For Chevrolet, thinking big means thinking small.

Executives with the General Motors brand have developed a smaller-sized strategy heading into next week's SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

That may be considered an unorthodox tack for a brand more widely associated with its trucks and performance vehicles – especially at a four-day event that showcases aftermarket parts that augment such things. But as sales expand in small-car segments, Chevy executives want to show that the two are not mutually exclusive.

"We want to show our small side," said Jim Campbell, GM vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports.

Toward that aim, the company is bringing 39 small cars with it to Vegas, 21 of which were internally produced models. The number includes five Sparks, three Sonics, a Cruze and a Malibu. The small-car fleet represents 59 percent of Chevy's overall presence at SEMA.

Overall, sales in the small-car segment have grown 24.2 percent in 2012, according to Autodata Corp. figures. As customers have sought fuel-efficient vehicles, Chevy says its small-car sales have grown by 97 percent over the past year.

Sales of the Chevy Volt are up 319 percent year over year, the Malibu has upped sales by 4.8 percent. Those gains have helped offset declines in the Chevy Cruze, which had a sales decline of 3.7 percent through September.

The Sonic received serious attention from Chevy, and will be highly visible in Las Vegas, with the introduction of three concepts, two of which were introduced Thursday at the General Motors Heritage Center in Warren, Mich. The more high-profile Camaros and Corvettes will be unveiled next week.

The Sonic Z-Spec 1 concept, with its loud-green exterior and special exhaust system, is geared specifically toward racing enthusiasts. The Sonic Z-Spec 2.5, on the other hand, incorporates aggressive performance with an upscale twist, combining a flat-white exterior with jet-black leather and orange suede inside.

Chevy is also introducing a competition kit for racers who want to convert their street Sonics to something that can handle the track. The B-Spec Competition modifications include safety features and suspension enhancements.

The Sonic, introduced in September 2011, sold approximately 65,000 units in its first year on the market, and can take much credit for the spike in Chevy's small-car sales increase.

Other vehicles previewed Thursday included an higher-end concept model of the Cruze with high-performance brakes and a brandy-colored exterior stood out, along with two specially designed Sparks, that are designed to appeal to women, including a "Pink Out" Cancer Awareness concept that incorporates a pink ribbon.

There's a lot of unusual features, bold colors and unorthodox ideas behind the Chevy fleet headed to Vegas – some of which are still a secret – and GM's designers like that approach.

"SEMA offers us that opportunity that no other event does," said Dave Ross, GM's design manager for special builds. "We can let our hair down a little. You can see all the little things that you wouldn't see in the normal progression of an international auto show."


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