Founded in 1911, the Chevrolet brand is the top selling marque within the General Motors family and is the best-known GM nameplate. Chevrolet is virtually synonymous with General Motors.
Chevrolet was co-founded by Louis Chevrolet and William C. Durant, the former a race car driver, and the latter the founder of General Motors. Prior to creating General Motors, Durant was head of Buick and in that capacity hired Louis Chevrolet to drive his cars in motor races to promote the brand.
Durant’s tenure as the founder of GM was short lived and he found himself forced out of the company in 1910. Keen to re-establish his credibility in Detroit and in the fledgling US motor industry, Durant formed an alliance with Louis Chevrolet to found the company that would make use of Chevrolet’s designs for a new range of vehicles in 1911.
Two years later the famous Chevrolet “bowtie” was adopted as the company logo. Two theories exist as to the origins of the logo. One favours the story that it was an adaptation of a pattern featured on wallpaper seen by Durant in a French hotel, while the other suggests that the logo was a stylised adaptation of the cross on the Swiss national flag, paying homage to Louis Chevrolet’s Swiss nationality.
In 1915 Durant struck a deal with the owner of the McLaughlin Motor Car Company, involved in the production of Buick vehicles in Canada under a franchise agreement, to create the Chevrolet Motor Car Company of Canada. Three years later the Chevrolet and McLaughlin companies were purchased by General Motors and became GM Canada.
By 1916 Chevrolet was a significant force in the US automobile industry. Durant’s reputation and financial muscle in Detroit were re-established and Durant found himself in a position to be able to purchase the majority shareholding in General Motors. With the deal finalised in 1917, and Durant installed as the president of General Motors, Chevrolet was merged into GM as a separate division.
Chevrolet pioneered the small-block V8 engine in 1955, a basic engine concept that has remained in continuous production since that time, longer than any other mass-produced engine design in the global automotive industry. Today’s descendants of this ground-breaking engine share the concept but benefit from continuous advances in technology.
Aluminium cylinder blocks and heads, electronic engine management systems, and sequential fuel injection are but a few of the changes adopted over the lifespan of the engine. Depending on their application, engine capacities range from 5,3 litres to 7,0 litres with power outputs ranging from 133 kW to a mighty 370 kW. A version of this engine powers the South African Chevrolet flagship Lumina Sedan and Ute models. A 6 litre all aluminium Gen IV version of this engine delivers 270 kW of power and 530 Nm of torque for these muscle cars.
In South Africa the Chevrolet brand goes back to the 1920s and was the core brand of General Motors in South Africa from the time assembly operations started in 1926 through to 1982 when Opel was adopted as the main brand. In 2003 Chevrolet was reintroduced in South Africa with the range continually expanded to cover a wide spectrum of the market.
Today Chevrolet accounts for 56% of GMSA’s passenger vehicle sales with representation in the popular small car sector with the Spark, Aveo Sedan, and Aveo Hatchback; the Optra sedan in the compact sedan sector; in the mid-size SUV market with the Captiva, and in the niche muscle-car market with the Lumina V8. Chevrolet also fills a unique place in the pickup market with the Lumina Ute, an iconic recreational pickup.