General Motors said today it is making a $350 million investment to prepare its Lordstown, Ohio, plant to build the Chevrolet Cruze by April 2010.
GM said it will spend a total of $500 million on its Cruze product program in the United States.
The bulk of the $350 million going into the Lordstown plant will go to consolidating the plants two body shops into one, plant manager John Donahoe told Automotive News.
The rest of the investment will go into the plants general assembly area, which will have added space when the body shops are consolidated. Donahoe said GM is determining what content it will put in that area to further improve efficiency.
He said all the changes to the plant will be made on the fly.
We will have the Cobalt coming off the end of the assembly line, and three spaces later will be the Cruze, he said.
The plant is expecting to build 330,000 cars this year. Donahoe said the plant will have a similar capacity after the renovation is completed.
The Cruze is scheduled to sell in the U.S. in 2011 after launching in 2009 in Europe and Asia.
The Lordstown plant is building the Cruze in place of the Chevy Cobalt, which will be discontinued. The plants 4,600 hourly workers also make the Pontiac G5 coupe.
The Cruze will build on the already successful Chevy Cobalt, Ed Peper, GM North America vice president of Chevrolet said in a statement. Our dealers are asking for many more Cobalts than we can build.
Through July, Cobalt sales are up 16.4 percent from last year, to 130,660 units.
The 2008 Cobalt gets up to 24 mpg in city driving and 33 mpg on the highway. Peper said the Cruze is a replacement with fuel efficiency that consumers now demand.
Our goal for the Chevrolet Cruze is to lead in fuel economy in this very competitive car segment, CEO Rick Wagoner said in a statement.
Earlier Thursday, GM offered an early look at the Cruze, which is scheduled to make its official debut in October at the Paris auto show. The car has a two-tier grille and wraparound headlights that look similar to Chevrolets Malibu sedan.
Our goal in designing Cruze was to be bold, not evolutionary, chief designer Taewan Kim said in a statement.
The Cruze is scheduled to go on sale in March 2009 in Europe, where it will be available with 1.6 liter and 1.8-liter engines and a 2.0-liter turbodiesel.
The state of Ohio is giving GM more than $71 million to build the Cruze in Lordstown, Donahoe said. That will go toward new machinery and equipment and training workers.
GM made a similar investment in Lordstown in 2002 when it committed to renovating its assembly plant there for making Cobalts.