Special Coverage

Frankfurt Auto Show

FRANKFURT – Chevrolet has room for growth in Europe, but to realize that goal the division’s brand-awareness must improve, a top executive says.

“In many Western European markets where we have to grow share, we’ve got 4%-5% awareness and 1% consideration,” Wayne Brannon, president of Chevrolet Europe, tells WardsAuto on the sidelines of the Frankfurt auto show here.

“I tell dealers and my people, ‘We’re selling half a million cars in Europe and nobody knows about us,’” he adds. “That’s why I think there’s a lot of upside.”

Marketing efforts are under way, and the upcoming introduction of the Chevy Malibu D-car should make a dent. But Brannon primarily is counting on smaller cars to help boost the brand’s overall market share in Europe, which currently stands at about 2.5%, he says.

Expectations for the Malibu are somewhat modest, Brannon says. “There are not huge aspirations for Malibu because the (midsize) segment here is not so big and is dominated by the premium brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes. And we’re not trying to compete against them.”

In recent years, Chevrolet’s success in Europe has fluctuated with the market. The brand launched here in 2005 with its legacy portfolio of products, which Brannon describes as the “old regime” pre-bankruptcy lineup.

In its first year, Chevrolet sold 240,000 vehicles in Europe, a tally that jumped to 506,000 by 2008. But deliveries dropped to 477,000 once the global economic downturn hit the region, although the marque managed to maintain its share.

While sales have plummeted in harder-hit markets such as Greece and Italy, where deliveries have tumbled 46% and 20%, respectively, the brand is proving remarkably resilient in other countries, Brannon says.

Sales in Germany and France continue to grow well, he says, noting deliveries in Turkey have jumped 58%. Overall, Chevrolet Europe sales were up 9% through August, in what is arguably a volatile market.

“We had sales and market-share records in a lot of countries this year, so there are still pockets where we can see the growth coming in,” Brannon says, citing Poland and Austria, as well as France and Turkey.

With the addition of the Malibu and Cruze, he says Chevrolet now is playing in 25% of European segments, a key to its strategic growth plans, and will be in 50% of the segments.

Additionally, in five to six years, once the regional economy stabilizes, Brannon expects Chevrolet to double its sales in Europe. “We’ve doubled the business since 2004, and I think we have the chance again.”

bpope@wardsauto.com