In a move that seems to go against decades of established historical precedent, General Motors has decided to do whatever it can to eliminate the term 'Chevy' from the vocabulary of its Chevrolet employees. Although the Chevy contraction has been used for more than 50 years to describe vehicles built by GM's largest division, both in advertisements touting the vehicles and by drivers while discussing the cars and trucks, it would appear that the word's days are now numbered.
At least, this would seem to be the case at GM's corporate headquarters in Detroit, where Chevrolet employees were greeted with a memo sent Tuesday morning outlining the new naming strategy and banning the use of the now tainted term. The reasoning behind the seemingly illogical move to fight against the accumulated weight of history? In a word, consistency. Apparently, the powers that be at General Motors came to the conclusion that the continued use of both 'Chevy' and Chevrolet to refer to the company's products constituted a serious dilution of the brand in the mind of new car buyers.
The idea of formalizing one of America's most blue collar brands - in fact, an automaker whose advertising image has been inextricably tied to homespun images of Americana - does not appear to have any immediate advantages, particularly for a company still emerging from the morass of bankruptcy. GM already possesses two other divisions which have long been associated with the 'establishment' (Cadillac and Buick), and so to add Chevrolet to that starchy mix while ignoring its casual appeal to millions of drivers seems to disregard the pressing need for each of GM's brands to carve out its own unique niche in the industry. In fact, the elimination of the Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer divisions was largely instigated by the homogeneity that had crept across the General's entire product lineup.
It would be temping to dismiss the entire exercise as an elaborate marketing joke, a play for media coverage to be dispelled a few days later at a press conference or through a web site. However, no such announcement is forthcoming - Chevrolet employees have been asked to take the new edict seriously, and senior GM spokespeople have confirmed that moving forward, all official communications regarding Chevrolet will exclusively use the full, proper brand name. After the initial media flap about the seeming oddness of the decision, GM updated its Facebook page in order to grudgingly admit that it did not expect the public to abandon the word Chevy overnight, but it did not alter its stance regarding the elimination of 'Chevy' from the corporate lexicon. Presumably, this means that the company, which has seen a revolving door of PR and advertising agencies over the past several months, will be forced to excise its current publicity materials of all references to the 'Chevy' moniker. As of this moment, the word appears all over Chevrolet internet sites, dealership promotions and marketing partnerships.
Will GM's decision to force its employees to abandon the word Chevy and attempt to force the market to embrace Chevrolet as the brand's new identity have any effect at all on the car-buying public? It seems unlikely. In a world where brevity is hip and where tradition has firmly established the idea of Chevy trucks and Chevy cars in the minds of consumers, it would appear to be a Sisyphean task to attempt to steer the Chevrolet ship against the mainstream of popular culture. Although the public has been told that it is dealing with the 'new GM,' it is hard not to draw parallels between this most recent decision and previous failed re-branding efforts such as the Cadillac Catera (the Caddy that zigs!) - initiatives that supposedly had been left behind by the new and dynamic General Motors management team.