Outsiders Perspective: Who is killing the Chevrolet SS?

1 (Copy)
Pop quiz time. No, this is not one of this nightmares when you’re sent back to High School. What’s the most surefire way to have a car leave no impact whatsoever? Is it by making a horrible car? Not really, because we can all remember the Vega, the Pinto, the Yugo, and the usual cornucopia of terrible metal that has plagued our roads. Piss of the focus groups? Nope, if anything that makes it more memorable “Can you imagine if they tried to sell us that!?”
No, the best way for a car to leave no impact is to simply not talk about it ever.

Marketing. It’s as good as the company who uses it. The best campaigns to introduce a new product that will give you just the necessary facts to pique your interest and, crucially, does not make you feel like you’re being pandered to. They also can ultimately create a fine balance between the hype surrounding the product and what it actually delivers. The Edsel Campaign, for example, was one of the most lavish marketing campaigns whose crown jewel was the TV-Special “The Edsel Show”.
2 (Copy)
Volkswagen’s brilliant self-deprecating ad campaign and the ‘60s “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” are just two examples of advertising campaigns done right. “The Caddy that Zigs” is an example of it gone wrong. But all of them had something in common, regardless of the vehicle advertised and their success, it created a reaction. Either a chuckle and a joke you’d share with your buddies over the water cooler, or the sensation that the person who approved it has no idea how human beings actually act. So what’s the marketing campaign for the Chevrolet SS like?
3 (Copy)
No, seriously, what is it like? I’ve never seen an advertisement for it, granted I don’t spend much time watching American TV, mostly because there’s only so many times I can see people trying to pawn a rotten potato that once appeared on the set of Good Times and the interesting(ly scripted) lives of rednecks catching alligators, beavers or other vermin. But even on the few occasions I do see it, Chevrolet seems to be making the same amount of effort of publicizing their flagship sedan as I do of being a competent astrophysicist.
This reflects on the sales numbers.
In the whole of January 2015 GM only managed to move 115 SS’s (How do you even pronounce that?) off the lots. About the same amount of Civics that get sold in an hour. In your author’s opinion, that’s the chief problem of the SS. It’s marketing, or rather lack of it is apparent to those paying attention. This killed the Suzuki Kizashi, and there’s no doubt doing the same work here. However, I can think of a couple other reasons it’s not selling.
4 (Copy)
The name for one. SS is a trim level, one that certainly carries a lot of gravitas for the Chevrolet enthusiast at that, but it’s certainly not enough to carry a model all by itself. Just imagine how much noise it would’ve made as the new Impala SS. There’s also the price. Far be it from me to suggest that asking $45,000 for a Chevrolet is ludicrous, the suburban sales can attest that it works quite well. But a Charger R/T is near as it makes no difference $10,000 less. And because of that magic term “Economies of scale”, they can’t reduce the price either. I’m willing to bet that’s the same reason they don’t bring a V6 model here, it’s simply not cost-effective. Not that any of this is cost-effective you understand. Maybe is they make a hip new advertisement campaign to make the young’uns happy? The Chevy that tweets?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

  1. dukeisduke Avatar

    It’s killing itself. The styling is nondescript and generic (it looks like a cross between an Impala, a Cruze, and a Jaguar XF), it’s expensive, it doesn’t get good mileage, and there aren’t enough well-heeled fifty- or sixty-something Harley-Davidson owners to make it a success.

    1. quattrovalvole Avatar

      The other problem is the 300 SRT. Both are within spitting distance in term of pricing, but the 300 has way more presence both as a luxury car and as a hot rod. Add that FCA actually put some effort to market it (e.g. putting Walter White in a black one).
      Edit: I want to add that I think Holden could get away with the staid styling to some extent, because the Commodore is a household brand in Australia, with its own customer base and fans. In the US though, it’s a new nameplate (as in SS used to be a trim, not a standalone model) that has to prove itself

      1. neight428 Avatar

        Chrysler nixed the SRT version of the 300.

        1. quattrovalvole Avatar

          They did? Oh damn!
          Well, I always thought that car had a better chance to steal potential buyer of the SS anyway. If that can’t sell in enough quantity, I think the SS has even less chance

        2. What_Tha Avatar

          Except in Australia

  2. Tanshanomi Avatar

    The Australian economy? There’s no point in building up hype and demand for a car that won’t be built in two years.

    1. E34Less Avatar

      This. The whole point of the SS is to fulfill an agreement between Holden and GM here in the states. They only have a contract to build so many (I think 2500/yr) until the plant its built in closes down. Chevy knows they can (eventually) sell all of them, so they aren’t sweating slow sales just yet.

  3. crank_case Avatar

    Calling it an Impala SS might help a bit, but it didn’t seem to do much for the Pontiac GTO in another time GM tried to market a Holden (what were they thinking with the G8 designation too). It’s a shame, because the SS seems like a great car.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      There would be some people suggesting that naming it Impale-aSS might not be much better
      /inner 12 year old

  4. Citric Avatar

    The SS almost seems like someone within GM really wanted one but was trying to sneak it past management, since it often feels like they don’t even realize they’re selling them.

  5. onrails Avatar

    I love this car. LOVE this car. If there were ever a wolf in sheep’s clothing, this is it. And fhe fact it’s a family hauling smile machine is even better. But short of a very small group of enthusiasts, most of whom don’t want to drop $45k on a Chevy, no one knows what it is and what it’s capable of.
    My only hope is that no one continues to buy them and the’ll get heavily discounted soon. Words cannot describe the want…

    1. Tanshanomi Avatar

      I agree, it’s a highly desirable car. I like the demure stealth factor, even. My issue is that it’s a lousy value for money. It’s about $12-15K overpriced.

  6. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

    I’m going to try to contain my post today.
    I’ll paraphrase my mother on this one, although then it was about a kid, “If you ignore him, he will go away.”
    I don’t know if they’re interested in selling these cars. Dealers certainly weren’t willing to floorplan them. Maybe they knew better than the planners in Detroit.
    There is trouble on both sides of the marketing equation.
    The first is the distinct lack of IN-market marketing. This car from a brand-funnel perspective. Is struggling at just getting people into the funnel. There is no advertising, the only promotion is in NASCAR circles and quite frankly, this car is better than that. This car could have worn a Caddy badge and stolen European share. It is that good. But that’s another point. The fact is, GM made a conscious decision to NOT market this car. Maybe it loses them money per unit. I don’t know. But that decision was made somewhere and this is the byproduct of that.
    Next point is the PRE-marketing. This is the most damning of everything in the SS-debacle. What was this car supposed to be? It’s very, very limited in scope. It didn’t have typical enthusiast options like a manual at launch. It wasn’t well executed. Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit. What is the name? Like you said, a trim level makes a terrible nomenclature for a vehicle. What if you wanted an upgraded one? Is that an SS SS? A name like Caprice, or Bel Air, or God-forbid we dig into our old brands and call it a Bonneville (and yes, they still own the trademark, in fact it was just renewed), these would have stirred memories. Nope. Not at GM. Next, who was the buyer? I don’t think GM can answer this in one sentence. That means it wasn’t clear from the start. Try it on your own. Give me the “elevator pitch” for this car that is short, true, believable and actionable. You can’t do it. You know why? Because it isn’t a well-segmented, properly focused car. It’s too sporty underneath to be so bland up top. A feat that hurt the recent GTO and G8. It’s also too expensive for casual shoppers to consider stepping up to. Are you going to step up from a $33k Impala V6 another $12k to the next car? Really? This is where a V6 option would transition well. You could get folks to step up from the Impala to a RWD, maybe softer (than the V8 version) suspension. Otherwise you need to bring people through the doors specifically for the SS, which we’ve already shown GM was unwilling to do. So you have no intermediary product, even the Corvette has intermediary product with the Camaro, they may be different buyers, but there is a sequential transition from potent Camaro to base (and yet still potent) Vette.
    It’s a sloppy execution of a sloppily planned hack-job of a marketing letdown that unfortunately is for a wonderful, wonderful car.
    The fault of this is solely in the marketing. The product team did their job delivering a car to the specs of what was asked. The pre-marketing missed clear signs of issues and the in-market team has ignored their product.
    TL;DR version: Bad marketing beforehand lead to a limited-scope product that then was never supported by marketing post-launch.

    1. CSM Avatar

      Or, simply, GM Marketing is batshit crazy sometimes. Often by errors of commission, and occassionally by sins of omission.

  7. CSM Avatar

    My last GM (and dealer experience) was such a piece of krap that I committed to NEVER, EVER wade into the GM pond again. Otherwise, the SS is precisely the kind of car I want to own.

    1. neight428 Avatar

      It’s a shame that we have, with some exceptions, a cartel of jerks between us and the machines we love, should we want to buy them showroom fresh.

      1. CSM Avatar

        As it will be forevermore…despite the efforts of Elon Musk.

  8. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    I think there is a lot of misconception in the expectations of the SS. The margins are abysmal to the point that there is no incentive to sell any more than they already plan to build. Virtually any level of marketing would raise demand to exceed supply, and they don’t actually want to build any more than they have to, and there is no ROI on a marketing push to unload the ones that they’ve already built. They’d rather sell you a Malibu…or a Tahoe.
    At the dealership level, the dealer is making squat on every SS sold. They don’t want to sell them. I mean, they’ll sell you one if you want one, but they make more money off selling you a $35k Silverado than they do selling you a $45k SS.
    You compare it to the Charger R/T, which I get, but a more direct comparison would be to the SRT 392 (similar HP and MSRP to the SS). The SRT isn’t going to sell in really high number, either.

  9. mr smee Avatar
    mr smee

    Other than GM/Chevy just doesn’t want this car? It’s sad on so many levels. As the “Impala SS” it would have done better. I like the low-key styling, but the market wants Chargers (as fugly as they are). Finally, in the risk-averse world we live in, it lacks all-wheel-drive. There’s not a husband in North America that can justify this car to his wife without the ‘safety’ of AWD.

  10. JayP Avatar

    Tack on those nuts-lookin’ Holden bumper covers and wheels, call it a Chevelle SS.

  11. Lokki Avatar

    My experience of corporate management life suggests that the situation is that someone in the company with a vision of what Chevy should be fought hard to get this car brought to the U.S. – but after getting the nod, that executive lost influence somehow. His pet project couldn’t be cancelled, but the budget was slashed and the support staff removed, leaving the whole thing to wither. So, no money for styling changes, no advertising, no skunk-works racer, and no factory performance parts. Possibly even no cars for the press to review? Then after the idea fails, said executive will be retired in punishment for his failure.
    I’ve seen this a dozen time in my career – not in the car industry but the pattern is plain enough.

  12. neight428 Avatar

    We went roundy-round on this a bit in a post about the SS stuffed in the corner on the Chevy Performance booth at the NAIAS. The styling is tame, and while I like that personally, it is probably a net negative to the market at large. The SRT Mopars are a good comparison in terms of the big obvious car market fundamentals, but dig down a level and the SS looks like the better car in the ways that BMW’s an Audis are regarded as better cars, and that is the problem.
    The SS has what the American buyer would (if they knew about it) perceive as German level sport sedan performance at a German level sport sedan price without the German sport sedan cache/perception/yuppie-that-got-a-promotion intangibles.
    An unquestionably good to great driving car that no one knows about only appeals to a few folks (that being us), but an unquestionably good to great driving car that (pardon the cartoonish metaphor) melts panties outside of the upscale sushi bar happy hour appeals to many more.
    I still say they could have called it the Chevelle or Nova, taken off $10k worth of options for a base V8 version and another $4k off for a V6 and you have something that makes sense to more people, but heaven forbid that GM put something together that might overlap slightly with an existing product.
    Unless you’re talking about a FWD CUV that no one could love if they tried, make 8 of those on the same platform.
    Were I slightly less of a skinflint, I would have bought an SS anyway, but I couldn’t shake that and don’t get much out of infotainment and leather, etc., etc. I’m not saying an available manual tranny would have changed my mind, but it would have had me run the numbers a few more times. With the dealers fire-selling 2014 Mustangs in advance of the refresh rollout, I couldn’t pass up the value there.

    1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

      A manual transmission became available for the 2015 model year. Not only that, it is a no-cost option, and saves the gas guzzler tax, making a manual trans SS $1300 cheaper than the “base” model.

  13. ptschett Avatar

    An obscure musclecar if I ever saw one.
    Wait, wrong series.

  14. Cool_Cadillac_Cat Avatar

    Short, shameful confession time.
    Until that other site mentioned the RWD Cadillac STS was ending production, I didn’t really grasp it was a RWD machine. Sure, I’d seen 4wd versions, in Denver…where else…but I thought it was still a FWD machine with a pseudo-4×4 option.
    I went out and found one within weeks, for a very substantial discount, because GM touted them almost none whatsoever.
    I sat in an SS at the Texas state fair auto show a few years back, and yeah, I could own one of these. A G8, too.
    However, I’m holding out, because STS replacement should be several years, for either an ’08 Jaaaaag XJ Super V8 Portfolio, or hopefully a Grand Cherokee Hellkitty.
    BTW, my wife, to this day, kicks herself for selling the silver over green interior ’67 Chevy Impala SS w/the 327 which was her first car, in 1970 or ’71.
    Bought it for like $800.

    1. JasonSS Avatar

      If you sat in an SS a few years back, you would have been an Impala SS. The SS discussed here is in it’s 2nd MY.

      1. Cool_Cadillac_Cat Avatar

        Nope. A few years ago and not a FWD Impaler.
        October 2012, sat in a RWD SS at the state fair’s auto show.
        Wanted one then, didn’t have $45K to drop on it, however.

  15. Troggy Avatar

    The ‘Chevrolet SS’ as you call it is an Australian built car known locally as the Holden Commodore SS. For us, this is a bog standard family car 🙂 It’s also available with a Buick-derived V6. Unfortunately GM is nixing up the Holden brand in Australia in two years time, and production of the Commodore will cease. Understandably they probably wouldn’t bother investing too heavily in marketing a car with such a finite lifespan.

  16. DeCode Avatar

    As stated before, the GTO, G8 and now the SS were never intended to be high volume cars. All three were merely exercises in keeping Holden Australia humming along as they don’t sell all that many RWD sedans in their own country these days. (for instance, there are FAR more 2004-06 GTOs than there ever were of the newer 01-06 Monaros [12,000]…maybe even ALL of the Manaros ever produced) There were 40,757 04-06 Pontiac GTO built; for those who care. That’s more than than the Middle East Lumina SS, Europe Vauhall VXR, and newer Aussi Manaros combined.
    I do agree that if GM actually marketed the damn thing they could easily sell more. But it’s just not cost effective for shipping and the dollar exchange. So why invest in advertising. Besides those who know and actually want one WILL buy one.
    We all know how the whole “I’d SO buy that if they made one” talk goes in the enthusiast community. More often than not it’s just talk.