Chevrolet is slowly launching the Spark subcompact in select markets across the United States, with more MTV/Viacom-derived “millenial focused” ad campaigns. But Chevrolet is being cagey, if not evasive, regarding projected sales.
GM is planning a whole slew of tie-ins with the music/entertainment network to help promote the Spark. According to the Detroit News
The Spark will be featured on MTV websites such as MTV Iggy in a promotion involving new music and emerging artists, Landy said. The company will use Facebook, other MTV sites and social platforms to bring people to MTV Iggy for the promotion.”
A couple things jump out here
1) What the hell is MTV Iggy? I’m apparently the target market for this car (young, urban etc.) and I have never heard of it. A quick search reveals that it’s a platform to introduce American listeners to music from around the globe. When One Direction and Katy Perry are topping the charts, the zeitgeist may not be sophisticated enough to support Canto-pop or bailie funk, and the people interested in those genres would not ever want to be associated with the MTV brand.
2) Facebook? What happened to GM and Facebook breaking up? And what kind of efficacy is there with respect to Facebook marketing? Past explorations have yielded a consistent answer – not much.
The least promising sign of the whole project is GM’s refusal to release any kind of sales projections for the Spark. Despite GM’s assertion that “…we are very confident this Spark will be very popular”, they’re not willing to make any kind of prediction. The Detroit News quotes a Kelly Blue Book analyst projecting between 500 to 1,000 sales per month – for a company like GM, that’s a rounding error. The Spark is destined to languish in Smart ForTwo territory.
The only two customers profiled in the Spark story are 30 and 51 years old respectively. 30 is pushing it for a Millennial. 51 might as well be the parent of one. The 51-year-old, a former Ford employee who was laid off a couple of years ago, simply wanted a cheap to car commute with, while the 30-year-old wanted to ditch his V8 Cadillac.
The Spark is going to be a tough sell ; a Sonic or even a Honda Civic is only a few thousand dollars more, gets better EPA numbers and offers a lot more space, power and content (though they don’t have the Spark’s cool touch screen infotainment system). Second, Americans have a historic aversion to small cars, and the A-segment Spark is about as palatable to them as a Jewish King is to Saudi Arabians.
Furthermore, the millennial demographic that Chevrolet is targeting is not going to go for this car. The key concept for anyone targeting this group is aspirational. Job prospects may be bleak, living at home after college may be common but constant viewing of Sex and the City and Entourage (depending on your gender), along with the excesses of the past decade has helped Generation Why get acclimated to frivolity and luxury. Some people are secure enough to just go and buy a Cruze; that doesn’t mean that the “used 3-Series” crowd has died off.
Hyundai gets this instinctively (and Ford is starting to pick up on it as well). Whether it’s an Elantra, a Sonata or a Genesis, their products look like something that costs more than it should. The average consumer will have no shame in declaring their desire for a Hyundai because it “looks like a Benz”. We’ve explored how Chevrolet can capitalize on this, with something like a Cruze-based coupe that could be an S5 at a distance. Unfortunately, nothing says “poverty” like a tiny hatchback painted in a HI-LITER shade.
So who is going to buy the Spark? If past experiments like the Honda Element and Scion xB1 are anything to go by, they will likely be similar to the initial customers; older folks, secure with their station in life, who just want frugal, practical transportation. There’s nothing wrong with that; perhaps there’s even something honorable in that pursuit. The problem is that Generation Y (myself included) are too stupid to realize that, and all we want to do is impress our friends and whatever sex we are attracted to.
My one unanswered question remains; why does GM insist on paying significant sums of money to a bunch of charlatans for lame ad campaigns that blatantly pander to the most cynical, hard-to-reach consumers of all…and for a vehicle that may sell 12,000 units per year, based on optimistic projections?