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GM to Fashion Chevrolet as Environment Leader, Taking on Toyota

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GM to Fashion Chevrolet as Environment Leader, Taking on Toyota

By Greg Bensinger and Jeff Green

c.2007 Bloomberg News

Nov. 1, 2007 11:52 AM

Nov. 1 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Corp. wants to make Chevrolet, its largest brand, an environmental leader as the U.S. automaker invests in fuel-saving systems in a challenge to Toyota Motor Corp.

GM will use hybrids, fuel cells, more efficient gasoline engines and other technologies to vie for mileage and environmental bragging rights against competitors such as Toyota in each U.S. market segment, Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told reporters this week in Memphis, Tennessee.

"There is no environmental technology that will be untouched by Chevrolet," said Lutz, who was introducing a redesigned Malibu sedan in Memphis. Details of the effort will be announced at the Los Angeles Auto Show in two weeks, he said.

The Chevrolet initiative follows Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner's pledge at last year's Los Angeles show that the Detroit-based automaker would use some of the billions of dollars saved by closing plants and cutting labor costs to pay for new technology and narrow a decade-old environmental image gap with Toyota. GM is trying to hold off the Toyota City, Japan-based company and maintain its rank as the world's largest automaker.

GM on July 5 started a Fuel Solutions advertising campaign that uses the slogan "gas-friendly to gas-free" and was created by Interpublic Group of Cos.'s Campbell Ewald unit.

"This campaign has been really quite effective," said Wes Brown, an analyst at Los Angeles-based market researcher Iceology Inc. "They have been able to convince people that they are trying to change their image, and people are paying attention."

Plug-In Hybrid

GM, with the Chevrolet Volt car, is racing against Toyota to develop the first hybrid model that recharges at an electrical outlet. GM has also begun rolling out 100 prototype Chevy Equinox sport-utility vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Chevrolet vehicles such as the Silverado large pickup truck and Corvette sports car already lead their segments in fuel economy, GM spokesman Terry Rhadigan said.

The division is inviting reporters to drive Chevrolet models next month in San Diego as part of the Fuel Solutions campaign. That event includes a gasoline-electric Tahoe SUV; the Aveo car, GM's most fuel-efficient model at 34 miles per gallon in highway driving; an Impala sedan that uses 85 percent ethanol fuel; and prototypes of the fuel-cell Equinox and the Volt electric car.

Toyota has dominated the market for fuel-efficient vehicles, led by its gasoline-electric Prius sedan. U.S. hybrid sales rose 39 percent this year through September to 266,726 -- more than three-fourths of them Toyota cars and SUVs. GM sold 8,032 hybrids in the period.

Toyota and Honda Motor Co. already have a strong image as environment-friendly brands, which will be difficult for GM to overcome, said Bruce Vanden Bergh, an advertising professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

"Chevy is the volume brand, and you have to switch people's minds at the same time you keep selling cars," he said. "Seems like a tough one when Chevy really isn't a hip, trendy brand to begin with. Maybe they'll get lucky and catch the wave just right."



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CHevy and fashion just don't seem made for each other....

Partly because they did not build any fashionable cars for a while. The Bu is changing the terms, wait till Camaro and Volt come by, and we will see how fashionable Chevy can be.

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