LUCA CIFERRI

GM's massive missed opportunity in Europe

Luca Ciferri is Editor of Automotive News Europe.Luca Ciferri is Editor of Automotive News Europe.
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General Motors never should have dumped Daewoo in favor of Chevrolet in Europe eight years ago. At that time, Daewoo mainly sold low-tech, cheap-but-not-so-cheerful cars in central and eastern Europe. Had GM stuck with that plan it could have gone head to head against Renault’s low-cost Dacia brand. Instead, Dacia has had the low end of the market nearly to itself -- and has prospered immensely.

Prior to Chevrolet’s rebirth in Europe, GM spoke about capitalizing on the brand’s great heritage. To most Europeans, however, the only recognizable Chevrolet was the Corvette. It was puzzling to try to get people here to put the iconic muscle car in the same sentence as the Matiz minicar or Lanos compact.

As European-made Daewoos morphed into Korean-made Chevrolets the new cars offered looks, performance and standard features matching those of European volume brands such as Ford, Fiat, Citroen, Peugeot and Renault.

The problem is that they were priced at the same level as their more established European rivals.

Former Chevrolet Europe boss Susan Docherty tried to move the brand more upscale. When that flopped Chevy was supposed to move down-market to protect GM's effort to revive Opel/Vauxhall.

That would not have worked because today’s Chevys can’t be sold at prices matching Dacia without causing massive financial losses. Therefore, GM’s decision to drop the brand from Europe by the end of 2015 makes sense.

It’s too bad the company abandoned Daewoo. It could have become what Dacia is for Renault: a cash cow.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com.

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