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GM wants you to buy Chevrolet, not Chevy

| Saturday, June 12, 2010

DETROIT -- GM's decision to emphasize the Chevrolet name over the more casual -- and clearly beloved -- Chevy nickname was hatched by members of its global marketing team who face a serious and potentially expensive problem.

Most would-be buyers in the growing automotive markets that are key to GM's future financial health are not familiar with the Chevrolet brand, or its nickname Chevy.

"If they surf the Web and they see a Chevrolet Cobalt and a Chevy Cobalt, they don't understand," said GM spokesman Klaus-Peter Martin, who emphasized that Chevy hasn't been in some of these overseas markets for even two years.

In a series of conference calls, Martin said, the team decided to pick one name and stick to it, so people would get the message.

But the execution of that plan -- as partly outlined in a short four-paragraph memo that GM later called "poorly worded" after it was made public by the New York Times -- took GM on a quick and embarrassing reality trip Thursday.

And, no, Martin insists, it was not a secret viral campaign to bring some hype to the brand.

The memo simply asked employees to use the word Chevrolet instead of the commonly used Chevy, calling the move "a big opportunity" and ended with a postscript that seems born right out of sitcom "The Office": "We put a plastic 'Chevy' can down the hall that will accept a quarter every time someone uses "Chevy" rather than Chevrolet! We'll use the money for a team building activity."

GM, which is rebuilding after its bankruptcy last year, was swiftly lampooned by the media, marketing experts and consumers -- who largely called the idea "stupid."

Later, the damage-control gurus at GM issued a statement that emphasized: "We love Chevy. In no way are we discouraging customers or fans from using the name."

However, the automaker maintained that it would continue to switch to Chevrolet in promotional materials.

"Ultimately, all use of Chevy will be changed to Chevrolet," Martin said.

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