DETROIT -- As automakers try to produce cars consumers want to buy in light of higher gas prices, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco was built purposefully without a spare tire to make the vehicles lighter and more fuel efficient.
Instead of a spare tire, the Cruze features a tire-inflator kit that makes the vehicle 26 pounds lighter , and more fuel efficient, than if it had a traditional spare tire and jack, Chevrolet said in a statement today.
Other current General Motors models without a spare tire include the Volt, Camaro and the Cadillac CTS. Inflator kits were also used in the 2001 Corvette Z06.
The Cruze averages 42 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in the city , according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates.
Terry Connolly, the director of GM’s Tire and Wheel Systems, said in the statement that GM decided to remove spare tires from the Cruze because, as technology has improved, flat tires have become less common.
“Getting rid of something as important as the spare tire wasn’t a decision we made lightly,” Connolly said. “The universal implementation of tire pressure monitoring systems over the past five years has significantly reduced the likelihood that a flat tire will leave you stranded by the side of the road.”
The OnStar system, equipped in all GM vehicles, also made the decision to ditch the spare tire easier, GM spokesman Sam Abuelsamid said. OnStar provides its subscribers with access to immediate roadside assistance.
So, instead of changing the flat tire, Cruze drivers will have to take the tire-inflator kit out of their trunk, plug it into the 12-volt socket inside the car and then re-inflate the tire. If the tire was punctured, the inflator can plug up holes in the tread of up to .25 inches in diameter by injecting sealant into the tire.
Gene Peterson, a senior engineer at Consumer Reports who oversees the publication’s tire testing, said in a telephone interview that he wasn’t enamored with tire-inflator kits. Peterson said the sealant that comes with the kits can only fix small punctures in the tread of the tire – not the tire’s sidewall.
Peterson added that unlike spare tires, drivers need to replace the sealant-fixed tires soon after making the repairs, something that some drivers may not be inclined to do.
The tires could re-puncture and damage the wheel of the car if not replaced quickly, which could result in, what Peterson called, “a muddy situation.”