The Chevrolet SS arrived at Chevrolet dealerships all over America last week. Did you notice?
A quick trip to www.chevrolet.com reveals no mention of the brand’s flagship sedan anywhere on the three-page main page slideshow. Bizarrely, it doesn’t even appear under the “Cars” dropdown — I had to click on “Performance” to find it, where its starting price of only seven grand less than a real, live, honest-to-God C7 Corvette is regrettably highlighted.
Chevrolet had a massive, massive ad buy this weekend on both CBS and Fox during the NFL schedule. Surely the SS was featured there, right? Nope — it was all about the Black Friday sale on Cruzes, Malibus, Equinoxes, and Traverses. Nary an SS to be found.
As a former Pontiac G8 GT owner, I saw a few “OMG ITS HERE” SS showroom photos popping up on the G8 owners’ Facebook groups to which I still subscribe. The car looks no better in the showroom than it did in the original press photos, sadly. If anything, it looks worse. The SS is even less visually impressive when compared to its new stablemate, the 2014 Impala. One pities the poor Chevy salesman who has to try to explain the MSRP on the window to the customer his sales manager has insisted he try to upsell to the certain Showroom Poison known as the SS.
“I like this one-how much is it?”
“It starts at right around $44,000, sir.”
“FORTY-FOUR FREAKING THOUSAND DOLLARS?? FOR A CHEVY??”
“Yes, but it has a V8 and—“
“FOR THAT MUCH MONEY I COULD HAVE A CADILLAC! ARE YOU INSANE??”
*The salesperson tries very hard not to look at the CTS further down the Chevy-Buick-Cadillac-GMC showroom*
“Sir, this is a performance sedan.”
“Is that right? Is that why I can’t even order it with a manual transmission?”
“Uhh… how about we finish up the paperwork on that Impala, sir?”
Unfortunately, GM appears to have learned absolutely, positively nothing since the launch of their last gussied-up Holden Commodore. The G8 GT had a cool, Spy Hunter-themed ad and a great tagline: the most powerful car under $30,000. The main thrust of the SS ad campaign appears to have been putting the incredibly un-memorable name of the car on the grille of Jimmie Johnson’s car — keeping in mind, of course, that according to NASCAR, only 15% of NASCAR fans earn more than $100,000 per year. Not exactly the best audience for a car that runs about half a hundo.
The G8 GXP, at least, had a reputation as a killer performance sedan. So, naturally, GM mated the SS’s LS3 to an automatic transmission that makes the SS slower in every way than the GXP was, not even cracking the five-second zero-to-sixty barrier in most tests. Combine unimpressive performance digits with rental-car looks and you’ve got a floorplan anchor for any Chevy dealer unlucky enough to have one allocated to him.
All of this would be bad enough if the competition had been standing still since 2009 when the last G8 GXP was sold. They haven’t been. The main antagonist, Dodge’s SRT-8 Charger, now stuffs a 6.4 liter Hemi under the hood of a much more visually compelling package, whomping out 470 horsepower and screaming from zero-to-sixty nearly a full second faster than the SS. Extend that distance to a quarter mile, and the SS fares no better — 13.5 for the SS versus 12.6 for the Charger. It’s hard to see anybody but a true Bowtie fanatic opting for the SS over the SRT.
What does the future hold for the big GM Performance sedan? Take a quick look on third-party classified sites, where dealers are already advertising prices three to four thousand dollars beneath MSRP for a car that was just released last week. Compare that to another new for 2014 model, the Mercedes-Benz CLA, which dealers can’t keep on the lot at MSRP and above. Apples to oranges, yes, but just look at the difference in the advertising strategy. Super Bowl ads, Kate Upton, Willem Dafoe for the baby-baby Merc. For the Big Chevy? Nada.
I’d love to have the chance to have a candid, off-the-record conversation with somebody, hell, anybody at GM about what the thought process was behind the SS. Are they just trying to spread out the Commodore R&D budget? Is this some empty suit’s crusade? Why has there been NO advertising push behind this car? Are they so afraid to fail on a grand scale that they’ve decided to do the automotive equivalent of a direct-to-video release?
Believe me, as a former G8 owner, I want this car to succeed. Apparently, I want it to succeed even more than GM does. Unfortunately, I don’t have too much to say about the matter. When the biggest Bowtie sedan disappears from showrooms at the beginning of the 2015 model year, I doubt anyone will even notice.