Chevrolet is a growing power in the European car market. Last year it registered 14,381 cars in the UK, this year it’s heading towards 20,000 and in 2008 to 24,000 cars, that’s close to the magic milestone of one per cent of the market.
A bigger expansion comes in 2009 when Chevrolet is heading for “comfortably over 30,000”, according to the company's genial managing director Rory Harvey. Knowing what’s in the product pipeline up to 2012, it’s not impossible to imagine two per cent market share and 50,000 sales.
The key to this continued sales growth is a new product pipeline chock-full of new metal. After this week’s launch of the Captiva soft-roader, the next significant launch is next March, when the Aveo supermini will go on sale. A re-skin of the Daewoo-era Kalos, it will be much more competitive against affordable hatches from the likes of Kia and Hyundai, partly thanks to its first diesel engine.
Essentially a stop-gap, the first Aveo will keep Chevrolet competitive until the all-new Aveo arrives in late 2010. The all-new one is a make-or-break car, not least because its platform – the global Gamma underpinnings in GM-speak – will be developed in Korea for use by any GM brand that wants to sell a 4.0-metre hatchback or saloon. And that includes Vauxhall and Opel in Europe, Chevrolet in the US/South America/China, Holden in Australia and maybe Saturn, too. So no pressure then.
A new Matiz is on the way for late 2008 or early 2009. This will grow in length and width close to the Kia Picanto, whose platform footprint is dictated by Korean city-car tax rules. And thanks to global sales volume of around 260,000 cars a year, the new Matiz is understood to be a go-it-alone Korean developed platform, not linked to a GM global platform.
Almost simultaneously comes a new Lacetti, although the name is likely to be new, too – possibly Ultra, after the Paris show concept. Two years ago GM-Daewoo Auto Technology – the official name for GM’s Korean outpost – was mulling whether to reskin today’s Lacetti or join GM’s global Delta platform architecture.
Autocar understands that it's decided to join the global Delta, and that means the new Focus-rival will be technically more competent and its platform more flexible, smoothing the way for a five-door, five-seat MAV – or multi-activity vehicle – version, close in concept to Ford’s C-Max.
While these models are essentially better-quality replacements for existing models, the long-term plan for Chevrolet is to add more diesel engines and transmission options and also enter new market segments.
For example, a re-skinned version of the Captiva soft-roader, previewed in the T2X concept, is heading for production around 2010 and a small, sporty coupé is pencilled-in for around 2012.
So much will these new models, variants and engines boost Chevrolet’s product offering that they will double the exposure of the manufacturer’s models in the European market.
Today it reckons to be competing in market segments worth 5.9m of the 21m European market. In 2012 that’s forecast to double to 11.8m of a 22.3m market.
Not bad for a brand that didn't exist in Europe a couple of years ago. Who knows? Junking the Daewoo brand may turn out to be the smartest thing General Motors ever did.