Name a Chevrolet car, not called Camaro, that buyers would pay $40,000 for the privilege to take home.
Impala? Nope. Malibu? Nice, but not more-than-$30K nice. So why is it that competitors like Toyota and even Hyundai can sell cars for over 30 grand, or even up to 40, while Chevy is forced to move its metal through the use of heavy discounts?
The answer comes down to one word. You might think that word is “quality,” but you’d be wrong.
The word is “marketing.”
Chevrolet, especially with such cars as the Impala and Malibu, suffers from a branding problem. Simply put, the experience people have had with these vehicles has defined the public’s perception of them. Think about it: Where is a non-Chevy owner most likely to have his or her first Chevy experience? Probably at an airport rental counter. For someone who hasn’t driven or ridden in a Chevy car, being introduced to the brand through a fleet Impala isn’t going to leave a positive impression. Fleet cars are often sold at trim levels below even the base versions available at your local dealership. I like to call these stripped-down rentals the “paper bags” of the auto industry, because they are almost as attractive and nearly as boring.
A Fortune article on CNN Money sums up the problem nicely:
About 70% of the current Impala sales goes to rental and other fleets, meaning they must be discounted, thereby posing a drag on corporate profit. Worse, Chevrolet (GM) and the Impala’s brand prestige have been hurt to the extent that they’ve become synonymous with rides to and from the airport. [sic]
That’s not how to sell cars to the retail public. What Chevrolet needs to do is sell to fleets all it wants, but make sure it does so with models that aren’t available to the public. That way, the ad minds involved in crafting and sharing the Chevrolet experience can spend time extolling the virtues of publicly available models. Assuming those cars, such as the completely new 2014 Impala, live up to their promised expectations, they will begin to command higher transaction prices and slowly replace the image of lowly airport transporter.
It can be done, and now is the time to do it, because I think the new Impala really could change the game for Chevrolet.
Do you have a positive perception of the Chevrolet Impala?