GM Launches Chevy Cruze in U.S.

General Motors said the Cruze is its best-selling car -- even before its U.S. introduction.
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DETROIT (

TheStreet

) -- Today is a big day for

General Motors

, which is formally introducing the Chevy Cruze, a made-in-the-USA compact that will start at $16,995.

A formal launch is scheduled for today at the GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, where the car will be produced and where the dignitaries will include Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, United Auto Workers leaders and other government officials.

Television advertising began Tuesday, with ads that feature the familiar voice of actor Tim Allen, star of TV show

Home Improvement

and the

Toy Story

movies. Allen is a Detroit area native and owns an extensive car collection.

In the ads, Allen doesn't hesitate to talk about other cars. In one, reading a letter with the heading "Dear Corolla," he teases

Toyota

(TM) - Get Report

because "our interior raises the small-car bar" and because it comes equipped with the Bluetooth cell phone technology, which is included on some Corolla models and optional on others. A small distinction? Evidently, not too small.

In another, Allen notes that critics have compared the car to Lexus and Cadillac. "So much for the new kid fitting in with the rest of the class," he says.

GM has positioned the Cruze as a compact with good fuel-economy and more standard equipment that competitive cars such as the Corolla, the

Honda

Civic and the

Ford

(F) - Get Report

Focus. "We set out to redefine the compact segment by offering customers more of the features they want for less money than comparably equipped competitive models," said Margaret Brooks, Chevrolet Small Car marketing director, in a prepared statement.

Even before U.S. sales begin, Cruze is the top-selling Chevrolet car in the world. Customers have purchased more than 165,000 year-to-date. Since the car's introduction in 2008, more than 392,000 have been sold including

Daewoo

and

Holden

variants.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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Ted Reed