2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco Will Use Shutters in Fascia to Improve Fuel Economy

By Brendan Moore

The first of two press days for the New York Auto Show occurs Wednesday (Autosavant will have three writers at this year’s show), and one of the cars debuting on the first day is the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco, a high-mpg car that GM hopes will attract buyers who want great fuel economy in a car without sacrificing creature comforts.

The Cruze Eco will get 40 mpg on the highway, according to GM, and it does that with the assistance of a feature unusual in the compact segment – automatic shutters in the lower front fascia that close when the car reaches a speed of 37 mph, much like an automatic spoiler on sports cars that raises when a specific speed is reached. An electric motor closes the shutters at 37 mph, and opens the shutters when the car’s speed drops to 34 mph.

Chevrolet engineers say that closing the shutters in the lower fascia results in an improvement in drag coefficient of 0.016, which pushes the Cruze Eco up to the magic number (at least from a marketing perspective, anyway) of 40 mpg while motoring on the highway. The engineers also made other small aerodynamic improvements in the car’s shape like lowering the ride height in addition to adding low-rolling resistance tires and changing the axle ratio of the Cruze to enable better fuel economy.

Chevrolet product planners decided to go this route as opposed to eliminating weight in the form of eliminating comfort and convenience content like air conditioning, power windows, power locks, sound deadening, etc.

Additionally, the Cruze Eco has a turbocharged 1.4 liter four-cylinder engine with 138 hp as opposed to the standard Cruze which has a 1.8 liter four-cylinder. The transmission available from Chevrolet that is required in order to achieve that fuel economy is a six-speed manual.

The Cruze will replace the long-in-the-tooth Cobalt in the GM lineup shortly; the company has high hopes for the car as it plans to run three production shifts at the initial launch.

“We looked at every single possibility of squeezing out the last tenth of a mile per gallon,” said Mike Danowski, Cruze product manager. Chevrolet states the Cruze Eco offers “hybrid-like efficiency without the price tag” that comes with the battery pack, electric motor, and electronics of a hybrid like the 50-mpg 2010 Toyota Prius.

Chevrolet says the Cruze Eco will have the best fuel economy in it’s Compact class, but with the new Ford Focus showing up right behind it, Chevrolet may not be able to run those commercials for very long.

The Cruze Eco is expected to show up at Chevrolet dealerships in Q4 of this year.

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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