DAMASCUS - A steady crowd of a couple hundred people stopped at Stratton Chevrolet for the open house and unveiling for the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze on Saturday.
Don Stratton, dealership owner, said he probably won't get the first Cruzes until the middle of September and was a little unsure about that.
"It's a great car," he said, "but the biggest problem will be getting enough of them."
He compared it to the popular Chevrolet Equinox saying, "It's good to see the new cars they're developing go over so well."
He added, "People really need to buy American."
Made in Lordstown, those words resonant deeply into the economic fabric of the Mahoning Valley.
The open house ran from 9 a.m. until just after 2 p.m. with the star was a gleaming Crystal Claret-colored Cruze on center stage in the new car lot.
Gerry Finch, with the promotion and assistance department of Lordstown assembly UAW Local #1112, said, "This has been quite a day. I've heard everything positive, nothing negative. They like the color and everyone comments on the trunk space."
Clipped to the windshield with a wiper blade was a stack of 6 by 8-inch flyers proclaiming the Cruze as "Proudly Built in Lordstown, Ohio" with a competitive overview on the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, two cars the Cruze is taking dead aim at.
It says the compact Cruze has midsize roominess and beats them both in highway gas mileage. Finch said that with the all-new Ecotec1.4-liter turbo, 4 cylinder engine the Cruze gets an estimated 40 miles per gallon with the 6 speed manual transmission.
Finch, a 37-year Lordstown veteran, said, "It's quite a peppy engine."
Several people commented on the room in the Cruze which, with 10 airbags standard, attained a five-star safety rating in every market it will be sold in throughout the world.
"I'll tell you what, this is a sharp car," said Richard Spahr, a truck driver from Sebring. He walked to the rear of the Cruze and then stepped back even further, about 20 feet.
"You can't see the gas tank," he said, adding he hated to see things under a car. He noted the tip of the exhaust pipe was barely visible under the left corner panel.
Spahr said he has dealt at Stratton before and expects to buy a Cruze in 2012.
"I'll definitely buy one," he said, "that's just what I want ... that right there, same color and everything."
Spahr said he knew two people who worked at Lordstown.
"They make sure everything is right. They want to make this a top-line seller. They want to make the right car and make it right.
"It's an excellent little car, that's exactly what I think." Lloyd Garrison of Alliance sat in the Cruze and was impressed with the seats not just looking inviting and comfortable, but they were. He liked the leg room in the back and then quickly added he wasn't a very big person, but said, "You could have 6-footer back there easy."
Garrison liked, "the look, the comfort and the seating, the front seat."
Spahr walked back to the driver's compartment and commented on the quality of the materials.
"Here, feel this," he said, running his fingertips over the seat.
"I love that."
Dave Durrett of Deerfield, a Vietnam veteran, retired from Lordstown 12 years ago after starting there in 1968. He knows a few things about automaking and his son-in-law works in the fab plant.
"I'm thinking about buying one," Durrett said.
Stratton said, "A lot of people are stopping and pricing."
Finch said the prices range from $16,995 for the base LS model to $18,895 for the 1LT and $21,395 for the 2LT and $22,695 for the top of the line LTZ.
Internationally, customers have purchased 140,000 Cruze in the first six months of 2010 and a total of 270,000 since Cruze launched in the spring of 2009 in Europe, followed by other major markets, such as China in summer of 2009, according to General Motors.
The Cruze is currently available in more than 60 countries, with China, Russia, Mexico, India and Spain as the top five sales markets; including Holden and Daewoo versions sold in Australia and South Korea, total sales exceed 340,000 vehicles across five continents.
Every Cruze has the OnStar Directions & Connections plan- including Turn-by-Turn Navigation7 - standard for the first six months. Hands-free calling is available with Bluetooth wireless technology8 for select phones. An available USB9 port for your iPod 10 and XM Radio11 for three trial months give you plenty of entertainment options. Best of all, treat your senses to the available nine-speaker Pioneer 12 sound system.
The Cruze also has StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover sensing, traction control and anti-lock brakes.
Larry Shields can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org