Opel and Saab to Build Future European Chevrolets
General Motors has big plans to sell a million Chevrolets annually across the whole of Europe; including Russia, and within two years, mostly by increasing local production using underutilised GM factories.
Opel’s Russelsheim plant in Germany and the Saab factory in Trollhattan, Sweden, are in the frame to build various Chevrolet models, reports say. This would take pressure off GM Daewoo’s Korean factories which are struggling to keep up with worldwide demand for its Chevrolet-badged products.
The German plant could build the Chevy Epica – a traditional four-door saloon – and Sweden is pencilled in for the replacement (and hopefully much improved) Lacetti. The Lacetti (known as the Suzuki Reno/Forenza in the US) is due to share a platform with the next generation Opel Astra.
Quite how this plan sits with Chevrolet’s position as GM’s value brand is unclear, as high-cost European factories don’t normally equate with low prices.
In 2007, Chevrolet’s almost entirely Korean-supplied range sold 167,700 units in western Europe (up 10% on 2006), and did even better in the remainder of Europe (including Russia) with a total of 284,000 units (up 51%).
This success is based more on metal-for-money rather than outstanding products. As well as the Lacetti and Epica, the ex-Daewoo models wearing the Chevy badge in Europe include the old-before-its-time Tacuma small MPV and the Matiz microcar.
The best of this Korean bunch is probably the good value, new Chevrolet Captiva SUV, also sold in slightly different form as the Opel Antara.
American Chevrolets hardly get a look in so far in Europe although small-scale sales of the HHR have just started in some markets, including Germany and Italy. Corvette is a marque in its own right here, sold half-heartedly through Cadillac’s struggling dealers, and so does not share a showroom with the Korean-built line-up.
European-made Chevolets are, however, already starting to come on stream. The old FSO factory in Poland, which used to make deeply undesirable models based on the technology of 1960s Fiats, is now producing the Aveo saloon, which is sold alongside its Korean-built Kalos hatchback brother.
The further east you go the more Chevy seems to be a success in Europe. In Russia it is now the top foreign make (Ford is second) selling 190,000 vehicles in 2007. By contrast, GM’s Opel marque shifted 66,000 units.
In Russia the Chevrolet line-up is even more of a mixed bag than further west, thanks to the GM Avtovaz joint venture with Lada, by far Russia’s most successful indigenous manufacturer.
One product unique to Russia is the Chevrolet Niva, a small SUV which is an evolution of the original Lada Niva 4X4 dating back to 1977. The Niva has a 1.7-litre engine and excellent off-road capabilities.
Other Chevrolets sold on the Russian market include the Viva, which is basically a rebadged version of the previous generation Opel Astra saloon. Budget buyers can also choose the Chevrolet Lanos, a version of the old Daewoo of the same name.
A number of other models including the Aveo, Lacetti and Tacuma are manufactured in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
For once, GM seems to have pulled off a real success story, taking a marque which was virtually unknown in Europe and making into a real contender. With future platform sharing set to improve the quality of the line-up, it looks like Chevy is here to stay on this side of the pond.
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