Chevy's Branding Sucks
When I get press releases, there's always an "about whatever manufacturer" paragraph at the bottom. Normally I don't read it; it's just marketing hyperbole. But today, Chevy's 'claimer" caught my eye. "With the largest dealer network in the United States, Chevy is the leader in full-size trucks and the leader in sales of vehicles priced $35,000 and above. Chevrolet delivers more-than-expected value in every vehicle category, offering cars and trucks priced from $9,995 to $83,175." Huh? Why's the Bow Tie brand– GM's supposed entry-level, value-oriented division– bragging that they sell the most vehicles in the "$35k and above" category? With the median new car price hovering around $27K, that's a whole lot of high-priced rides the "value division" is selling. Yes, much of what Chevy sells at the $35k and up price point are trucks and SUVs. But the fact that the spinmeisters view Chevy's $73k price span as a virtue reveals the depths of GM's non-existent branding strategy.
I think that the point is this: Regardless of what the price-span's are, Chevy chose to HIGHLIGHT the fact that they sell more "expensive" vehicles than anyone else. Toyota et al don't highlight useless (not to say, confusing) data like that. That is the point of this news segment, is it not? Branding screwed up? Absolutely. Maybe Chevy should court Mr. Farley next...once Dearborn is done with him... Brands to me (who they "say they are"): Toyota: Quality Transportation Appliances Chevy: Value GM (compete on price, bowtie) Pontiac: Sporty GM (wind up competing on price) Buick: Full size GM (wind up competing on price) Cadillac: Top shelf for GM Ford: Value Vehicles(compete on price, blue oval) Mercury: Rebadged Ford's Lincoln: Top shelf for Ford Honda: Technology, Quality, Reliability; Do more with less Nissan: ??? The other Japanese auto manufacturer Mazda: All of our cars feel sporty, we swear! Chrysler: ??? No idea BMW: Driver's vehicles, spare no expense M-B: Luxury vehicles, spare no expense Lexus: Luxury vehicles, spare no expense Infiniti: Driver's vehicles at lower-than-BMW prices VW: German everyman's car Porsche: Sports cars, spare no expense
Mr. Farago, The central point you are trying to make - that Chevrolet lacks a coherent brand message, and that brand message is crucial in today's ultra-competitive market - is correct. The problem is that you are focusing on the price spread between the cheapest and most expensive Chevrolets, and that is NOT the problem. I went to the Philadelphia Auto Show, and saw Toyotas selling for over $60,000...but Toyota's image and brand identity are still intact. Why? Because Toyota is associated with reliability, good workmanship, value-for-the-money and user-friendly design, and every vehicle, from the Yaris to the new (very expensive) Land Cruiser, supports that brand image. It doesn't matter that everyone who can afford a brand-new vehicle can buy a Yaris, while only the wealthy can afford a Land Cruiser. All of those vehicles support the Toyota brand image. Now let's look at Chevy...the full-size trucks SUVs are widely respected for their capabilities and durability. But the Colorado looks as if it were designed to be built as cheaply as possible, and it performs that way, too. The mid-size SUVs and Equinox are nothing special, either. Among passenger cars, Chevy has the bottom-feeder Aveo and Cobalt, small cars designed to make you regret you didn't have more money to spend on a car. Then we get to the Malibu, which is competitive with the class leaders, but the next rung on the ladder is occupied by the Impala, an old-school GM vehicle, a mediocre car that sells to fleet customers and those looking for rebates. The Corvette is world-class, but the only thing it shares with the rest of the Chevrolet lineup is showroom space...the days when anyone could say that there is a little bit of Corvette in every Chevrolet are long gone. Chevrolet features a lineup of cars, trucks and SUVs with widely varying quality levels and design philosophies, not to mention rankings against class rivals. Even worse, aside from the Silverado, Tahoe/Suburban and Corvette, most of us would be hard-pressed to name any area where those vehicles excel. The idea put forward by other posters that Chevrolet doesn't push aside other GM brands misses the point...the original philosophy behind Alfred Sloan's stairstep divisional structure was that each brand occupied a specific market slot, and the more expensive brands were superior to those on the lower rungs. If Chevrolets are selling for the same prices (or more) as Buicks or Pontiacs, then how can GM claim that those brands are "better"...which begs the next question, "Why do those brands exist?". As usual, Pch101 nails it: The heart of the problem is that the Sloan system of multiple brands distinguished largely by price and trim levels stopped working decades ago, and GM has been negligent in failing to address this proactively. It’s not such a bad thing that Chevy sells $35,000+ SUV’s; what’s an issue is that most of the other badges do, too. The problem here isn't that Chevrolet sells lots of $30,000+ vehicles...the problem is that this highlights the obsolescence of GM's brand structure, and the need for GM to jettison Buick and Pontiac, which have outlived their usefulness.
as a public relations and marketing professional, I'm horrified by this and am perpetual amazement at how these things make it to the light of day. Its no wonder foreign manufacturers are drinking the domestics' milkshake!
The PR is a mistake especially when they put in the actual figures. Chevy is still entry level. A $80k Corvette is a entry bargain vs. a $200k Ferrari 599. Colbolt vs Civic, Impala vs Accord, Silverado vs Tundra, etc.. they are still entry level vs the competition. Chevy PR people screwed up.