By on November 22, 2010

Legendary GM CEO Alfred P. Sloan long ago came up with the formula for success in the automotive industry: a family of brands that could sell “a car for every purse and purpose.” Starting with Chevrolet, Oakland, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac (in ascending order), Sloan oversaw the expansion of GM’s brand ladder to include such intermediate steps as Pontiac, Viking, Marquette and LaSalle. And though Sloan create a dizzying (and ultimately unsustainable) stable of brands, he never changed the top and bottom rungs of the ladder: Chevrolet was always the cheapest GM car available, and Cadillac was always the most expensive. But fast forward to 2010 and, though many of Sloan’s brands are long gone, the burgeoning Chinese market has given way to the unthinkable: a GM brand that slots in below Chevrolet


Baojun, a brand of cars developed by the SAIC-GM-Wuling partnership, is hitting the market starting with this 630 sedan. And why couldn’t they sell this entry-level sedan as a Chevy? According to GM’s China boss Kevin Wale:

We carefully studied the market and customers. Quality, design, fuel economy and durability were made a focus to appeal to local car buyers, particularly first-time buyers in the nation’s second- and third-tier markets.

So GM is targeting markets in smaller cities… but this still doesn’t explain why GM wouldn’t want to improve the visibility of its global Chevrolet brand there. According to the WSJ, the answer has to do with nationalism:

The new brand was created to address growing demand for affordable passenger cars in China and is aimed at competing with the country’s home-grown auto brands including Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. and BYD

Yes, Baojun will have its own dealers, and according to at least one report will even go head-to-head with other GM products… all to further the perception that Baojuns are somehow authentically Chinese. Meanwhile, GM’s other Chinese-developed sedan, the New Sail, is just as Chinese as the Baojun but it keeps the Chevy bowtie. Why? Exports, baby. A nation of a billion souls might be a little more tolerant of a huge brand portfolio than the US has been, but it’s only a matter of time before global brands are de rigeur in the Chinese market… and where will Baojun be then? Go ask Oldsmobile, Oakland, LaSalle, Pontiac, Viking and Marquette…

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13 Comments on “Say It Ain’t Sloan: Chevy Replaced As Entry-Level GM Brand In China...”

  • avatar

    They’re doing a Saturn? Serves them right…

  • avatar

    I like the Marque. My computer always freezes whenever I open the pictures so the only one I can see with any clarity is the one with the emblem on the front.

  • avatar

    With its all-subcompact lineup, Geo was positioned below Chevy, so there is precedent. Also, China as a car market will eventually be so much larger than America ever was, I don’t think the addition of new GM brands – particularly those tailored to Chinese consumers – is necessarily a bad thing.

  • avatar

    Taking a styling cue from Kia, I see.

  • avatar

    <i>the burgeoning Chinese market has given way to the unthinkable: a GM brand that slots in below Chevrolet</i>
    Oh come on, it was right there like a big ripe apple just waiting to be picked.

  • avatar

    I don’t get the author’s premise here:  

    Saturn AND  Geo were both introduced as brands that would slot below Chevy.  

    I could understand forgetting Geo as that was a long time ago, and it didn’t last long, but Saturn only fell out of orbit when the old GM nova’d.

  • avatar

    Geo yes, it was a “satellite” of Chevy, and thus lower. Saturn originally was a GM company financially, but it was intended to exist outside the GM family marketing wise. In the early years (pre 1999) Saturn was rarely if ever on the marketing commercials with GMC/Geo-Chevrolet/Pontiac/Buick/Oldsmobile/Cadillac (and later Hummer) “GM” family. Once Saturn folded fully into the GM family upon the demise of its S-cars it was included with the GM family marketing (at that point you could see the resemblance from platform sharing and the ruse was over). After that, Saturn sat somewhere in between Pontiac and Buick, basically a “european” Oldsmobile (import fighter) in GM’s lineup.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    That’s a pretty horrid Boremobile…and who the hell would pick a brown car as their marketing car?

  • avatar

    I like the “fish hook” insignia.

    Sort of looks like the Cruze.

    Yes: I can see these being sold as Chevy’s captive import sub Aveo offering. It’s only a matter of time. Nothing holds the line or market any longer as everything must go “upscale” at some point. Re-think Saturn…… yeah… re-think “American”… okay….. “Bo-dung”: it’s Chinese for Chevrolet.

    BTW: Sloan’s idea was solid. It was the onslaught of C body sharing, the initial compacts for Olds Buick and Pontiac the “every brand must be a mini GM” philosophy that produced the quick sales and brand dilution. First combining all into GM assembly in 1965 to ward off the anti trusters law suits then the NOVA compacts of the 70s, the Monza clones, the Xs, As, Js, and right up to the very end the minivans, and the G5, Torment and G3.

    It was GM’s collective corporate brilliance that took a corporate clone interepretation of Sloan’s idea and made it unsustainable. The bean counters then made it toxic.
    Saturn is going upscale. We can charge more for all our products. They have no credibility competing upscale. Who’s going to buy into that ? Because we tell them Saturn is an upscale brand. The public won’t know any better………..

    To quote Earl Scheib: “Riiiiigggghhhtttt !!!”

  • avatar

    I’d like that better than a Cobalt.

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