The offensive is being led by Captiva, the brand’s first SUV and the first diesel-powered vehicle to enter the Chevrolet range. It will be launched on June 24.
Managing director Rory Harvey says dealers can expect diesel engines to be included in almost all Chevrolet’s model line-ups by 2012, except for its A-segment replacement for the Matiz.
Lack of diesel availability has been an obstacle for Chevrolet, as has variable product quality due to its reliance on re-badged Daewoo cars. Quality has improved with Captiva, the first GM-designed model since it acquired Daewoo in 2001.
Harvey expects quality improvements to continue with six more launches due by 2010, which include a D-segment family saloon and an MPV.
“These new models will give us the ability to compete in more than 50% of the UK market. That’s a big uplift in opportunity. With our product range up to now we’ve only been able to compete in 20% of the market,” said Harvey. “We do see an opportunity in fleet business moving forward for growth, but the greatest proportion of our business will be in retail.”
One task facing Chevrolet is raising brand awareness. In its own research, although most consumers recognised the name, only 28% were aware that it sells cars in the UK. The average age of its customers is 50, but Harvey expects this to lower.
The carmaker is targeting the 35-44 age group with young children in particular, for which the Captiva’s seven-seat variants are ideal. Its strategy is for the next models to appeal to existing and younger buyers.
“Our challenge is to get consumers to associate the brand with small European cars designed for the European market,” added Harvey.
“Chevrolet stands for value for money, that’s its global positioning. Cars that are designed to do the job, that are stylish, durable and have good standard specification and offer excellent value for money.”
There are five regional marketing managers who will work with retailers on promoting their dealerships and the Chevrolet brand to customers. Harvey wants the retailers to be ‘local heroes’ who take the cars out for consumers “to touch and feel”.
Harvey forecasts a 50% increase in Chevrolet UK’s sales this year over the 14,380 units of 2006. Registrations from the start of 2007 to the end of May were up by 18% to 7,121 units.
In comparison, key rivals Kia and Hyundai were down 27% and 21% respectively, although they still outsold Chevrolet by a ratio of 3:2.
Harvey’s target means Chevrolet will require about 12,500 registrations to come from the remaining seven months. He does not rule out pushing cars into the market, but says dealers and promotions are working hard.
He quickly adds that interest in the Captiva means its 2,000 unit launch-year target is achievable. The retail network stands at 93 sites at present, which Harvey wants to increase to 100 by the end of the year.
He describes the Chevrolet network as very stable, adding that only two dealers have handed in their notice of termination.
Around 60% of Chevrolet dealerships are dual franchised which they share with Vauxhall or Saab, GM’s other brands.
#AM_ART_SPLIT# Captiva: on safari at a park near you soon
The marketing strategy for Captiva is firmly centred on the family, Captiva product manager Karen Tilney told AM.
The car’s June 24 launch will coincide with the start of a two-week TV campaign which will focus on its space, versatility and value. This will be repeated in late July. Captiva will also be previewed before the Transformers film, released to cinema that month, which features a number of GM vehicles.
Chevrolet is also in the final stages of sealing a deal with five of the UK’s largest safari parks, which will see visitors offered the opportunity to drive a Captiva through the park rather than use their own vehicles. This promotion will continue from August 4 to the end of the school summer holidays.
Tilney said: “Families will be driving slowly in the Captiva through the parks so they are effectively a captive audience, they’ll be discovering the car’s features and pressing all the buttons. We think it will be a pleasant surprise for them to see the quality of the product.
“It’s about brand presence and getting bums on seats. Until people experience the cars it is difficult to sell to them because they are not aware of the brand as a mainstream car range.”
Retailers near the parks will be encouraged to get involved too and raise awareness of their own business. Chevrolet relaunched its consumer website last month. It includes a microsite for Captiva, which has a forum for buyers to chat with the carmaker’s team.