Just a few years ago, it did not look like there would be a 100th birthday celebration for Chevrolet. It is amazing how things can change in a hurry. Chevrolet has had its share of battles over the years for sure. The battle with Ford has gone on now for 100 years, they have battled the imports, they have battled unions, and most recently battled bankruptcy.
My first car was a 1967 Chevy Malibu. I shall never forget this car with its small-block 327 V8. The small-block Chevy V8 was first built in 1955 and it is still being used today. It is the most-produced engine in automotive history.
Thinking back on Chevys built over the past 100 years, you have to think of the iconic Chevys like the Corvette, Suburban, and Camaro. There have been a fair number of failures too, top of mind being the Corvair, the Vega, and the Geo line of small cars. I chuckle when I think back on the Vega and look at the differences in it and the electric Chevy Volt of today.
Just in my lifetime, Dinah Shore invited me to “see the USA in my Chevrolet”. Bob Seger took his song Like a Rock and made it synonymous with the Chevy Silverado for 13 years, one of the longest-running campaigns of all time. For me however, of all the slogans Chevy used over the years, the “Heartbeat of America” was my all-time favorite.
Odds are, if you are 50 years old or more, you’ve probably owned a Chevy and almost certainly one of your parents did. Most of us grew up knowing that Chevy was as American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. The Chevy bow tie is one of the most recognizable logos ever.
Chevy has chased Ford for a number of years in pickup sales. The battle really heated up in the early 1970s as trucks transitioned from farm and commercial vehicles to personal use. Born was the Silverado extended cab with a shorter box, which some viewed as a real risk, but it worked out well for both Chevy and Ford Motor Company. Chevy got quite close to outselling Ford in the late 1980s in truck sales, but came up just short. Since that time they have settled comfortably into the #2 spot in truck sales, which also will earn you the title of the #2 selling vehicle overall in America.
Chevrolet was there for us after World War II, converting assembly plants from cars to items needed for our defense, primarily fighter airplane engines. Post-war in 1950, Chevy sold its 2 millionth vehicle, a couple of years later they introduced us to the Corvette, and in 1957 came out with one of the most beautiful and sought-after cars in their history, the 1957 Bel Air. In 1965, the Caprice was introduced to help slow the momentum of Ford’s red-hot LTD and later became a mainstay of police cruisers.
A lot has happened in the past 100 years. Many Chevy nameplates have come and gone. Many never thought there would be a Chevrolet after the collapse of General Motors in 2008. As a guy with many years of Ford background, Chevy was the enemy, yet one I deeply respected.
As we end 2011 in less than two months, one could make the case that this will be the best year so far for the bow tie boys. Not from the standpoint of sales, but from the standpoint of perceptions. So far this year, Chevy has the #1 and #2 selling car in America with Cruze and Malibu. Nobody ever thought Chevy could build a successful small car, but they did it.
Sales and market share for Chevy overall is up this year and they are the biggest contributor to General Motors profits of late and Chevy will be the reason General Motors will survive.
–-Jerry Reynolds, The Car Pro