Will Chevrolet's rise be Opel's fall?
NEW LAUNCH: CHEVROLETWith its summer 2012 launch, Chevrolet is hoping to bed in before the ‘January rush’ – but, asks NEIL BRISCOE, will this new Opel-by-another-name sound the death knell for its older GM sibling?
YOU WOULD THINK that the summer of 2012, when the Irish car market is on its knees and the average Irish consumer is reluctant enough to spend what little spare cash they have left, would simply not be the right time to launch a new car brand. Chevrolet is not exactly new, coming to Ireland in 2004 as a re-constituted Daewoo, following General Motors’ buyout of one of Korea’s few industrial failures.
When the changeover first happened, those of us expecting automotive Americana were disappointed. While Chevrolet was off developing and launching new models globally, the brand stagnated in Ireland.
All of which means that, arriving this summer with the Spark city car, the Aveo supermini, the Cruze hatchback and saloon, the Orlando MPV and the updated Captiva SUV, Chevrolet is effectively an all-new brand with an all-new model line up. And you’d have to wonder about the sense of trying to get apathetic Irish car buyers interested in such things at a time when even established players such as Citroën, Mazda and Fiat are having a tough enough time getting people interested in their products.
Yet Chevrolet’s country director Thomas McQueirns reckons that the timing is actually ideal, giving the brand time to bed in, ahead of the January sales.
“I suppose what we were doing was taking over from the previous independent importer and we’re taking the time to establish our dealer network and start bringing in the new Chevrolet models. Some of these models would be very new to the Irish market, and so we’re building towards 2013, building our network, getting dealers on board and ramping up the training and all of that. So it’s a good time actually to start setting up, to get ready for January.”
All well and good, but it does assume that there will be a sales rush in January, which – with the flat-lining economy, looming vehicle registration tax and motor tax changes and the spectre (real or otherwise) of the feared 2013 plate – is far from guaranteed.
Chevrolet needs to convince buyers to walk past established budget-minded brands such as Hyundai, Kia and Skoda and invest in an all-American hero. How exactly is that going to happen?
“I think one of the things that we have in Ireland is that there’s an understanding of what Chevrolet is,” says McQuierns.
“It’s been in the Irish psyche for many years; people know the brand. The fact that the cars are coming in with very good pricing, very good specification and a five-year warranty will help that.