Today's Chevy: Un-Like a rock is betting on smaller cars like the Cruze to help get sales back on track. By Alex Taylor III, senior editor

FORTUNE -- As General Motors gets ready to file for an initial public offering later this month, its largest division, Chevrolet, has been suffering through a period of unusual turbulence. (And that's not even counting the brouhaha that erupted when a memo surfaced telling staff to stop using the nickname "Chevy" in their communications.)

The changes come as Chevrolet gets ready to launch four new passenger cars in the next two years: three all-new nameplates, one of which, the Volt, is based on revolutionary and unproven technology.

The new models will shift the profit mix at Chevy, which has been generating more than half its sales from high-margin trucks, but it will align it more closely with rising fuel prices and strict government mileage standards.

That alone would be challenging enough, but top-level changes have upset the usual order of things at Chevrolet. Four different GM marketing directors have overseen advertising in the past year, and the Chevy account has bounced among three different agencies.

Meanwhile Campbell Ewald, which had handled the Chevy account for nearly 90 years, lost it in April and was replaced by Publicis Worldwide. In less than a month, Publicis was gone, and was succeeded by Goodby Silverstein.

The agency shifts could slow Chevy's progress towards its goal of passing Ford to once again become the largest selling car brand in America. After the first six months of 2010, Ford led with sales of 858,454 cars and trucks to Chevy's 781,006. A little further back in third place was Toyota with 718,105.

"We want to get back to industry leadership," says Chevy marketing boss Jim Campbell. But, he adds, "It is going to take time."

From icons to unproven names

It's easy to forget how important Chevy is to General Motors. So far in 2010, it has accounted for more than 70% of GM's sales, and the Chevy brand now appears on vehicles sold all over the world.

But Chevy's best-known models -- the Silverado, Suburban, Camaro and Corvette -- are so iconic that, like Oprah and Madonna, they are usually referred to by a single name.

Chevy's marketing challenges begin this fall when it introduces consumers to the new Cruze compact car. Not only is the name new, but Chevy must also make a compelling argument that it is better than the unloved Cobalt, which it replaces, and much better than the Cobalt's predecessor, Cavalier.

Expect GM to sell the Cruze aggressively at first, aiming low introductory lease rates at owners of segment-leading Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas. Surprisingly, about one-quarter of compact car customers choose to lease rather than buy.

Campbell says Cruze ads will stress the theme of "More than you expect" for the car, which comes with ten airbags and OnStar telematics as standard equipment.

After Cruze comes Chevy's biggest challenge: the extended-range, battery-powered Volt. With a base price of $41,000, it will be the most expensive sedan in Chevy's showroom and will be sold in very low quantities at first.

Chevy will try to appeal to three different kinds of potential Volt customers: the economy-minded, who are attracted by the high mileage; the environmentally-conscious, who like the idea of producing low emissions; and technophiles, who dig the gadgetry.

For the 2012 model year, Chevy is launching two small cars. One is a replacement for the Korean-built subcompact Aveo. The other is even smaller -- a minicar called the Spark. It may be the smallest vehicle that GM has ever sold in the U.S.

Asked what all these new additions to Chevy's lineup will mean to its identity, Campbell said he hopes it will remain unchanged. The brand's values, he says, remain the same: authentic, approachable, capable, and economical.

Chevy's new ad agency hasn't come up with a new theme or advertising tagline yet. Previous campaigns have set some pretty high hurdles from "See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet" to "Like a rock. "

Too bad "It's the real thing" has been taken.  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Find Your Next Car
Company Price Change % Change
Apple Inc 99.02 1.99 2.05%
Facebook Inc 74.92 -0.06 -0.08%
Bank of America Corp... 15.50 -0.09 -0.58%
Dollar Tree Inc 54.87 -0.08 -0.15%
Family Dollar Stores... 75.74 15.08 24.86%
Data as of Jul 28
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,982.59 22.02 0.13%
Nasdaq 4,444.91 -4.65 -0.10%
S&P 500 1,978.91 0.57 0.03%
Treasuries 2.47 -0.02 -0.72%
Data as of 8:42am ET


General Mills said as part of effort to fight climate change it will only buy from suppliers who are cutting greenhouse gas emissions and water use. More

New annual report from U.S. government shows the long-term prognosis for Medicare has improved thanks to slower health spending, while the outlook for Social Security remains unchanged. More

Actor-founded This Bar Saves Lives had Hollywood connections, but learned Start-Up 101 the hard way. More

Steve Mason, a pastor from California, inherited more than $100,000 in student loan debt when his 27-year-old daughter died suddenly in 2009. With interest and late penalties, the debt has since ballooned to $200,000. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.