Chevrolet turned 100 years old in 2011. If it were a human being, it would be plum worn out, and wearing its pants too high.
But it’s an automaker, so turning 100 is just a milestone to ponder. And ponder we did, when Chevrolet recently invited us to a Detroit media event designed to showcase the brand’s history and future.
Of course the brand’s history is rooted in American soil. The first Chevrolet was built in 1911 in a rented garage near downtown Detroit. No one objected back in the 1970s, when GM ran a patriotic marketing campaign, with a jingle that sang about “baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.”
The brand’s future, however, will be written in places like China, Brazil, Korea, India, Russia, and Uzbekistan. I am not even sure where Uzbekistan is, but they recently started to buy a lot of Chevys. Only four other countries in the world buy more Chevrolets than Uzbekistan — United States, Brazil, China, and Canada.
Like all car companies, General Motors knows that future sales growth will be easier to come by in the emerging markets, where people are suddenly able to afford new vehicles, and want them in the worst way. This is contrast to the U.S. and Europe, mature markets where consumers are already fully “vehicled.”
Following its much publicized restructuring, GM shrunk to four brands: Cadillac, GMC, Buick, and Chevrolet. Of those, it decreed that Cadillac and Chevrolet would be the “global” brands. As such, Chevrolet, with its more broad-based appeal than Cadillac, will do the lion’s share of GM’s global agenda. But up until about 2005, every region of the world built and designed their own Chevys. For example, prior to the Cruze, Chevrolet had three different Chevrolets around the world with Cruze-like dimensions. Now there is just one, the Cruze. GM reckons it’s better to have one great vehicle, than three average ones.
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Another recent move to further global growth, is giving Chevrolet a uniform, clear and identifiable look, wherever it is sold around the world. In this way, Chevrolet vehicles will be more interchangeable between markets. A perfect example is the Chevrolet Orlando; it was conceived by GM’s Korean division for Far East consumption, but GM Canada thought it would be a great fit for Canada, and now it’s here.
Always a great fit for Canada is any car with 580 horsepower, like the Camaro LZ1.
The convertible version of the LZ1 will debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show next month, but GM allowed scribes attending the Centennial to view the new ragtop where it was created — right in the kitchen of GM Design, the coolest part of the sprawling GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan.
It seems to wear its tight pants just right — proving that Chevrolet is entirely capable of its new dual mission; keeping traditional flames burning, and exploring new markets.