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Chevrolet plans to rival Vauxhall for European volume

Chevrolet could be as big as Vauxhall in Europe, believes GM Europe sales and marketing vice-president Jonathan Browning.

Browning has said trebling last year's European sales of 450,000 is a realistic ambition.

“I believe Chevrolet could sell up to 1.5 million cars in Europe in the medium term,” Browning said on the eve of the Geneva Motor Show. He's not putting a timeframe on the target, only to say it could be achieved “within five-to-ten years”.

Growth for the Chevrolet brand would be driven by the booming central and eastern European market, where Chevrolet, as a low-cost brand, has a strong appeal. Bizarrely, the iconic American brand has found favour in Russia, now the largest European market for Chevrolet – largely thanks to the 55,000 Chevrolet Niva SUVs built in GM's joint venture with Russian manufacturer AvtoVAZ.

Lada-maker AvtoVAZ last week finalised its new joint-venture with Renault, but Browning said this deal would not spell the end of the seven-year-old GM venture. “I don't see any reason to do anything different,” he said.

Chevrolet achieved a 7% stake of the fast-growing Russian market last year – way ahead of its European average of around 1%. A range of Chevrolet and Opel models will be built in Russia from late 2008 when a new CKD assembly plant near St Petersburg comes on line.

In the UK, Chevrolet's sales of 20,000 units are still short of the peak days of Daewoo, which achieved 1.5% of the UK market in the late 1990s, though Browning said he was satisfied with progress since the 2006 rebranding exercise.

Meanwhile, he said GM was “in it for the long haul” with regard to US luxury brand Cadillac's European presence. Around 4,500 Cadillacs were sold in Europe last year, and Browning believes the new CTS saloon offers “a big step forward” for the brand. “It's more in line with what European customers want in terms of dynamics, interiors and craftsmanship,” he said.

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