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Chevrolet will sail with America3's all-female crew next year as part of the automaker's effort to attract more women and upscale buyers.

The General Motors Corp. division also sponsored the America3 boat when Bill Koch skippered it to victory in the 1992 America's Cup race. This time, Mr. Koch, the chairman-CEO of the America3 Foundation, is generating publicity with his all-woman crew.

Women buy half of all new vehicles and influence 80% of all vehicle buying decisions, said Steve McAvoy, Chevrolet's manager-passenger car marketing. Those numbers make the sponsorship a natural fit for Chevrolet, he said.

The deal with America3 (that's "3" as in "cubed") also illustrates that the kind of upscale audience attracted to sailing has become more important to Chevrolet. That's largely due to the growing popularity of sport-utility vehicles, many priced at more than $25,000.

Chevrolet will introduce a redesigned Blazer compact sport-utility late this summer, and next spring will bring out the Tahoe, a full-size sport-utility.

As part of the sponsorship, Chevrolet will get signage on the boat's mast and at the race site. The first series of races will be held January through March 1995 in San Diego.

Other sponsors include Lifetime television, Citizen Watch Co. of America and Columbia Sportswear.

Chevrolet's sister GM division Cadillac is a sponsor of yachtsman Dennis Conner's effort to regain the America's Cup, just as it was in 1992 when Chevy and Cadillac sponsored competing boats. The divisions were careful that time to ensure their promotional efforts didn't conflict.

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