Monthly Archives: December 2012

Are rentals the worst possible marketing for Detroit?

Say you’re the marketing chief at Chevrolet, and you have the opportunity every year to have hundreds of thousands of potential customers take what are effectively multi-day test drives.   Do you a) try to ensure that what they’re riding in is the best possible car you can manage (within the constraints of fleet sales); or b) do you let them ride around in a stripped down shit-box full of flimsy plastic, seats designed to fit any ass they might be under, with handling that’s spongy to the point of being dangerous?  It’s been b) for years.


The beauty at the right above is the Impala I rented today in SJC, and it just reinforced every horrible stereotype one has about Detroit.  It starts at a $25K MSRP.  Yes, I know rental fleets are lacking the trim packages  etc., but you have to wonder what other industry would allow a potential customer to experience such a crapped out version of something it’s elsewhere trying to sell for so much.

The contrast with the VW to the left above was stark.  The VW was actually the same price to rent, and I actually got into it first (this is Emerald Aisle from National, so you just show up and grab any car in the aisle).  The interior was nice, tasteful, the seats comfortable..basically everything you’d expect from a VW.

I got out of the VW  because I felt a wave of guilt.  I’ve been reading the coverage of Apple building Macs in the US next year, and had a spasm of nationalistic consumption.  I figured hey, I’m driving about 30 miles total, how bad can it be?  Rent a Chevy, create a little demand for it, and trickle down a tiny piece of a job back in my home state.

But it was infuriating.   Fit, finish, smell and drive…all just third rate.  How does anybody at Chevy not think this destroys brand in a pretty meaningful way?