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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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A Burst of News – Lexus LFA supercar revealed, new BMW 5-series spied, next-gen Mitsubishi Evo will be a hybrid, and more

Time for another burst of automotive news, everyone!

Our top story of this installment: after years and years and YEARS of teasing, Toyota has finally unveiled Lexus’s first supercar. Called the LFA, the supercar is a clean-sheet design with a front-mounted 4.8-liter V10 that spits out 552 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. With the help of a six-speed sequential manual gearbox, Toyota claims the car dashes from 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds before topping out at 202 miles per hour.

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If it sounds to you like the LFA will line up pretty squarely against the Ferrari 458 Italia, congratulations, you know enough about sports cars to make up for your Archie comics collection. However, there’s a catch – the Ferrari is significantly cheaper than Toyota’s latest ride. (And there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.)

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Yes, the LFA can be yours for not a Benjamin less than $375,000 – at least $100,000 than the 458 will likely cost here in the States. And while the Lexus is pretty cool, it’s hard to imagine many rich car enthusiasts would pick the uglier, more expensive LFA over the latest addition to Ferrari’s stable. Of course, most of them won’t have to – in this price range, if you can buy one, you can probably buy both.

But Toyota isn’t the only Japanese manufacturer with big performance news. According to AutoCar, the next-generation Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution will be powered by a plug-in hybrid powertrain similar to that of the company’s PX-MiEV concept from this year’s Tokyo Motor Show. The PX-MiEV, which sounds like a bad hand of Scrabble, has two electric motors powering all four wheels;  a 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine pulls double-duty, both generating power for the battery and powering the front driveshaft.

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The PX-MiEV. Not the Evo XI, thank God.

Now, we here at CCO aren’t quite sure how Mitsubishi intends to pull this off. Even if they can drastically cut the Evo’s weight (which would be difficult to do while adding all the new tech), the car will still need at least 250 horsepower in order to maintain its performance credentials. But that’s 250 horsepower all the time. Not, 250 horsepower until the battery runs out of initial charge, then 100 horsepower while the gas motor recharges it. Then again, the next-gen Evo isn’t due until 2013, so they have time to sort it out.

Speaking of potentially stupid ideas, Porsche recently announced they would be willing to share both the Panamera and, more frighteningly, the 911 architecture with their new corporate masters, the Volkswagen Group. We’re not sure if this is Volkswagen exacting punishment for Porsche’s earlier attempt to conquer the VW Group (super-short refresher: Porsche AG tried to take over the VW group in 2007, but it fell through – so the VW group proceeded to take over Porsche, instead), but using the 911 platform for anything other than Porsche 911s just seems blasphemous.

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Of course, it’s unlikely VW will ever use the 911’s underpinnings for anything else, since the demand for rear-engined sports cars is pretty slim. Porsche has only managed to perfect the form after 40-plus years of refinement; if it weren’t for the 911’s immense heritage, they likely would have dumped the car in favor of a bigger version of the mid-engined Boxster years ago. (That said, don’t be surprised to see the next-gen Boxster/Cayman sharing a platform with Audi’s R4 roadster…)

In other German car news, prototypes of BMW’s next-generation 5-series have been spotted prowling around Deutschland. Clad in BMW’s groovy camouflage designed to confuse camera lenses and attract aging hippies, the new 5 looks to us like a cross between the new 7-series and the most recent 3-series – which is probably what they were aiming for. Once the acid trip stickers wear off (hah!), expect a more conventionally attractive sedan than the current 5.

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Courtesy Autowereld.com

Expect the same inline six-cylinder engines from today’s lineup, but the 360-hp V8 of the current BMW 550i will be supplanted with the oh-so-sweet turbocharged 4.4-liter, 400-hp V8 from the 750i and X6. Rumor has it the next M5 will come with a similar turbocharged V8 pumping out around 550 horsepower, connected to a 7-speed dual clutch gearbox – and the line for that sonofabitch forms behind me, so stop cutting.

On the complete other end of the performance spectrum, Nissan pulled the wraps off the production version of their Leaf electric car last week at the Tokyo Auto Show. To dust off the old SAT-style analogy format, Leaf:Nissan::Volt:General Motors, and if you can’t figure that out, well, you probably shouldn’t be reading “College” Cars Online.

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Nissan claims the Leaf offers all the convenience and range necessary to wean the majority of automobile users (at least those in First-World Countries – sorry, anybody who’s name ends in -stan) off the internal combustion engine. With a 100-mile range, 107 horsepower, a top speed of 87 mph and a pricetag of around $25,000, we’ll probably be seeing quite a few Leafs (Leaves?) on our roads soon.

Nissan claims recharging on a 200V outlet takes 8 hours, which is all kinds of helpful, considering pretty much every electrical appliance in the U.S. operates on either a 120V or 240V circuit. Figure around 8 hours on a heavy-duty 240V outlet, whereas if you’re plugging into the same 120V outlet your iPhone uses, you might as well just walk wherever you’re going.

I don’t really have any creative segue for this next story, since it sort of goes directly in opposition to the point of this site, so let’s just dive right in and avoid this awkward moment. According to the omnipresent J.D. Power and Associates, Generation Y doesn’t care as much about automobiles as they used to. After the Big Brother-ish group tracked thousands of conversations on Facebook and Twitter over an eight-month period (um, creepy), they determined teens and “early careerists” – 12-to-18-year-olds and  22-to-29-year-olds, respectively, because college students don’t matter – showed “shifts in perception regarding the necessity of and desire to have cars.”

The Power Co. goes on to posit that either the recession has left America’s youth with less cash to spend on cars, or that social media has replaced face-to-face interaction to such a degree we no longer feel the need to meet up in person as much. If number two is correct, then God help us all.

On a completely unrelated note, be sure to follow us on Twitter, @collegecars! Also, become a fan of us on Facebook!

However, the survey does go on to point out the two most popular automotive topics on social media during that time were NASCAR and “Transformers: Rise Of The Fallen.” Please excuse me while I slam my head into a brick wall.

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Optimus Prime never saw a dance-off he couldn't win.

Finally, a moment of silence, please, for the passing of a legend. Land Rover has announced that after six decades on the market, the Defender will be retired in 2013. While the Defender proved itself capable of conquering the worst nature could throw at it, there was one foe it proved unable to defeat: government regulations.

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Thanks to new European emissions and pedestrian-safety regulations, an all-new or heavily revised replacement will be required for the aging yet capable SUV. While the Defender hasn’t been sold in the U.S. for quite some time, your editor will always have fond memories of clambering up a seemingly impassible trail in the Vermont woods in a Defender 90.

However, Land Rover claims the replacement will be more versatile and more practical. If that means it’ll be just as capable and can come back to the States, well – the king is dead, long live the king!

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