GENERAL Motors is opening up a second front on the Irish market with the arrival of a full range of Chevrolet models. Manufactured in the former Daewoo plant in Korea now owned by GM, they will be in competition with Opel's European-build models, fighting for a share of a shrinking market which this year is expected to drop to under 80,000 new car sales.
The new company is being headed by Tom McQueirns, the newly appointed country director for Chevrolet, who now has the task of introducing six new models. "The full range has never been properly launched in the Irish market," he says.
"There are currently 10 Chevrolet sales outlets here but I plan to add another 10 to 15 as soon as possible. The target will be some of the value-brand models such as Fiat, Suzuki, Kia and Hyundai," he says.
McQueirns headed Daewoo from 1998 to 2010 when it was a separate company within the Nissan/Windsor group. Chevrolet is the fastest growing mainstream brand in Europe and the initial aim would be for a 1 per cent market share here in a year.
Arriving next year is the Volt which has won the European Car of the Year and the American Car of the Year titles because it sets a new standard for electric cars. It has a battery range of up to 80 kms (50 mls) depending on terrain, road and weather conditions but it beats the distance anxiety factor by incorporating a 1.4 litre petrol generator to keep the battery pack topped up at all times.
In a brief test through the Wicklow hills with several drivers behind the wheel, an incredible 117 mpg was returned by the car's on-board computer. The manufacturer claims over 200 mpg (in ideal conditions).
The Volt is a well-kitted out car with excellent acceleration and a comfortable driving position but the sting will be in the price which is expected to be in the region of €40,000.
The line-up of models currently on sale starts with the 1-litre 68 bhp 5-speed Spark, starting at €11,995 which will be a rival to models such as the Kia Picanto.
There will be a 1.2 litre option. The Aveo, starting at €15,495, is a Ford Fiesta-sized model which comes with a 1.2 litre 86 bhp petrol engine and a 1.3 litre eco-diesel option with stop-start.
The Cruz starting at €21,495, is in the Ford Focus league. There is a 1.6 litre petrol engine but the big seller here will be the all-new 1.7 litre diesel version and next year there will be an estate model and the 4-door 2-litre diesel will get the replacement 1.7 litre engine.
Going up the range a seven-seater Orlando, (€28,995) will compete with models such as the Ford Galaxy. There is a 1.8 litre petrol engine on offer but the big seller will be the 130 bhp diesel offering while the MPV Captiva (€33,995-€45,995) has a 2.2 litre powerplant with the option of 163 bhp or 184 bhp output. The company has also introduce d a five-year warranty.