Christmas get-togethers across North America were ruined when we reported, last December, that the manual transmission would soon leave the Chevrolet Cruze stable. That sad bit of information came by way of VIN decoder documents submitted to the NHTSA by General Motors for the 2019 model year.

For now, the stick shift lives, both in gasoline- and diesel-powered Cruzes. However, an update to the 2018 VIN document suggests an early arrival for the continuously variable transmission.

The only change to this year's doc is the addition of a "Chevrolet Cruze (CVT)" to the vehicle line category, joining L, LS, LT, Premier, and Diesel trim levels in both manual and automatic guise.

While a CVT would help drivers wring extra fuel economy out of the model's 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder in the absence of a stick shift, it wouldn't do anything to help the diesel model. That model loses the six-speed manual next year, docs show, leaving only a nine-speed automatic that sinks highway fuel economy from 52 mpg to a far less appealing 45 mpg.

The CVT's belated appearance in the 2018 doc points to a mid-year introduction of the tranny, though the extent of its availability remains a mystery. Another mystery is the supplier. In 2016, Dan Nicholson, GM's vice president of global propulsion systems, said the automaker was "fairly bullish" on CVTs for front-drive vehicles up to a certain weight limit, with future CVTs potentially manufactured in-house or though a partnership with Ford. GM tapped Nissan-owned Jatco for the CVT in its Chevrolet Spark.

There's also a CVT found in the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid.

U.S. Cruze sales peaked in 2014 with 273,060 vehicles sold, sinking each year since. Last year, as the model's Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant weathered a series of shutdowns designed to tame a bloated inventory, some 184,751 Cruze sedans and hatches found American buyers. Sales over the first two months of 2018 reveal a 32.8 percent drop from the same period in 2017.

Lordstown's plant manager, Rick Demuynck, claims the automaker remains committed to the model.

H/T to Bozi Tatarevic!

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