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AVEO: Chevy Goes Econo

Chevrolet makes a run at returning to the top spot as America’s carmaker.

 As Chevrolet makes a run at returning to the top spot as America’s carmaker, it is looking at all segments of the market, including the spot that seems to be increasingly filled by Korean builders such as Kia and Hyundai: the entry-level small car. So, perhaps not surprisingly, General Motors is leveraging its global capability and is producing the newest Chevy, the 2004 Aveo, in Korea. Specifically, it is being produced by GM Daewoo Auto & Technology (GMDAT), which was established in the fall of 2002, at the Daewoo Incheon Motors plant in Bupyung, Korea. According to Margaret G. Brooks, marketing director for Aveo/Equinox, the small car market represents about 28% of new car sales in the U.S. She says that GM is hoping that Aveo will get them “north of 50,000 units per year.” (It’s worth noting that small cars are generally in two categories: entry and premium. Chevy will go after the premium market with the ‘05 Cobalt, which will be built at the GM Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant.)

Some people may recall the Geo brand that was once available in Chevrolet dealerships. Geo was created in 1989 and rolled out with model year 1991 products. There were the small car Metro (based on the Suzuki Swift), the small SUV Tracker (based on the Suzuki Vitara), and the Prizm (based on the Toyota Corolla). The first two were produced at the Suzuki-GM CAMI joint venture plant in Ingersoll, Ontario; the Prizm was produced at the Toyota-GM NUMMI joint venture plant in Freemont, California. And it should be mentioned that just as the aforementioned vehicles have fraternal twins, so too does the Aveo: the Kalos platform, which has been available in Asia and Europe. What does building the Aveo in Bupyung do for Chevy? Well, for one thing, it provides a car that has a starting price of $9,995.

2004 Aveo 5-Door
2004 Aveo 4-Door
The '04 Aveo is available in both four- and five-door configurations. It is being produced by GM Daewoo Auto & Technology.

One of the interesting aspects of the Aveo is that while there is a common notion that a car at around that price point is nothing more than an “econobox,” it not only has some reasonable amenities, but it was actually designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Italdesign studio in Turn, Italy, so at least the “box” part isn’t relevant to the car, which is available as either a four-door sedan or as a five-door (i.e., a hatch). Both body styles will be priced the same; both have the same 97.6-in. wheelbase. Also, whereas “econobox” smacks of marginal workmanship, this is not the case with the Aveo. That is, about 46% of its structural components are produced with high-strength steel to help create a solid structure. (Tailor-welded blanks are used in the production of the vehicle to put strength where needed while saving weight.) The front suspension uses MacPherson struts with offset coil springs and a stabilizer bar; the rear features a semi-independent torsion beam axle. In terms of the body sheet metal, the panel gaps are kept to 3 mm, which is certainly the sort of thing that one wouldn’t expect of a car at this price point. Under the hood there’s a 1.6-liter DOHC I-4 engine with a cast iron block and aluminum head. The 16-valve engine provides 103 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 107 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3,600 rpm. The standard transmission is a five-speed manual; the optional four-speed automatic has a “hold” feature that permits the transmission to be used as a three-speed manual. Inside, there are niche touches like faux carbon-fiber trim pieces and a variety of cup and miscellania holders.

The least expensive version of the Aveo is not designated the “base” model. Rather, it is the “Special Value” model. There are then the base (MSRP$11,690) and LS (MSRP $12,585) models, with the former adding air conditioning and floor mats; the LS goes to such things as AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio; power locks and windows; remote keyless entry; and heated sideview mirrors.