A new Chevrolet to be built at the General Motors Lordstown Assembly Plant in Ohio, from 2004, replacing the Cavalier, will be called Cobalt, Associated Press (AP) reported.

AP said the name wasn’t a surprise because car dealers were shown a prototype of the car at an event in California a few weeks ago. But Chevrolet had withheld the name until Tuesday, when it announced it to employees at the plant, the report added, noting also that the 22-year-old Cavalier name is being retired.

The nameplate was also used for a time on the other side of the Atlantic on similar-sized Vauxhall models sold by GM’s UK unit. The name was replaced with Vectra in 1995.

AP said the Cobalt is due out in autumn 2004 as a 2005 model and, to prepare, GM is spending more than $US550 million to renovate and upgrade the Lordstown assembly plant and adjacent fabrication plant.

AP added that GM hasn’t announced whether it will build a Pontiac at the northeast Ohio plant, as it does now with [the Cavalier-based Sunfire derivative].

According to Associated Press, cobalt is a metallic element used in alloys to make cutting tools, jet engines and high-strength magnets.

The report, citing company spokeswoman Carolyn Normandin, said Chevrolet market studies showed that young potential customers associated the name with power, strength and dependability.

AP said Chevrolet also released a sketch of the car to employees while Normandin said the car will be shown in public later this year, though a date hasn’t been set.

Associated Press said Chevrolet is calling the Cobalt a premium small car that will compete against the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.

Normandin said the Cobalt will be aimed at buyers who want the size and efficiency of a small car but with more upscale features and styling. Pricing hasn’t been announced, the AP report added.

Chevrolet has released this sketch of the 2004 Cobalt