The next several years will be crucial for Chevrolet as the brand tackles some of the biggest problems it’s faced in its entire history, namely, the radical shift away from trucks and SUVs due to high fuel prices and tightening fuel economy restrictions. In response, Chevrolet is planning a raft of new model introductions with the central theme among them being smaller vehicles with correspondingly small engines.

First and foremost in capitalizing on this shift is the new Aveo compact, which will be redesigned for the 2011 model year. The future Aveo is said to have taken inspiration from either the Chevrolet Groove or the Chevrolet Trax concepts that were shown at last year’s New York Auto Show, although General Motors executives won't say which exact model was the inspiration.

Meanwhile, the recently revealed Cruze sedan will arrive in 2010 as the brand’s first truly global model. Powering the Cruze in North America will be brand new turbocharged four-cylinder lineup called the ‘Family Zero’ range. GM is planning to use its Chevrolet brand to spearhead the introduction of the new engine family, which is expected to appear in the rest of the carmaker’s brands.

The introduction of the highly anticipated Volt plug-in hybrid will take place one year later. Its powertrain will be reserved for a number of new models GM is planning, including a possible Cadillac hybrid as well as several Opel models.

Due to financial problems and tough CAFE regulations, a new Impala has been scrapped. GM was hoping to introduce a premium RWD model based on its Zeta architecture but instead the current model will soldier on for the next several years. Additionally, updates planned for the Malibu have also been cancelled due to resource constraints, reports Automotive News.

The new Camaro will enter production in February as planned, but the convertible version may be held back until the 2012 model year due to GM's financial situation. Joining the Camaro in roughly four years will be the C7 Corvette, however it’s still too early to speculate on the new model’s specs.

In other segments, Chevrolet's HHR wagon will be redesigned for 2011, and according to an insider will become much more modern in appearance than its current incarnation and may even include seven-seat capacity.

The Equinox crossover will be redesigned and re-engineered for 2010, while the scheduled makeovers for the Tahoe and Suburban have been put on hold while GM looks at downsizing them using a stretched Lambda platform. The Avalanche may also be in for a diet considering that its 2012 redesign has been put on hold.

The Trailblazer SUV is being abandoned and the Traverse crossover is designed to take over from the Trailblazer's market - even though the Traverse represents the fourth crossover based on the Lambda platform.

Chevrolet's new focus on downsizing cars and engines will hopefully prove to be a successful strategy, and the introduction of a new Aveo, as well as the Volt, should mark a turnaround for the carmaker if it can succeed in enticing customers away from its Japanese - and cross-town - rivals.