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L.A. Auto Show jargon alert: '20 stars' and the Chevy Cruze

December 2, 2009 |  6:39 pm


Cars come and go -- as do car executives -- but automotive industry jargon is the gift that keeps on giving. This morning, on Day 1 of the L.A. Auto Show press day, I heard Chuck Russell, vehicle line director for Cruze, drop a choice new bit. Referring to the fact that the Chevy Cruze is exceedingly safe, topping out government safety ratings in the U.S. and in Europe, Russell said the goal was a "20-star" car, that is, a car that gets five stars in front, rear, side and offset crash tests.

In the words of "The Simpsons' " Monty Burns, steepling his fingers: "Excellent."

The 2011 Cruze -- GM's ka-jillion-unit global small car, built in Korea, China, Russia and Lordstown, Ohio, all garden spots -- is getting its North American curtain raiser at the L.A. show, and it really does make a very nice impression. Russell -- in a refreshing bit of candor -- said that management's goal was very clear and direct: "Beat the [Honda] Civic, hands down."

So it is that the Cruze's highway mpg (40 mpg) tops the Civic's by a respectable 4 mpg (the Civic Hybrid, however, gets 45 mpg on the highway). It's also interesting to note Chevy will market a special "high efficiency" model of the Cruze, much like Honda used to sell the gas-sipping FE model.

The interior of the LTZ trim-level package on the show stand was handsome and well sorted, the "twin cockpit" crafted of quality resins and fabrics. The thing's got an enormous trunk. And generally the Cruze makes an excellent argument for itself.

Except, perhaps, in the matters of exterior styling, where it just lies there like a starfish. The Cruze is "fresh, clean and modern," said Mike Simcoe, executive director for Chevy design. "An expressive design with a timeless sense of style."

Now that's jargon.

-- Dan Neil

Photos: 2009 L.A. Auto Show: Production Cars
Photos: 2009 L.A. Auto Show: Concept Cars

Photos: 2009 L.A. Auto Show: Green Cars

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Photo: The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze rolls onto the stage during its unveiling at the Los Angeles International Auto Show in Los Angeles. Credit: Chevrolet