While it once went under the slogan ”Heartbeat of America,” Chevrolet (NYSE:GM) is hoping to widen the stage and become the heartbeat of 140 countries, America included.
“When you go back in time and look at when we were at our best, it was when Chevrolet had products that moved people’s minds and connected to them on an emotional basis,” said Alan Batey, who is expected this week to be named Chevrolet brand chief worldwide. ”They were cars for the people and cars for families, and we are moving back to that.” Batey is now hoping that Chevy can have the same appeal in countries such as Brazil, Russia, and China that the brand enjoys in the States.
Of the 9.3 million global vehicle sales in 2012, worth about $152.26 billion, about 70 percent carried the Chevy bowtie on the grill. However, market share decline has forced GM to serious re-examine the Chevrolet brand, and put more energy and resources into its reinvigoration. Chevy’s share is now tracking at a historic low in the U.S., where it fell to 12.8 percent in May — down from 14 percent six years ago.
In addition to expanding its availability, CEO Dan Akerson wants to push a more broad selection of vehicles through the Chevy nameplate, from low-cost compact cars to family sedans and work trucks.
“This is the year both Chevy and GM need to increase their market share,” said Tom Libby, an analyst with R.L. Polk & Co. “If they aren’t going to do it when they have a huge product blitz, then when?”
Batey said he wants to unify the brand’s strategy. “We used to operate regionally with each country or local area doing their own thing,” he noted, adding “That’s over. From now on we will operate as one.”
In Europe, Chevrolet is actually up against another GM powerhouse, Opel. GM’s German unit plans to introduce 23 new and redesigned cars and 13 engines over the next five years. Susan Docherty, the GM executive in charge of Chevrolet and Cadillac operations in Europe (who is stepping down in September), says the European Chevrolets offer fewer features than Opels, and aim at a less affluent consumer.
“Our market research indicates that there is very limited interaction between prospects and customers interested in Opel and those interested in Chevrolet,” she said.
By the year’s end, GM is aiming to have 600 Chevy outlets in China, up from 200 that it operated in 2008. This goes alongside GM’s plan to add about 15 dealerships annually to the 165 now operating in Russia.
“We are on track again,” Batey said, referring to Chevrolet. “Now we are back, packing cars with technology and other features [that the shoppers] want, which is pushing up the transaction prices.”
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