TOKYO -- General Motors Co. is making another run at the finicky Japanese market with small cars, planning to put the Korea-built Chevrolet Aveo on sale here next fall.
The latest-generation Aveo, which just debuted at the Paris auto show, gets a sportier look aimed at younger buyers. GM hopes to position the subcompact as an entry model that eventually could lure Japanese customers into upmarket models such as the Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette.
"It will appeal to those looking for a sporty image, people in their 20s or 30s who love the Camaro or Corvette but can't afford those models," Sumito Ishii, managing director of GM Asia Pacific Japan, said this month.
GM soon will lack a small offering in Japan. Suzuki Motor Corp. has been supplying GM with a rebadged version of its Solio. But production of the car, called the Chevrolet MW, ended this year after Suzuki formed a capital alliance with Volkswagen AG.
Chevrolet MW loyalists may turn to the Aveo as their replacement, Ishii said. That should add traffic in GM showrooms because the MW was sold through Suzuki channels.
Ishii declined to give a Japanese sales target for the Aveo. But he said it could account for a quarter of GM's volume in the Land of the Rising Sun.
GM expects Japan sales to remain flat this year at around 1,000. But strip out brands that the automaker has shed, such as Hummer and Saab, and sales of the remaining nameplates actually have increased, Ishii said.
Sales are seen climbing in 2011 on the introduction of new models.
The Cadillac SRX crossover and CTS coupe arrive here in December. GM also aims to bring a new SUV to Japan next year to replace the discontinued Chevrolet TrailBlazer.
The Detroit automaker has had mixed results with small cars in Japan -- from a combination of imports, including Opels and Saturns, to Japan-built vehicles from Suzuki.
GM now sees itself mainly as a niche player in a market where buyers associate U.S. brands with muscle cars, hulking SUVs or luxury models.
The Aveo was developed by GM's South Korean affiliate, GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co.