Is GM really changing opinions through consumer events?

Wed, 04/27/2016 - 14:01
On Friday, I attended a media luncheon and drive day with General Motors at FedEx Field just outside of D.C. The event was part of GM’s “Main Street in Motion” series and included driving access to more than 70 makes and models (and to paraphrase a fellow journalist, “Two laps in a ‘Vette just wasn’t enough.”) I wrote more about the actual event here. I have to be honest that I haven’t exactly kept up with what The General has been doing over, say, the last 10 years (mostly because they weren’t doing much by way of innovation until more recently). But I challenged myself to go in with an open mind and learn about their vehicles. I got behind the wheel of multiple GM vehicles, and compared them against those not wearing GM badges. Here’s the list of which rides I put head-to-head:
  • Chevrolet Cruze vs. Hyundai Elantra
  • Chevrolet Traverse vs. Ford Explorer
  • Chevrolet Volt vs. Toyota Prius (it wasn’t actually there, I judged based on prior experiences)
  •  GMC Sierra vs. Ram 1500
  • Others that I didn’t compare and contrast were the Ford Taurus, GMC 2500 HD Diesel (by far the largest vehicle I’ve ever steered), Camaro V8, and a Corvette convertible (gotta get the full-on wind-blown look!).
As an auto enthusiast who’s familiar with a wide array of vehicles and their offerings, I’m not certain that an event like this one was enough to totally change my opinion. More often than not, the winners came out to be the competition for me. I preferred the Hyundai Elantra over the Cruze – it just felt more responsive and even a bit sporty. The Ford Explorer definitely had better handling and appeared more suave on the inside. The loose steering and handling of the Sierra paled in comparison to that of the Ram 1500, not to mention the nicer interior finishes found in the truck formerly known as Dodge.The Volt was the only car to exceed my expectations – and for $40,000 it should. I expected it to be quirky like Toyota’s Prius, but to my surprise it was not – it drove and behaved just like any other car. The Volt also functioned similarly to the Prius, however, in that it didn’t rely on its electric motor for long. The gas motor kicked in immediately as I accelerated onto the road. But I digress - Best Cars Guide is not in the business of reviewing cars. We’re all about what’s happening inside the industry. GM’s quest to heal its brand image from top to bottom has been a hard-fought battle. While the improvements in their vehicles are certainly visible and tangible, my opinion hasn’t been transformed enough to purchase one for myself. (In my defense, I have recommended GM brands recently). So, how is GM’s plan to change the average consumer’s opinion working?  I’ll leave you with this brief story. I was riding the Metro train home from work the other night, and I noticed the lady standing next to me typed something about Chevy. Being packed in like sardines made it easy to see that she was responding to an email her friend had sent her about some sort of car trouble. I’m pretty confident she was not an employee of the auto industry or an enthusiast. She was the average Jane – the exact person GM is trying to reach. Perhaps that “average Jane” answered the million dollar question best when she keyed this response to her friend:”Oh believe me, I know Chevy’s all too well.”

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