In Fear Fear of Toyota Takeover, Gm Ups Chevy Output Abroad

By: Mike Bartley

General Motors Corp. is increasing production of Chevrolet cars for India and Russia markets as the automaker tries to retain a lead over the Toyota Motor Corp., which is predicted to pass it as the world's largest automaker this year.

Chevrolet is the top selling and most popular GM brand. It is also the largest brand of the automaker with a current offering of over 20 vehicles and other enhanced versions in its home market. Chevrolet offerings include a wide range of vehicles that covers subcompact cars to commercial trucks. The hot selling models of the Chevrolet brand are the Impala and the Silverado. The latter is the second best-selling pickup truck in the United States.

"Chevrolet cars based on Korean designs helped the automaker pass 2 million units for the first time in Europe and 1 million in Latin America last year," said GM Vice Chairman Bob. "Since 2001, Chevy sales have increased 158 percent outside North America, making it one of the fastest-growing brands in the world."

As part of Wagoner's plan to boost sales and maintain the standing of GM, growth should also be realized in Russia, India and China. The plan is focused on improving sales in 11 emerging-market countries. Since Wagoner took over GM in 2000, the company has risen to first from second in those mentioned countries, which also include Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Poland and Turkey.

According to John Middlebrook, the company's head of global marketing, "GM's share in emerging markets rose 0.4 percent to 10.9 percent last year, Volkswagen AG was second at 9.3 percent, followed by Toyota at 7.7 percent and Hyundai Motor Co. and its Kia Motors Corp. subsidiary at a combined 5.2 percent."

"While Chevrolet might not be as recognized globally as Ford or Volkswagen, it is probably the strongest brand in GM's portfolio," said John Casesa, the managing partner of Casesa Strategic Advisors LLC. "Right now GM has a first-mover advantage in emerging markets and I'm not so pessimistic that I think it's inevitable that they lose to Toyota." Wagoner added that he is not ready to concede that Toyota will overtake GM this year.

Separately, Toyota earlier announced its intention to build Highlanders in the Mississippi new plant. The production of the Highlander in the territory is scheduled to start by the year 2010. The new plant will be employing 2, 000 team members.

Toyota, in conjunction with the government of Mississippi, has chosen a 1,700-acre site in Blue Springs, Mississippi to build its eighth North American vehicle assembly plant. Toyota manufacturing executive Vice Presidents, Gary Convis and Ray Tanguay, joined Governor Governor Haley Barbour at the announcement to help deliver the good news to local citizens.

Governor Barbour said, "We in Mississippi and especially North Mississippi are excited to have been chosen by Toyota as its partner. Toyota is the world's premiere auto manufacturer and our state will be the best partner the company has."

Convis addressed Toyota's challenge in balancing rapid growth while maintaining the company's superior quality standards in building vehicles. The automaker is famed for its sophisticated technology and cutting edge auto parts that include and engines. "We are excited for the opportunity to do business in Mississippi and are confident the team members here will have a commitment to perform at the highest possible level," he said. "Governor Barbour and the regional economic development team were very convincing and unrelenting in their efforts to showcase the area's advantages," Convis said, while acknowledging that competition among several states for the new plant was tough.

Tanguay also pointed out several factors that led to Toyota's site selection decision. "On my visits to Northern Mississippi, I have talked with area companies and observed their workforce," said Tanguay. "What I observed were people who are educated, ethical and friendly with a strong work ethic - a perfect match for the Toyota Way." He added that the area's existing companies had high praise for the workforce. "They were definitely the best sales people."

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