Sunday, March 11, 2007

Toyota-wary GM ups Chevy output abroad

Friday, March 09, 2007
Toyota-wary GM ups Chevy output abroad
Jeff Green / Bloomberg News

GENEVA -- General Motors Corp. is increasing production of Chevrolet cars in markets such as India and Russia as it tries to retain a lead over Toyota Motor Corp., which may pass it as the world's largest automaker this year.

Chevrolet cars based on Korean designs helped the automaker pass 2 million units for the first time in Europe and 1 million in Latin America last year, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told reporters this week in Geneva. Since 2001, Chevy sales have increased 158 percent outside North America, making it one of the fastest-growing brands in the world, he said.

Growth in Russia, India and China is part of GM Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner's plan to focus on boosting sales in 11 emerging-market countries. Since Wagoner took over GM in 2000, GM has risen to first from second in those countries, which also include Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Poland and Turkey.

"While Chevrolet might not be as recognized globally as Ford or Volkswagen, it is probably the strongest brand in GM's portfolio," said John Casesa, managing partner of Casesa Strategic Advisors LLC. "Right now GM has a first-mover advantage in emerging markets and I'm not so pessimistic that I think it's inevitable that they lose to Toyota."

GM's share in emerging markets rose 0.4 percent to 10.9 percent last year, according to John Middlebrook, head of global marketing. Volkswagen AG was second at 9.3 percent, he said, followed by Toyota at 7.7 percent and Hyundai Motor Co. and its Kia Motors Corp. subsidiary at a combined 5.2 percent.

Wagoner said this week that he isn't ready to concede that Toyota will overtake GM this year.

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