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What?  I can't say Chevy anymore?

by Dave Grayson
Sunday, June 13, 2010


On June 8th copies of a rather bizarre memo made its way up and down the hallway of the Detroit based headquarters of General Motors. That memo was addressed to GM employees and urged them to use the term "Chevrolet" instead of "Chevy." The memo further stated that GM headquarters wanted to promote "the consistency of the brand, which was the nation's best selling line of cars and trucks for more than half a century after World War II."

There's actually a lot of truth to that. Old schoolers from the 1950's will recall back in the day when General Motors' national ad slogan was "see the USA in a Chevrolet." They even classed the slogan up by having the legendary Dinah Shore sing it. In the mid 1950's General Motors sponsored her television series, on the NBC Network, ironically named "The Dinah Shore Chevy Show."

Making this even more interesting was the fact that the GM executives actually set up a Chevrolet coin can in the hallway of their headquarters to be used in the same way as an old fashioned cuss can. Any employee overheard using the term "Chevy" was expected to put a quarter in the can. There was no comment regarding what all of these quarters were going to be used for. It's was, however, safe to assume the quarters were not intended for an extra payment on their federal government bail out loans.

There was one major aspect that the General Motors executives didn't count on: their brand consistency memo made the national news. The story was initially released by "Detroit News.Com" and, thanks to the effectiveness of the world wide web, soon became a rather interesting national issue that GM officials were also unprepared for.

The American people have always displayed a tendency to pepper their language habits with nick names. That's how television became TV, the telephone became the phone, Coca Cola became Coke and that's how Chevrolet became Chevy.

Chevrolet fans heavily weighed in on the issue. GM executives quickly realized there was no way that a car guy, who spent mega hours and dollars, building a Camaro street rod in his garage was going to stop calling that car a Chevy. They would have had a better chance of convincing Ford fans to stop pronouncing Chevrolet "shove it-leave it."

The ill fated General Motors memo was also the fodder for those of us born with an over active sense of humor. For example, there was genuine concern that singer/composer Don McClean might be enticed to change the lyrics of his classic song "American Pie."

The original lyrics were "bye bye miss American pie, drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry." Would McClean ever consider changing the chorus of his song to "bye bye miss American pie. I drove my Chevrolet to the dock of the bay? It's not likely.

For that matter should singer/composer Bob Seger change the lyrics of his classic song "Night Moves?" Seger's original lyrics said "out past the corn fields where the woods got heavy, out in the back seat of my '60 Chevy." Would he consider changing those lyrics to "out past the corn fields where the woods lay, we were pushin' on the cushion of my Chevrolet?" I hope not.

Where does comedy actor Chevy Chase stand on this issue? Would he consider changing his stage name to Chevrolet Chase? Can you imagine a movie ad that says: "Coming to theatres soon, National Lampoon's Vacation Seven: Lost In Los Angeles starring Chevrolet Chase?" That's also not likely

The GM executive's concern over brand consistency lasted approximately 48 hours before they issued another memo that read: "Chevy will continue to reflect the enthusiasm of customers and fans. Today's emotional debate over a poorly worded memo on our use of the Chevrolet brand is a good reminder of how passionately people feel about Chevrolet. It's a passion we share and one we do not take for granted."

Bear in mind that all of this marketing concern comes a mere matter of days after General Motors announced a recall of 1.37 million vehicles in the U.S. due to a potential fire hazard created by a defect in the heated windshield wiper fluid system.

What GM executives need is less time and focus on brand consistency and more time spent on fixing the damn Chevys so they can start selling them again.

Yes, you're right, I probably owe two quarters to the official plastic can in the GM hallway for using damn and Chevy in the same sentence.

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