Chevy Hopes To Build A Magic Kingdom In Southern California

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Hogie roll Hogie roll on Oct 22, 2011

    They're being abandoned by conservative Midwestern and southern types, and are now trying to win back the liberals that never bought them anyways. Conservatives were already conflicted about usually buying vehicles built by the UAW, but the illegal bailouts may have been the straw that broke the camels back.

    • See 1 previous
    • Xeranar Xeranar on Oct 23, 2011

      Because it's really left or right when buying cars? "Conservative" buyers didn't care about unionization until the plants starting plunking down in their backyards then they desired to break the UAW so they could get paid a third of what the UAW worker did but had a job as the non-union jobs filtered overseas first. "Liberals" have consistently bought both American & foreign cars. Nothing in sales data actually suggests it is a political statement. If anything it's a socio-economic stratus that dictates what people buy. The poorer one is the more likely to purchase domestics because of the heavy incentives they've had on them in the last decade. The more affluent tended toward midsize SUVs from foreign companies or much larger SUVs from domestics.

  • Spartan Spartan on Oct 22, 2011

    That Lumina Coupe in the vid is absolutely hideous. They could have at least used a Z34 model in the commercial. Good luck GM, you're gonna need it going forward.

  • Rando [h2]Coincidentally, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is more than $41k as well -.-[/h2]
  • Ajla "Gee, wonder why car (as well as home) insurance rates are much higher in places like Florida..." Severe weather is on the list but even if a benevolent genie reverted the climate to circa 1724 I think FL would still have high cost. Our home insurance rates have increased 102% since 2021 and I don't think weather models account for that much of a change in that period. Florida's insurance assignment of benefit regulation meant that it had ~80% of the country's of the insurance lawsuits on ~12% of the nation's claims and litigated claims can be expensive to insurance companies. The state altered some regulations and is having some success on getting more companies back, even with the severe weather risks, through relatively bipartisan efforts. With car insurance just beyond the basic "Florida" stuff, the population increase of the past few years is overwhelming the roads. But, I think the biggest thing is we have very low mandated car insurance levels. Only $10K personal injury and $10K property damage. No injury liability needed. And 20% of the state has no insurance. So people that actually want insurance pay out the nose. Like I commented above my under/uninsured coverage alone is 2.5x my comprehensive & collision.
  • Juan Let's do an 1000 mile drive and see who gets there first.
  • Eliyahu CVT needed for MPG. Outback is indeed the legacy of, err, the Legacy.
  • Gayneu I can comment on these. My wife always thought the Minis were "cute" so I bought her a used 2005 (non-S, 5 speed) for one of her "special" birthdays. She loved it and I kinda did too. Somehow a hole developed in the transmission case and the fluid drained out, ruining the car (too expensive to fix). A local mechanic bought it for $800.We then bought a used 2015 S (6 speed) which we still have today (80k miles). Her sister just bought a used S as well (also manual). It has been a dependable car but BMW-priced maintenance and premium gas hurts for sure. I think the earlier generation (like in the article) were better looking with cleaner lines. The 2015 S rides too stiff for me (Chicago roads) but is a hoot on smooth ones. It does seem to shift weird - its hard to describe but it shifts differently from every other manual I have driven. No matter how hard I try, so won't let go of her Mini.