Chevrolet is the value leader division of General Motors, offering a complete range of cars and trucks. Despite some quality issues in the last couple of decades, it remains one of the best-selling brands in North America, and 2011 represents their 100th anniversary.
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The Chevrolet Motor Car Company was founded in 1911 by Louis Chevrolet and William C “Billy” Durant. Their first car was the Classic Six that entered production a year later. In 1914, After Louis Chevrolet left the company, Durant created what has become the brand’s logo ever since: the bowtie.
Chevy’s answer to the Ford Model T appeared in 1915 as the 490, which was also its price tag. By 1917, the brand’s sales were reaching the 125,000-unit mark. That same year, they introduced their first V8 engine, but only for two years, as they were concentrating their efforts on 4-cylinder engines. The next Chevy V8 appeared only 36 years later.
After WWI, two important milestones occurred in 1918; Chevrolet was purchased by General Motors, and the brand starting producing its first truck. In 1920, Durant departed the company, and GM established Chevrolet as their value-leading division. Sales skyrocketed to 480,000 units in 1923 with the introduction of the Superior. In 1927 and 1928, Chevrolet enjoyed their first years as America’s best-selling brand with 1 million annual sales, a title they mostly held from 1930 up until 1985.
In 1931, Chevy introduced the Roadster for $475, the lowest-priced car in company history, and in 1935, the Carryall Suburban was launched. At this time, Chevy’s six-cylinder engines were as powerful but more fuel-efficient as Ford’s V8s. In 1940, the 25-millionth vehicle produced by GM was a Chevrolet.
After a four-year hiatus during WWII, when Chevy was building military vehicles, civilian cars and trucks were back in production. In 1950, Chevrolet introduced the Powerglide, the first automatic transmission in a low-priced car. That same year, 2.1 million Chevys were produced. And during that decade, classic model nameplates were born, including the Bel Air, the Impala as well as the Corvette, built with a fibreglass body. The small-block V8 appeared in 1955, while air conditioning and 4-wheel drive pickups arrived in 1958.
The ‘60s saw the introduction of a few more well-known models such as the controversial, air-cooled and rear-engined Corvair, the Malibu, the Nova, the Chevelle, the Corvette Sting Ray, the Chevy Van, the Camaro and the 4-wheel drive Blazer. The performance SS moniker was starting to spread within the product line-up.
As the energy crisis rose in the 1970s, GM started to develop smaller vehicles with smaller engines such as the Vega, the Chevette and the Citation alongside models like the Monte Carlo and downsized Caprice. Meanwhile, Chevrolet vehicle sales exceeded 3 million units, more than any other brand.
Succeeding the Citation as the brand’s bestselling car, the Cavalier was introduced with a variety of body styles and trims. GM then started swinging deals with import manufacturers and selling rebadged cars, such as the Sprint (via Suzuki) and a new Nova (joint venture with Toyota). On the truck side of things, the S-10 was launched, the Tracker arrived (via Suzuki), the Astro appeared to rival the Chrysler minivans and the C/K full-size pickups were redesigned.
The year 1990 marked the intro of the Lumina sedan and APV minivan, but the big news was the Corvette ZR-1, packing 375 horsepower from its V8 developed in conjunction with Lotus. Airbags were slowly integrated in the brand’s products, and other new vehicles in the ‘90s included the Caprice wagon, the Impala SS, the 4-door Blazer, the Tahoe, the Venture (replacing the Lumina Van) and the Express (replacing the Van). Chevrolet also picked up the Metro and the U.S.-only Prizm from the abandoned Geo brand.
The decade following the year 2000 brought its share of new products in the Chevy line-up. The Aveo replaced the Metro, the Cobalt replaced the Cavalier and the Colorado replaced the S-10, while a downsized version of the Impala replaced the Lumina. The Caprice was retired while the Equinox SUV, HHR wagon and Avalanche pickup were launched.
Current cars and trucks include the subcompact Sonic, the compact Cruze, the HHR and Orlando wagons, the mid-size Malibu, the full-size Impala, the Camaro and Corvette sports cars, the Colorado and Silverado pickups, the Equinox, Traverse, Tahoe and Suburban crossovers and SUVs as well as the Volt extended-range hybrid vehicle. Today, the Chevrolet brand still represents the value leader division within the General Motors company.
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