100 Years of Chevrolet South Africa

  • The final episode of an eight-part series of monthly newsletters celebrating the heritage, acknowledging the achievements and looking into the future of Chevrolet

Into 2001 and Chevrolet introduced an SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) in the shape of the Borrego. The Silverado HD (Heavy Duty) truck was launched and almost immediately became Motor Trend magazine’s Truck of the Year.

Chevrolet 2011

The following year, the Truck of the year title went to the newly-introduced Avalanche. The TrailBlazer also appeared in five- and seven-seat configuration and earned the title of North American Truck of the Year. The 4,2-litre engine’s innovative features included a lost-foam casting process and double-overhead-cams with variable exhaust valve timing. All-wheel drive was an option.

A Bel Air concept was revealed but the Camaro was phased out. A 50th Anniversary Edition Corvette paced the Indy 500.

Meanwhile, GM re-entered South Africa with its buy-out of the Delta Motor Corporation and the Chevrolet name returned on the Lumina, a rebadged Holden Commodore.

The retro-styled SSR pick-up based on the long-wheelbase TrailBlazer EXT’s platform and featuring a steel retractable hardtop was introduced in 2003 and was used to pace the Indy 500. GM joined with the US Department of Energy as lead sponsors of ‘Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility’, a four-year university engineering competition in which students were challenged to re-engineer a Chevrolet Equinox to minimise its fuel consumption, and emissions without diminishing its utility and performance. Brent Dewar became the company’s next general manager. In South Africa, the entry-level GM-Daewoo-built Aveo made its début.

The Aveo is launched in America in 2004. An all-new Malibu was introduced in the US while the Cobalt replaced the Cavalier. The Nomad concept, based on the Kappa floorpan, was shown. A Corvette paced the Indy 500 for a record sixth time, driven by famous actor Morgan Freeman. A hybrid Silverado – boasting a 12 per cent fuel saving over comparable pick-ups – is delivered to Miami-Dade County during the 10th National Clean Cities Conference. The hybrid goes on general sale as a 2005 model. The Optra joins the South African line-up.

Desert Storm General Colin Powell paced the Indy 500 in a C6 Corvette and Ed Peper became the new head of Chevrolet in a relatively quiet 2005. The following year was much busier with the introduction of the HHR and an all-new Impala. A Camaro concept, with styling cues reminiscent of the original car, was shown at the North American International Auto Show and soon after it was announced that the car would go into production. At the same show, the Sequel concept was revealed, said to be the “most technologically advanced vehicle yet built by the industry”. The lightweight aluminium structured vehicle featured a hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system, lithium-ion batteries and steer-by-wire and brake-by-wire controls. GM also announced that 100-plus Equinox fuel cell vehicles would be placed with customers across the country as part of ‘Project Driveway’ marketing test. Cycling star Lance Armstrong paced the Indy 500 in a Corvette Z06. The Spark is introduced to South Africa.

At the end of 2006 the second-generation Silverado was launched as a 2007 model. The vehicle was completely redesigned – exterior, interior, running gear and power hikes for some engines. Better aerodynamics and tighter panel gaps were said to help fuel economy. Unsurprisingly perhaps, it won Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year award. The Chevrolet Volt was revealed as an advanced technology concept car. Apart from the use of high-tech materials, it featured an innovative rechargeable electric drive system and could be configured to run either on electricity, petrol, E85 or biodiesel. Three minicar concepts aimed at young urbanites were shown at the New York Auto Show – the Beat, the Groove and the Trax. Actor Patrick Dempsey paced the Indy 500 in a Corvette Z06 convertible and a Camaro appeared as Autobot Bumblebee in the movie Transformers. The Captiva SUV was launched in South Africa.

A totally new take on the Malibu name appeared at the 2008 North American International Auto Show. Racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi paced the Indy 500 in a Corvette Z06 E85. At the year-end SEMA trade show, a number of customised Camaros appeared including the Black, GS Racecar, LS7 and the Dale Earnhardt Jr concepts.

The following year the Cruze was launched as Chevrolet’s first global compact car – it arrived in South Africa at the same time – and since going on sale in Europe has become the largest-selling Chevrolet nameplate in the world. An all-new Spark – a small car designed to make a big statement – made its world début at the Geneva Salon. A Corvette Stingray concept was revealed at the Chicago Auto Show and went on to play the part of Sideswipe in the second Transformers movie. A Camaro SS paced the Indy 500 to herald its public launch…… and repeated that role at the Brickyard in 2010. A New Snail passenger car was launched in China as part of a Sino-foreign joint venture and established itself with a best-in-class fuel economy. Plans were revealed to introduce the car into other emerging markets – South America, North Africa and the Middle East. The Corvette’s 50th anniversary was celebrated by the factory cars racing at Le Mans. Motor sport success was achieved in the World Touring Car Championship with Chevrolet winning the manufacturers’ championship – the first for Chevrolet in an FIA sanctioned series – and driver Yvan Muller the drivers’ title. Jim Campbell was promoted to head of the company.

And so to 2011, Chevrolet’s centenary year. The Volt went into production and won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award. Two dozen dealerships introduced a solar powered Green Zone initiative to generate electricity equivalent to 12 full vehicle charges per day with any excess electricity created supplementing the dealership’s power needs. Each charging station generates enough electricity for up to 4 500 charges per vehicle annually. The Silverado HD won the magazine’s Truck of the Year title. The Cruze was introduced into North America as the Camaro clearly established itself as America’s best-selling muscle car: an SS convertible paced the Indy 500. New versions of the Malibu and Colorado will go on sale later in the year. In South Africa, the seven-seater Orlando MPV was launched and an announcement was made that the all-new Sonic would be introduced to replace the Aveo on the local market before year-end.

By midyear, Chevrolet had sold 2,35 million vehicles globally (a 14 per cent increase over the same period in 2010), the best half-year performance in the company’s 100-year history. In addition, Chevrolet set record first-half sales in many countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Turkey and South Africa, where year-to-date volume was 35,7 per cent up on the first seven months of 2010, and market share up by 1,8 per cent.

In America, the company began a 100-day celebration countdown to the actual anniversary date of November 3 by setting up a website – Chevy100.com – in which owners and fans could participate in a number of activities. “Founded in the United States by a Swiss émigré, Chevrolet was created with a global focus,” said Joel Ewanick, GM global chief marketing officer. “One hundred years later Chevrolet has sold more than 200 million cars and trucks around the world and Louis Chevrolet’s roots continue to shape our company, and enable us to offer great products and service to customers in more than 120 countries. We will continue to work at bringing new customers to the Chevy family – no matter where they live.”