INCHEON, Korea -- General Motors will unveil a design look for all Chevrolets, including North American nameplates, at the Frankfurt motor show in September.
It seems odd to debut a design theme for the Chevrolet brand at a European show. But GM intends to make Chevrolet the company's mass-market brand worldwide. Chevrolets are to be sold from Boston to Bonn to Beijing - and engineered and designed, in many cases, in Korea.
"Most of the product development for Chevy is going to happen either here or in North America," says David Lyon, executive director of Asia Pacific Design at GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co. here.
GM Daewoo builds the Chevrolet Aveo sold in North America. It also builds cars to be sold as Chevrolets in China, India and Europe. Lyon heads the design studios, including one in Australia, that will style those vehicles.
Those cars have little in common with Chevrolet's full-sized SUVs and other trucks. "In the past, Chevy has not had the consistent look that it should have," Lyon says. "Occasionally, we'd take a vehicle and put a Chevy bow tie on it and that would be a Chevy." No more.
Chevrolet's SS concept, introduced at the 2003 Detroit auto show, has some of the design cues that are part of the new Chevy look.
"We don't want to have a global Chevy and a North American Chevy. Really, we can get to one Chevy," Lyon says. "We've been working on what is that look. It's been a collaborative North America-GM Daewoo project," led by Ed Welburn, GM's head of global design.
Photos of the new look are not available. Lyon describes the front-end styling cues as having "a little bit of a truck influence." A large grille opening has no metallic grillwork visible. About one-third of the way from the top of the opening, a horizontal bar extends across, bearing the Chevrolet bow-tie logo. The logo can vary in size depending on the vehicle.
Previously, Chevrolet has used a similar horizontal bar across a large chrome grille. But the bar got lost amid the metallic look of the grille, and the logo was difficult to see.
"You've got to be able to read it. On some trucks, the bow tie gets so big that it actually starts to crawl into the open area of the grille," Lyon says. "That's cool. Big logos - man, I love 'em. Can't be too big for me."
The look also uses "very powerful, separate fender forms," Lyon says.
Some of those design cues were seen on the Chevrolet SS concept car. That was a large, rear-drive V-8 performance car shown at the 2003 Detroit auto show. GM recently decided to tap its themes for all Chevrolets.
The new styling theme was approved in November. In early December, GM tested it successfully with focus groups in North America, Europe, China and Korea. Next summer, GM is expected to hold a forum to introduce the look to company insiders, dealers and select media, as it did for Saturn's new look last year.
No cookie cutter
The styling cues have been approved by Robert Lutz, GM vice chairman for product development. Global marketing executive John Middlebrook is preparing marketing plans to support the look.
Lyon sees some risk in trying to find a consistent look for such a broad lineup. The design cues will be kept to a minimum, he says.
"There's a little bit of history to this. You don't want to mess from scratch with one of the oldest names in the business. We're not interested in being in the business of retro, either," Lyon says.
"I can't stress enough that these aren't Russian dolls or cookie cutters or that you're not going to see this exact same look the same way for 20 years," he says.
"We want to avoid 'Here's the Chevy rulebook. Now you have to put all these things in whether it works on the car or not,' " Lyon says. "If we impose too many rules, studios don't have any flexibility to do what's right."
You may e-mail James B. Treece at [email protected]