In hopes of escaping Chevrolet’s recent past as what he calls a “truck funded, Midwestern and Southern” business, GM’s Mark Reuss is leading a revamp of Chevy’s Southern California retail environment in order to establish a stronger presence in that key market. Now that Chevy offers higher-quality, more-efficient cars that can compete in the SoCal market, Reuss and company say it’s time to focus on the retail experience. The GM North American boss tells the LA Times
We are really going to have a go at California. This is not some half-baked plan. We will be putting a serious amount of money into this.
Serious money is good… but money alone won’t change the culture of a car dealer that’s always played second fiddle to import brands. So, how will GM tackle cultural shortcomings at its SoCal dealerships? Let’s just say that, for all the apparent seriousness with which this issue is being tackled, GM has come up with a Mickey Mouse plan… literally.
The LAT reports
Chevrolet dealers and their sales staffs are headed for classes at the Anaheim theme park and elsewhere designed to turn fast-talking car salesmen into personable Prince Charmings.
They will learn such rules as a prince or princess never smokes in public. That takes the magic out of the Magic Kingdom. They will also learn that sometimes it’s better to be a little bit like Dopey. The silent dwarf doesn’t have to say anything to make people feel good. When it comes to purchasing cars, customers remember less about what the sales staff said than they do about the experience they had at the dealership.
“Disney has created a culture where they talk about how they are always on stage with their customer. Sometimes we take the customer for granted,” said Alan Batey, Chevrolet’s vice president of sales and service.
The Disney training will teach dealership employees how to interact with customers and to do dozens of small things that Batey hopes will create repeat business.
Niceties such as washing a car when it comes in for routine service and placing a bottle of cold water in the cup holder when the owner takes back the vehicle can help change consumers’ perceptions of the car business, Batey said.
Don’t smoke in front of customers and give out bottled water? Let’s hope the Disney training isn’t taking up much of the $500,000-$1.5m that GM is giving 100-odd Californian Chevy stores. Especially when much of the consumer bias against American-brand cars has to do with a lingering reputation for poor quality rather than poor dealership experience. And although GM clearly wants to kick-start the Chevrolet brand that now represents the core of its global business, overcoming decades worth of poor reputation doesn’t get solved with advice from fairy godmothers or from hiding cigarette-smoking dealer staff. Rebuilding Chevrolet brand allegiance in the fickle, fashion-forward Southern Californian market is going to be a generational challenge.