By on August 7, 2008

I know which one I\'d prefer... (courtesy's a Letter to the Editor in the current issue of Automotive News that encapsulates everything that's wrong with the North American automotive industry. It's even the letter of the week, boxed and highlighted in GM taupe, given special prominence and headlined “Why won't consumers buy Detroit cars?” The letter is from a third-generation Canadian Chevy dealer, a guy whose family has been selling GM vehicles for nearly 90 years. You'd 'a thunk he'd learned the basics during that almost-a-century. But no. “Our small car, the Chevrolet Aveo, fell 19.7 percent in U. S. sales in June,” Tom Wills of Wills Chevrolet writes. “Why? Surely this must be the right car for the times…. We have the best product we have ever had… Why aren't you buying our products? What have the imports got that we don't?” Here's a guy who not only flunked grammar but thinks a rebadged Korean Daewoo Kalos is “the best product we have ever had.” And because it has good mpg numbers 'Murricans should be required to buy it even though it's a stumpy little crapcar. What have the imports got? Let me count the ways: quality, performance, styling, resale value, reliability…oh, never mind. Wills didn't actually write this, but he might as well have: “We threw you this rotten bone and you won't chew on it, so you should be sent to the pound until you learn which cars we require you to buy.” Madness.

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23 Comments on “Automotive News Letter Tells The Tale of Motown Myopia...”

  • avatar

    How does he explain to potential customers why precisely the Aveo achieves an abysmal 23mpg rating, the same as an Altima?

  • avatar

    Shouldn’t he be writing to Rick Wagoner and asking, “Why aren’t you supplying me with cars people will buy?”

  • avatar

    He blames ignorance.

    I’d argue his problem is that there isn’t enough ignorance these days.

    Best product we’ve ever had. God. The sense of entitlement in that whine irks me. How about shooting for best product available? Or at least being able to say that with a straight face?

  • avatar

    Here’s a guy who not only flunked grammar but thinks a rebadged Korean Daewoo Kalos is “the best product we have ever had.”

    I think it’s fair to say he wasn’t talking about just the Aveo but the lineup as a whole. He used the Aveo sales as an example because it’s the mileage leader in the lineup. He knows the Malibu is a better car in it’s class than the Aveo in it’s class.

    And because it has good mpg numbers ‘Murricans should be required to buy it even though it’s a stumpy little crapcar.

    I haven’t read the letter. Is he referring to “Murricans” or just Canadians or both? He is from Canada, eh? How about “Mehicans”?

  • avatar

    GM is convinced North Americans want small = cheap = crappy. The Aveo gets a perfect 10 on all three counts yet its failing grades in the market seem to say we might be looking for something where small doesn’t equal cheap or crappy, just small (economical).

    They refuse to believe cars like the TSX, Mini, A3, and GTI actually sell here to happy(now loyal) customers at over $30k. That only happens in Europe according to GM.

  • avatar

    Hmm,a product i want? OyVeyOh no I don’t.

  • avatar

    GM needs to stop the bagenering now and should symbolically execute it in the town square.

  • avatar

    I actually own an Aveo – a 2005 model bought second-hand ex-rental. Purely because it was cheap and two years ago when I bought it I needed affordable basic transportation.

    On that basis, it’s an OK car. Frankly, I think it being a Daewoo actually is a plus. Daewoo, at least, actually wanted the Kalos to sell to individuals; GM in North America only ever wanted cheap cars to sell to fleets and help with its CAFE average. Compared to the absolute turds of GM past in this kind of market segment (e.g. the multiple Cavaliers I rented in the past), the Aveo is like the product of a different company, which it is.

    Mine had 40k on it and I’ve taken it up to 100k with hard commuting. Until recently no work required other than consumables, but a month ago it broke a thermostat housing and needed some emergency work. Still, better than the from-new Toyota I owned before.

    Speaking of Toyota, it’s the obvious inspiration for the interior; it’s pretty much a clone of a Toyota interior from the late 90s. The steering wheel, dials and dash especially are a clone; I suspect the instruments, switches, heating/cooling controls are sourced from the same manufacturer as the Toyota I had, in fact.

    The big flaw of the Aveo – and why it’s not selling right now in the numbers one expects – is that its fuel consumption is not good. I get an average of 26 mpg, although that includes either stop-and-go LA freeways or 85 mph LA freeways, depending on the traffic, and some leadfootedness on my part.

    Oh, and it’s not pretty, and the styling changes since my model year make it a little butcher looking but not prettier.

    The other thing is that the Aveo isn’t as cheap as it once was. When introduced, one could pick up the bargain-basement model for under 10k; those days are long gone, and wanting one with nicer options always bumped up the price a lot. I suspect the exchange rate of the dollar versus the Korean won accounts for that.

  • avatar

    Huh, maybe it’s the dealers?


  • avatar

    I heartily endorse this criticism of that poor crank letter-writer. The Aveo is my poster child of a Detroit car that’s not only a totally unappealing P.O.S. rentmobile (bad enough), but one I’m convinced has been intentionally compromised just to express a little extra contempt for people who want small cars.

    The worst fear of the powers that be at GM is that someone making more than $7.25 an hour will settle for the Aveo, when they could be pushed into a Cobalt (if not a Tahoe. Somehow.) Solution? Spend some quality time and effort crapifying the Aveo to make it even worse than it would otherwise be. Make it a car no one actually wants, but that a few poor losers have to settle for.

    I think the Aveo market slogan should be: Chevy Aveo. It’ll do for now.

    And in that market segmentation effort, I’d say GM has succeeded well. No one wants an Aveo. Mission accomplished.

  • avatar

    Why wont Americans buy GM cars?

    Ok, let me explain it this way: How many times do you need to come stumbling out of the local tarven, vomit on the street, fall into the gutter before the entire town is convinced that you are a worthless drunk? 10, 20?

    Just like children on the playground, if a kid manages to crap in his pants several times, he has RIGHTFULLY earned the reputation of being the “shitty kid on the block”.

    You know that Malibu is a rather nice car and very competitive (looking). But the reality is Chevy (GM) is that “shitty kid” today and most of us just aint adventurous enough to shake his hand or touch anything he has come in contact with!

  • avatar

    I own a 08 Fit. Went to test drive a CR-V and a 6 cylinder Accord with the wife. Both cars seemed to have really obsolete, lame interiors compared to the Fit, even though I could see that they were objectively nice. They just looked less well designed than the Fits interior. The gauges looked terrible; the consoles too busy.

    That’s a pretty awesome thing for a subcompact to accomplish. I doubt the Aveo is making people wait for the higher-up Chevy 09 models in hopes that they will follow the Fits design cues.

    Maybe I’m crazy. I confess, I love the Civics Star Trek interior, so take my opinion for what its worth.

  • avatar

    The Aveo is a nice looking car inside and out. It’s nicer to sit in than the Yaris or Fit. Quality is excellent. In a lot of ways it is much nicer than the Cobalt and as nice as the new Malibu. The Aveo is more in line with the quality of the Malibu, Tahoe, CTS than with the Cobalt or old Malibu.
    The engine is the big issue. So far GM does not have a VVT equipped 1.6L engine in any car, Even in Europe, Honda and Toyota amongst others have had these for many years. The 2009 Aveo is getting a new VVT 1.6L (LXV) so city fuel mileage is better. 27 vs 24 for the Aveo 5 manual and 25 vs 23 for the Aveo sedan automatic.

  • avatar

    davey49 :

    For crying out loud, you can’t just state things like that so bluntly and deadpan. I sprayed coffee across my monitor!

  • avatar

    toxicroach- I’m not a big fan of the Fit’s dark grey on black color scheme but the cargo configuration beats every other car near its price range.

  • avatar
    Usta Bee

    I bought a used Chevrolet small car with an excellent reputation for quality, a 2002 Chevy Prizm. Remember those ?. Rebadged Corollas. I got Toyota quality with a Chevy depreciation rate. I paid $1500 less than a what a used Corolla of the same year would cost.

    The only “small” GM car I’d consider now would be the Pontiac Vibe, another rebadged Toyota.

  • avatar

    Surely this must be the right car for the times

    No, that would be the Honda Fit (in this category) and the Toyota Prius more generally.

  • avatar

    Usta Bee;

    I bought one of those Prism’s for my wife several years back thinking the price for Toyota quality was a steal. Turned out to be THE worst car I’ve ever owned in terms of quality. Seemed like every 3 months something was going out on it until I finally ditched it.

  • avatar

    It turns out that Aveo is the right car for the times, as long as you pick the right times. After dropping 20% in June, Aveo sales increased 17% from the year before in July.

  • avatar

    Double the MPG in the Aveo.

    Or how about some 85mpg Prius action:

  • avatar

    Many dealers and the salesmen in them could care less about cars, it’s just a sales job to them. They could just as easily sell vacuums. That is why when you shop you know more than the salesman, and why that dealer has no idea that better cars exist than the ones he is selling.

    Is there an element of customer education to be done on many domestic models? Yes. Most customers also have no idea about cars ( which is why no-nothing salesmen can succeed) and buy on recommendations from friends and half-baked notions of what models and brands are good. Probably only 1/3 of Honda and Toyota buyers actually know the cars are good. The rest are just lemmings.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    By and large, today’s new car buyer is much better informed and has a far larger number of viable choices than did the buyers of the 1950s which Detroit feasted upon for so long.

    After decades of spitting in the eyes of customers they now wonder where the love is?

    Remember all those defective paint jobs, defective diesel engines, defective intake manifold gaskets and interiors which self-destructed just after the warranty was up? How about the headlight modules which fog up right after the warranty is over and cost the customer hundreds of dollars each to replace? Remember how you tried to convince the burned owners that all would be well if they just traded in on a new craptastic car? Well Mr. Chevy dealer, even if you have forgotten … your former customers have not. “They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.” (Job 4:8)

  • avatar

    NoSubstitute :
    August 7th, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    It turns out that Aveo is the right car for the times, as long as you pick the right times. After dropping 20% in June, Aveo sales increased 17% from the year before in July.

    Many domestic cars have a similar sales pattern (that is, up 40% one month, down 25% the next, up 15%, down 50%, up 75%). The reason is simple-fleet sales. They tend to come in large orders of several thousand units of the same model at a time. If Avis happens to order five thousand Chevy POSs in a month, that means sales of that particular model skyrockets that month, compared to last year, and will fall by the same amount in the same month next year. What aspect of this phenomenon that is not explained by fleet sales is explained by whatever ridiculous promotion that particular automaker has that month (or that month last year) on that model (employee pricing, 0% financing until the heat death of the universe, 40% off, red/toe tag, whatever).

    I like to look at the Year To Date numbers for a more accurate look, because it rounds out this phenomenon. The Aveo’s sales are up 1.4% Year To Date (Jan-July 08 vs. Jan-July 07). Of course, that’s only 529 cars, and it’s sales were up in July alone by 1,042 cars, so…

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