CHICAGO – Chevrolet, General Motors Co.’s volume leader, will be counted on even more heavily by the slimmed-down auto maker, a top executive says.

With GM shedding its Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer brands, more volume will have to come from Chevrolet if the auto maker is to hang on to U.S. market share.

“Traditionally, Chevy accounted for 50% of the sales for GM,” says Brent Dewar, vice president-Chevrolet brand. “In the new world, it will have to carry 60% to 70%.”

Dewar says profitability will come, even as Chevrolet rolls out a raft of small vehicles – the Cruze replacement for the Cobalt, Orlando multipurpose vehicle and Spark minicar – that historically have suffered from low margins in the U.S.

“As we come out with more small vehicles, people will learn that small doesn't have to mean cheap, less equipment or low profit,” he says. “We've gotten our cost in line so the small-car market doesn't have to be low-content vehicles.

“Cruze isn't going to be a lower-content Cobalt. It's not (so much) that (the) Cruze will have high content as it will have appropriate content to make money.”

Beyond that Chevrolet will focus on “youth and (the) eco culture,” Dewar says, “and we'll do that with (the) Cruze, Spark, Orlando and Volt over the next few years.”

Although he doesn’t elaborate, he says Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, who oversees product development and marketing, has talked with him about “additions to the lineup beyond that.”

Dewar insists Chevrolet can attract eco-minded buyers even though it offers a 600-plus hp Corvette ZR1.

“Do we have performance cars that excite people? Yes,” he says. “Are those cars outside the realm of some of our customers? Absolutely.

“But you don't have to turn off the eco crowd with performance, just like you don't have to turn off women buyers by talking to men. What you need is relevant products.”