“You are entitled to your own opinion,” the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “but you are not entitled to your own facts.”
The Chevrolet Division of Government Motors begs to differ — and is getting slammed in the marketplace as a result.
Hot on the heels of their latest misleading commercial for their worst-selling model — a Volt spot ironically titled “Just the Facts” — comes an Edmunds estimate of February domestic car sales and car sales over the past 12 months. And guess which manufacturer is taking it on the chin.
A loser in a sea of winners
With a seasonally adjusted rate of 14.4 million units February to February, the auto industry had a banner year. With nearly 1.1 million units sold in February, car makers had a banner month.
All except one, that is.
Ford’s adjusted 12-month sales are up 13.6% and Chrysler’s a whopping 27.2%, but GM’s are down 8.8%. That’s a 36% spread. For the month just ending, Edmunds sees Ford up 18%, Chrysler up 32.5% and GM down 5%.
Bad advertising loses sales
While you can attribute those results to many things, GM’s advertising has to be one of them.
Commercials for GM’s largest nameplate have actually created sales for competitors, according to a Kelly Blue book analyst.
They’ve shamelessly plagiarized competitors and avoided facts.
But with their latest commercial, they’ve gone a step further — from avoiding facts to inventing and distorting them.
Their latest on-air entry is called “Facts.” Let’s take a look at how factual it is, quoting its own words from the script.
Claim #1: “There’s been a lot of talk about the Chevy Volt lately. How about some facts?”
Facts: It’s a fact that Volt batteries have caught on fire. It’s also a fact that Chevrolet has modified their battery packs, added a dashboard light to warn drivers when batteries start overheating, offered free loaners and offered to buy Volts back from dissatisfied owners.
Claim #2: “The Chevrolet Volt was one of the most awarded cars of the year.”
Facts: Four awards are superimosed on the screen. One was for having one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines; an engine isn’t a car. Another was the Green Car Journal Green Car of the Year, which somehow brings to mind Groucho Marx’s crack about military justice being to justice what military music is a music — a subcategory all its own.
Claim #3: “The Volt’s battery has been tested for 395,000 hours.”
Fact: 395,000 hours is a hair over 45 years. Does this mean they’ve been at it since 1967? If they were simultaneously testing multiple batteries, was that before or after they started catching fire? And what were the results of that testing? Did the batteries pass or fail?
Claim #4: “And most importantly, Volt has received the highest overall vehicle score for safety possible.” Supered on the screen are “2011 IIHS Safety Pick” and “5 Star Overall Vehicle Score NHTSA.”
Fact: While the voice-over strongly implies that the Volt was the overall, first-place winner, there was actually a little bit of a tie. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ratings, some 90 cars (23 of them in Volt’s size class) shared the highest overall vehicle score for safety possible. And only a mere 22 cars won the NHTSA’s coveted 5 Star overall safety rating. Boy, talk about exclusivity.
Claim #5: “The extended range…”
Fact: According to Government Motors’ own director of electric vehicles and batteries, it would take four weeks to drive a Volt from Detroit to Florida — one week longer than it would take to get there by bike.
Claim #6: “…electric Chevy Volt.”
Fact: Yes, it is a plug-in electric.
Claim #7: “It’s hard to argue with the facts.”
Fact: True. It’s much easier to grossly distort them.
Listen to Lincoln, Ogilvy and Bernbach
Dealers across the country, and particularly in big urban markets, are refusing Chevy Volt deliveries. In Washington, the administration is talking about upping the federal tax credit to $10,000, to subsidize more rich dilettantes from Richmond to Seattle into buying them.
Too bad GM never listened to two 20th Century advertising-industry giants and one 19th Century President.
David Ogilvy said, “Always concede graciously what you cannot afford to deny.”
William Bernbach, who revolutionized the way ads were done, said, “We have a great gimmick for getting people to buy. It’s called the truth.”
And Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
Government Motors is now paying the price for not listening. The only people they’re fooling are themselves.