When General Motors decided to sell GM Daewoo cars as Chevrolets, should they have gone one step further and changed the model names as well?


It’s the sort of question that gets debated into the small hours and Rory Harvey, managing director of Chevrolet UK, has at least a partial answer. “It was a judgement call,” he said.


The entry-level Matiz was, and still is just, Chevrolet’s best seller in the UK. It is almost a brand in its own right.


“The Matiz name has a lot of equity,” said Harvey. “There is even a Matiz owners’ club. We decided not to change the Daewoo names, but as new models are introduced, so will new names.”


Chevrolet will launch six new models by 2010, the first in early 2008. “At the moment, our range covers only 20% of the total market; the new models mean we will be represented in 50% of the market.”


Harvey is approaching 20 years at GM. He joined Vauxhall in 1989 then had an after-sales posting with GM in the Middle East before returning to GM Europe as brand manager for light commercial vehicles and recreational vehicles.


In January 2004 he was appointed sales director for Chevrolet in the UK and became managing director a year ago.


He is pleased with progress so far. Chevrolet competes in what Harvey calls “the value sector” – up against KIA, Hyundai and Suzuki. Sales in that sector are down 16% this year, but Chevrolet has seen sales rise by around 13%, year on year, and is aiming to be 35% ahead by the year-end.


“Interest rate rises tend to hit the value sector harder,” said Harvey.


“We sold 14,380 cars in 2006 and we forecast 19,500 for this year – I’m asking the team to push the needle so we get to 20,000.”


Part of this push is to expand the dealer network.


“We have rapidly grown our dealer network to 93 dealers and we are aiming for 100 by the end of the year – we want to get to 120 and that will give each dealer the right throughput of sales,” said Harvey.


About 60% of the Chevrolet network also sells either Vauxhalls or Saabs.


Chevrolet shares what Harvey terms “back of house” functions with the other GM UK brands at Griffin House in Luton, about an hour’s drive north of London.


This extends to using the same parts trucks for deliveries to the dealer network – another spin-off from having multi-branded dealerships.


“But everything ‘front of house’ is exclusive,” said Harvey.


One new model taking Chevrolet into new market segments is the Captiva SUV (similar to the 2008 Saturn Vue for the US).


It goes on sale here from 24 June priced from GBP16,995 to GBP24,920.


The target is 2,000 sales for the rest of 2007 and 4,000 sales in a full year, said Harvey.