Final Inspection

Chevrolet Taking No Prisoners in Building Global Brand Recognition

General Motors is leveraging its global operations to further promote the Chevrolet brand worldwide, and this is both good and bad news for several of its overseas units, namely Opel and Daewoo.

When GM decided to sell Opel last year, a deal which ultimately didn’t go through, it dissolved GM Europe and gave Chevrolet its own parallel organization that could compete with Opel in Europe. Since then, the Chevy brand has been on a roll worldwide.

GM is expected to announce at the Busan International Motor Show next month plans to apply the Chevy bowtie to all cars manufactured by the GM Daewoo subsidiary in South Korea. It’s not yet clear if the Korean-made cars will be rebranded all at once or be phased in on selected models.

Up to now, GM vehicles built for the domestic market there have been identified as Daewoo, while those for export have been badged Chevrolets. The main reason for the name change in Korea is to bring more appeal to younger buyers who covet owning well-known foreign brands.

GM Daewoo-made vehicles already are marketed as Chevys in more than 150 countries, so it appears to make sense.

“Because we are the only country in the world left with the Daewoo name, coupled with the fact we need to increase our domestic sales, we began looking at whether or not to change the product name from Daewoo to Chevrolet,” Jay Cooney, GMDAT vice president-corporate affairs, tells Ward’s.

Cooney doesn’t know whether adopting the Chevy brand will lead to a corporate name change as well.

Maintaining the Daewoo name has been a sensitive issue in Korea since 2000, when GM first began negotiations to buy the bankrupt auto maker. Unions worried GM would erase both the name and the heritage of Daewoo, one of several large conglomerates that dominated the country in everything from car making to ship-building and electronics.

There were fiery worker protests supporting strong national sentiment that favored keeping the Daewoo name. After several years of negotiations, GM finally bought most of Daewoo’s automotive assets and has marketed its vehicles under the brand in the local market since. That is now about to change.

Chevy also is growing in Europe, where GM is targeting the brand for 1 million sales annually by 2015. The U.S. auto maker decided to make the switch to the Chevy brand from Daewoo in the region in 2004, when Chevrolet was growing faster than its competitors including Hyundai and Kia.

Chevy remained the fourth best-selling global brand in 2009 with 3.5 million units. Of these, 425,874 were delivered in Europe, including Russia and Uzbekistan, its sixth and seventh largest markets after the U.S. Brazil, China, Canada and Mexico.

While at one time a mish-mash of vehicles from many sources, the Chevy range is starting to be the same the world over, and Germany’s Opel is starting to feel the heat, as the two have shared architectures and components in the midsize-car segment for many years.

Opel sales were down 7.8% in Western Europe in 2009, compared with Chevy, up 5.5%, according to ACEA, the region’s vehicle-manufacturers’ association.

But Wayne Brannon, president of Chevy Europe denies there is competition between the siblings, noting Chevy, priced downstream from Opel, was able to take more advantage of Europe’s scrappage incentive plans last year.

However, Chevrolet Europe is intent on gaining leverage in the marketing arena as it celebrates its 100 years in Europe in 2011, at the same time it launches the Volt electric sedan. It also will be racing the Cruze compact sedan in the World Touring Car Championship to raise awareness of the brand.

Last, and certainly not least, GM is planning an all-new family of global vehicles for emerging markets under the Chevy brand that will be designed in Brazil and built there and at GM’s Uzbekistan joint venture. Market introduction is planned for 2012 or 2013.

GM is studying the possibility of selling the cars in Mexico, South Africa and the Middle East as well. Uzbekistan currently builds – you guessed it – the Daewoo Matiz minicar, Lacetti and Nexia sedans for the local market.

Looks like no matter how you slice the pie, Chevy no longer is just an American revolution.

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