Chevrolet and Ford have been fighting for the top domestic brand title for years. In recent history, Ford has been the king, but Chevrolet is back in the battle and gaining ground.

General Motors' bow tie division will sell 2.7 million cars and trucks in 2000, up from 2.61 million in 1999.

The division also narrowed the gap with arch-rival Ford from 5% to 4%, says Kurt Ritter, Chevrolet's marketing general manager. It was the third consecutive year that Chevrolet has shown year-to-year increases in both car and truck sales.

"As well as Chevrolet has done and will do, we know we can be better because we've been there (No. 1) before," says Mr. Ritter. "Ford is ahead, but we've slowed their growth and narrowed the gap.

"2001 has the opportunity to be a huge year for Chevrolet," Mr. Ritter continues. "We'll have many hundreds of thousands of units of new product."

In addition to its best-selling small-car Cavalier (240,000 units), Silverado pickup (650,000) and the Blazer SUV (240,000), Chevy will have a full year of production of its new heavy-duty truck as well as the all-new four-door Trailblazer SUV and the Avalanche, dubbed a UUV - "ultimate utility vehicle."

Later in the year, it'll introduce the giant pickup, Bruin, which was introduced at the SEMA aftermarket show. The Bruin will be a lower-volume product.

Mr. Ritter says Blazer will stay on "as long as the market tells us we should keep it. We'll focus on the two-door version and target it to younger buyers."

Balancing the small Cavalier on the car side is the larger Impala. "Impala has been a great success story for Chevrolet," says Mr. Ritter. "It's a high-volume, high-profit product for us and our dealers."

Other cars, such as Malibu, Corvette and Monte Carlo also are strong members of the Chevrolet stable. They will be joined in 2002 by the SSR high-performance vehicle that debuted at the last Detroit Auto Show.

"People are calling and want to join the club, and we haven't even made it yet," says Mr. Ritter of the SSR.

Chevrolet currently has more than 4,200 dealers, 2,000 of which are stand-alone stores that do 80% of the division's business. "We're not looking for any movement on the number of dealers one way or the other," he says.

Mr. Ritter says dealers can expect to see the "24/7/365" passenger car ad campaign expanded in 2001. "Like a Rock" will continue to be Chevy's truck advertising umbrella.

Toward the end of 2001, Chevrolet and Coke will be the primary sponsors for the torch run for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, UT. Dealers along the route, which has yet to be determined, will be encouraged to play key roles.

Other dealers may have an opportunity to carry the torch along part of its route. Dealer torch-bearer candidates can be nominated and will be selected based on merit.