Save Chevrolet This year or next Toyota will outsell Chevy My friend Steve asked that I tell how I would have saved Oldsmobile. I didn't have the heart for it. Instead I'm going to write about saving Chevrolet, because, have no doubt, Chevrolet is sick, and only drastic action can save it. I'm talking about the car side; the trucks still are alive.

Chevy was created around World War I by Louis Chevrolet, the race driver, and by Billy Durant, who started General Motors but was thrown out by the bankers. GM bought out Chevy with stock and found that they had handed control back to Durant.

In the early 1920s, old Henry Ford fired a great production man, Charlie Knudsen. GM then hired him and gave him Chevrolet. He pounded his fist and shouted "I vant vun" in his Swedish accent, meaning he wanted to overthrow Ford and become the #1 best selling car. And he did.

And then came Ed Cole's 1955 Chevrolet with the new V-8, one of the best cars and best engines ever. And the songs, like Billy Joel's, "Keeping the Faith," with a redheaded girl in a Chev-rolet.

Now look at Chev-rolet.

Chevy Car Sales were 890,807 to 1,089,769 Ford car sales for all of last year. Toyota sold 871,274 cars. This year or next Toyota will outsell Chevy! In fact, if you count those Chevy Prizms as Toyotas - and they really are Toyotas with Chevy badges - then Toyota outsells Chevy now.

Save Chevrolet.

In 1995, Chevrolet sold 1,054,000 cars.

Save Chevrolet.

Let's look at the Chevy car lineup:

Camaro: An outdated sports coupe and convertible, outsold by Ford's Mustang 4:1. GM's answer: Shut the plant and kill Camaro. That's my prediction.

Cavalier: The dated economy sedan. No convertible, no wagon, just two and four doors and outsold by Ford's Focus among others. The replacement model looked so bad that GM will make the old Cavalier for years yet.

Impala: A big family sedan meeting with some success, but may be slipping now.

Malibu: Another family sedan, smaller than the Impala, the classic example of an absolutely sexless car.

After these come the Monte Carlo, a handsome big coupe without much punch, the Metro, a Suzuki with a Chevy badge that is being killed, the Prizm, a Toyota with a Chevy badge that I predict will be killed.

The Corvette: Corvette people love it, but the Big C isn't for the people driving SLs and SLKs and TTs and Z3s and S2000s and MR2s and Miatas. Corvette is good, but it doesn't grow sales.

All together, this is as dreary a lineup as Chevy ever offered.What to do.

First: A new head of Chevrolet. It will be a man, a veteran engineer but young, less than 45, preferably an engine designer because he is going to design some new engines for Chevy, a new 4 and a new 6. He probably won't know much about Chevy because no one at GM knows much about Chevy, anymore. But he'll know a good-looking car when he sees one. He'll have the courage of a lion and a single goal. Win. He'll carry the rank of GM vice president and Chevrolet general manager and he will have complete control over all matters Chevrolet. Let's call him Charlie.

Charlie will set up a Chevrolet design center with a design team he chooses from inside or outside GM.

Charlie will set up a Chevrolet engineering team. They will engineer the cars and design engines, and Chevy engines will be stamped CHEVROLET, and so will the paychecks of everyone on Team Chevy.

Charlie will designate Chevrolet plants, but the actual transfer of production facilities will be phased in over four years. The aim is to turn Chevrolet into a powerful autonomous company within GM. Financial controls will continue to be centralized under the corporation, but operations will be decentralized under the Chevrolet banner. Sure, it's back to the future.

Now, what to do.

Charlie will have his own ideas, of course, but I suggest:

Cavalier: Design a new car with the flavor of the PT, the handling of the Focus, the smoothness and quality of Civic and an all-new 4. Chevy can do its own platform, not use that European junk.

Malibu/Impala: We junk the small one and build just one family car - cutting the price but doubling sales. Our motto. Beat Taurus.

In both lines we offer front-wheel drive, station wagons and convertibles. And the two-door Impala has a new V-8.

We develop a second two-seater to sell for less than $20,000 and a wild looking small SUV.

And no Toyota carries a Chevy badge. And anyone that says "brand marketing" is transferred to Olds-mobile, instantly.

Save Chevrolet Now.