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General Motors Nearly Axes “Chevy” from Corporate Lexicon; Journalists Stretch for Don McLean References

Ah, General Motors. Just when everyone was starting to like you again, you find a way to look bad.

In this case, the offense wasn’t a sloppily made vehicle, but some very out-of-touch executives who decided it would be better for Chevrolet to completely stop all corporate uses of the name “Chevy.” Everywhere.

The New York Times broke the story, reportedly after receiving a copy of the memo from a stupefied employee (who wasn’t named, mostly because when even the stoic Times describes you as “disbelieving” in regards to something your bosses did, you probably don’t want the higher-ups to know so much as your shoe size), and it’s too rich to go unshared.

The memo states, “We’d ask that whether you’re talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising, or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward…when you look at the most recognized brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding.”

Right. Because it’s not like Coke or Apple each have one other name that’s entirely synonymous with their brand. Not at all. No, don’t go look on a can of Coke—that scribbly writing’s just a bit of pretty jibberish. And don’t listen to what Justin Long calls himself in those Apple TV commercials, either. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

The gaffe was so embarrassing, even former GM CEO Rick Wagoner winced—more than a year before it happened.

Of course, as soon as the story broke, General Motors quickly issued a press release to the contrary, stating, “In no way are we discouraging customers or fans from using the name [Chevy].” Which, technically, is true—they’re just discouraging employees from using the name. And with idiotic ideas like that, I don’t think I’d be much of a fan of the company I worked for.

But this is a triumphant day for automotive journalists. Not only did we stop a supremely dumb move from maligning a classic car manufacturer (whose products, PR stumbles notwithstanding, have improved dramatically in recent years), but we did it through the power of the press! We made a difference!

So the next time you refer to your Corvette, Silverado or Malibu as a “Chevy,” please—thank an automotive journalist. We’re suckers for praise. And in the meantime, enjoy this epic Chevy Superbowl commercial from a few years back. Fun fact: it was directed by Michael Bay, and you can actually see the moment where he decided he wanted to butcher direct Transformers.

(The complete memo is below; the “Chevy swear jar” in the office is my personal favorite part.)

Chevrolet Team,

We wanted to write you a quick note requesting your support of our Chevrolet Brand. When you look at the most recognized brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding. Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer. This is a big opportunity for us
moving forward.

As you know, we are investing substantially to improve the consistency of our retail facilities through the EBE process. Aside from the facilities aspect of our branding, there are many other ways in which we can demonstrate this consistency. One way to achieve this is with the use of Chevrolet vs. Chevy. We’d ask that whether you’re talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward.

We have a proud heritage behind us and a fantastic future ahead of us … speaking to the success of this brand in one consistent manner will ensure Chevrolet becomes even more prominent and recognizable than it already is.

Thank you for your support of this effort!

Alan and Jim

P.S. 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.

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The New York Times wants you to text and drive!

Okay, not really. But they are offering a little multimedia game on their website to illustrate how texting while driving slows reaction time and can lead to awkward incidents, like plowing into a toll booth at 80 miles per hour.

You can try the game out here.

If you text and drive, this could happen to you.

If you text and drive, this could happen to you.

And for all you competitive folks, it even tells you at the end how reduced your reaction times were while texting and compares your results to the rest of the test-takers. When I tried it, the average player took 0.24 seconds longer to react while texting – but I was only reduced by 0.03 seconds, so suck it, average NYTimes.com reader!

This, of course, comes on the wake of a Car and Driver story from June 2009 in which the esteemed magazine (which is sort of like The New York Times of auto journalism, actually. Coincidence?) tested the reflexes of their 37-year-old editor-in-chief Eddie Alterman (give me a job, Eddie!) and a 22-year-old web intern, Jordan Brown while texting – then compared those times to the participants’ reaction times while drunk.

Interestingly, both subjects reported better reflexes while drunk than while texting. Sadly, no drunk texting was performed, at least during the instrumented portion of the test. You can read the whole story at Car and Driver’s website.

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