GMs product program.

The vehicle will be built on the Delta compact car architecture at GMs plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

The car will use a new 1.4-liter global engine that GM developed and recently announced in Europe. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine will be used in several GM vehicles worldwide.

The Chevrolet compact will not be called the Cobalt, says one source familiar with the plans. GM will produce the current-generation Cobalt through June 2010 as a 2009 model. It was unclear from sources whether GM will continue to build the Cobalt after that.

Shared among five nameplates

The cars engine will be capable of developing between 120 and 140 hp. Sources say mileage could easily exceed 40 mpg.

Its a pretty incredible engine; its direct-injected with great power, the source says. The small-displacement turbos make it possible to get great power so that GM might put it in the mid-sized products, too. Its an extremely important engine and a very capable powertrain.

The new engine will be shared among five nameplates: Chevrolet, Pontiac, Saturn, Opel and Daewoo, sources say. That means the Lordstown plant could build cars for export.

The engine continues the trend that GM started with such cars as the Pontiac Solstice GXP and Saturn Sky Red Line. Those cars use smaller engines and high-technology devices such as direct fuel injection and turbochargers to boost fuel economy and performance.

Lordstown plant retooling

GM is retooling its plant in Lordstown for a new vehicle, sources say. Lordstown union officials have heard that GM plans to add a shift.

GM now is building between 1,400 and 1,500 cars a day at Lordstown; adding a shift would increase that output to 2,100 cars a day. GM builds the Chevrolet Cobalt as well as the Pontiac G5 and its Canadian counterpart, the Pontiac Pursuit, at the Lordstown plant. All these vehicles also are built on the Delta architecture.

Meanwhile, GM is reconsidering bringing the Chevrolet minicar, the Beat, to the United States.

The Beat for the U.S. is getting a pretty thorough examination now that you see whats going on with fuel prices, says a source close to GMs product development. It isnt definitively on there as a go product, but there is a lot of inside chatter and its on the consideration list.

You can reach Jamie LaReau at jlareau@crain.com

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