One of the best-known American car brands is heading to the UK. Next year Chevrolets will be seen on British streets in increasing numbers, but this will not mean an explosion in the Corvette population. The new vehicles will be Korean Chevrolets - Daewoos. The Korean maker is now owned by General Motors but GM does not fully control the Daewoo name, so it has decided to dump the car brand.

One of the best-known American car brands is heading to the UK. Next year Chevrolets will be seen on British streets in increasing numbers, but this will not mean an explosion in the Corvette population. The new vehicles will be Korean Chevrolets - Daewoos. The Korean maker is now owned by General Motors but GM does not fully control the Daewoo name, so it has decided to dump the car brand.

Will replacing one nameplate with another succeed? Will Europeans take to the American brand? General Motors is confident. The historic failure of American brands in Europe was because the wrong products were offered, according to Andy Carroll, the GM executive tasked with establishing Chevrolet in the UK, Previously GM had tried to sell American cars to Europeans without modification. Now GM will tailor products for Europe. Research suggests that Chevrolet's name recognition is high; GM claims 90 per cent brand awareness, due partly to it being the most quoted marque in song lyrics, as fans of ZZ Top and, of course, Bruce Springsteen would agree.

The product offering will involve more than just replacing the badge on the front; the existing Astra-sized Lacetti will add an estate and a sporty model. Next February, there will be a three-door Kalos, plus the new Matiz in April - the latter is based on the M3X concept shown in Paris alongside an SUV concept, the seven-seater S3X, due for production in 2006. Longer term, the Chevrolet range could include models sourced from other GM partners, including Suzuki and Subaru, in which GM has minority stakes.

GM's underlying reason for replacing Daewoo with Chevrolet is because it believes it needs an entry brand positioned below its mainstream Vauxhall/Opel brands; GM's research suggests the Chevrolet brand represents value-for-money, durability, reliability and proven technology. Intriguingly, GM also sees Chevrolet as part of a four-brand European approach, with Saab and Cadillac positioned as premium brands above Vauxhall/Opel. Saab's decline and financial problems and the European anonymity of Cadillac suggest there is some way to go before GM has a successful multi-brand line-up in Europe to match Volkswagen's stable of brands, from Skoda to Bentley.

The value-for-money brand values that Chevrolet is said to represent fit well with the kind of customers Daewoo used to attract, so GM is confident that even where Chevrolets are sold alongside Vauxhalls or Opels there will be no confusion. It also needs to win buyers from other entry brands, such as Skoda.

GM in Europe has a clear product strategy and brand message, with the potential added allure of a bit of American automotive history. GM certainly needs it to succeed as Opel/Vauxhall are losing sales and market share in a tough market. Injecting excitement and dynamism into these brands is a tricky task. General Motors needs Chevrolet to give it a real turbo boost to its flagging fortunes.

The writer is a director of AutoAnalysis
ian@autoanalysis.co.uk

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