Thursday, June 10, 2010

Don't Call It a Chevy

There's a rumor going around that the GM corporate brass doesn't want employees referring to Chevrolet as Chevy. It supposedly cheapens the image and dilutes the Chevrolet brand.

Seems crazy to me, but not any more than Ed Whitacre, a former AT&T executive and current GM CEO, appointing himself head of product planning.

Chevrolet makes cars. The company was founded by Louis Chevrolet almost a hundred years ago. But Chevy is an icon. For a time, people were proud to own a Chevy. In the 1960s, a Chevrolet Impala was the family vehicle of choice. Eric Clapton sang about a '57 Chevy. Bob Seger reminisced about his '60 Chevy. And Don McLean sang about how he drove a Chevy to the levy, but the levy was dry.

Then Chevrolet, like the rest of GM, lost it's way. Chevy became a car you didn't want to own, unless you had to. They were cheap, GM's answer to Kia. In high school, my Ford friends referred to a Chevrolet as a "piece of Chevy" as in a piece of crap. And it could be argued they were.

Over the last five or six years, Chevrolet has begun building good cars again. Their trucks were always good--I've always like the Chevy Silverado--but now they have a solid lineup, the likes of which we haven't seen in twenty five years. And people are proud to own them again. If I were in the market today, I'd take a hard look at the Malibu and the Equinox.

But the whole, "Don't call it a Chevy" nonsense bothers me. It's the kind of thing an AT&T executive, the one who brought us those Carrot-Top 1-800-CALL-ATT commercials, would come up with. Now I worry Whitacre will bring back Carrot-Top to star in adds for the On-Star system.

If Carrot-Top were in a car crash, would anybody come?

Likewise, if Ed Whitacre starts designing cars, will anybody buy them? Just when I thought it was safe to wade in and buy a Chevy, I'm worried I might find the brand dried up like Don McLean's levy.

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