ALDIE, VA – The Chevrolet Aveo subcompact will be available in a few key markets by the end of December, says Margaret Brooks, marketing manager for Aveo and Equinox.

Chevrolet Aveo on sale in December.

Dealers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento will be the first to offer the entry-level Aveo for sale. The car then will go on sale in a few more West Coast markets before becoming available on the East Coast. It won't be on sale nationally until late January, she says.

Chevrolet has limited production orders to 10 combinations initially. Those include the 2- or 5-door special-value model; the 4- or 5-door base model with automatic or manual transmission; and the LS 4- or 5-door models with manual or automatic transmissions. Brooks says prices will range from $9,995 to $14,000. She expects the average transaction price to range between $12,000-$13,000.

Chevrolet will make money on the South Korean-built car, says Brooks. "We're not in this business to lose money. We have not designed this as a loss leader."

But she admits Chevrolet badly needs an entry-level car to introduce new buyers to the brand. "The Aveo has the potential to deliver the customers for life that (General Motors Corp.) is looking for," she says.

The Aveo has a role in the Chevrolet portfolio, she insists. And dealers are clamoring for a car to compete with the Toyota Echo, Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio. "They want to sell a fresh brand and they realize how strategically important this vehicle is.

"We're very competitive with all these vehicles," she says.

The Aveo is more refined and roomier than its competitors, even featuring keyless entry as standard on the top-of-the-line LS model. Brooks claims the Aveo has the high-quality materials and features consumers use to assess a purchase.

"This is not a Le Mans or Geo," she says, referring to past non-GM-made, Chevy-branded, entry-level cars that lacked such features and generally lagged in the marketplace.

The Aveo is made by GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co. Ltd. at the former Daewoo Motors’ Bupyong factory. It will offer the standard Chevrolet 3-year, 36,000-mile (60,000-km) warranty rather than the 10-year powertrain warranty offered by Korean competitors Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. and Kia Motors Corp.

"There was quite a bit of discussion on warranty (within Chevrolet)," Brooks says. "But we decided that we're Chevrolet and we're going to do what we think is good for our brand," she says. "Why does the Aveo need a different warranty than other Chevys?"

Brooks sees the Aveo as a vehicle suited for urban areas, and it is targeted at strong small-car markets. "The best opportunities tend to be in larger cities," she says. "New York dealers are really hungry to get the Aveo."

General Motors Acceptance Corp. (GMAC) is a big advantage for Chevrolet dealers in getting customers qualified for credit, she claims.

Chevrolet forecasts at least 50,000 Aveo sales in its first full calendar year. There were 170,000 units sold in the segment in 2002, which is down about 20% so far this year. Brooks says Chevrolet is aiming for 25%-30% of the segment. "We think this is a reasonable target."

She also is in final pre-production planning for the introduction of the Equinox entry-level cross/utility vehicle next spring. Brooks says this is at least a 100,000-unit product for Chevrolet to compete with the Ford Escape, Jeep Liberty, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe. "We will be right in the hunt with those other vehicles in the comfort area," she says.

The Equinox will be built at the CAMI Automotive Inc. joint venture plant with Suzuki Motor Corp. in Ingersoll, Ont., Canada, and will be the first North American GM vehicle to have a Chinese-built 3.4L V-6.

"It happens to be sourced from China because of a lack of capacity in other engine plants,” says Brooks, pointing out that the 3.4L V-6 uses the same architecture as the engine in the Pontiac Aztec. A smaller variant of this engine is used in the Buick Regal program in Shanghai, China.

Brooks says the segment is more than 1.1 million units – somewhere north of 7% of the light-vehicle market. She forecasts the Equinox will appeal to a broad customer base across the age spectrum.

With a 3,500-lb. (1,588-kg) towing capacity, the Equinox will be able to tow jet skis and snowmobiles, she says. A buyer can install three child car seats in back and still have room for cargo. And with a rear seat that slides back, toddlers can be placed where they can't kick the backs of seats.

The Equinox replaces the smaller Tracker SUV that now is in its final build-out phase. Brooks expects Chevrolet to sell somewhere in the mid-30,000 range of the ’03 Tracker this year.