MW: What attracted you to the Chevrolet brand?
Wayne D Brannon, president and managing director Chevrolet Europe (WB): I came over to Europe from Detroit on a two-year assignment five years ago. I had a fantastic opportunity to build a brand that was really in its nascent stages in Europe. It’s an interesting brand because it’s one that has this tremendous heritage. People know us as an American car company importing Corvettes and Camaros. It was a new start and a great opportunity to tell the Chevrolet story.
Mark Terry, managing director Chevrolet UK (MT): I’ve worked for GM for almost 24 years. At GM UK, where I’ve been for the past five years, we had Saab, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Hummer and Vauxhall at one point. Even though I was working for Saab, the way that GM UK used to operate meant that you were involved with a lot of the brands simultaneously.
I could really see the [Chevrolet] brand going somewhere. I thought, what better time to join than at its inception and grow with it.
MW: What’s your biggest challenge for 2011?
WB: Our biggest challenge is to get people knowing our products. We’ve got a great portfolio of products that we know customers want because when they find them, they buy them. We’ve had customers choosing us in record numbers during the past five years
and it’s going to double over the next five years again.
It’s an interesting brand because it’s one that has this tremendous heritage.
Wayne D Brannon
We have a goal to be the leanest, meanest, most efficient car distribution company in Europe, so we work really hard on the inside of the company, to stay lean so that we can keep our costs down and provide a better value product to the customer. We are using unconventional marketing [techniques] to reach these consumers, such as PR stunts and events, for example.
MT: The biggest challenge [in the UK] will be how we launch four new models – the Aveo, Orlando, Cruze and Captiva – in the same year. We’ll do it one at a time and very carefully. We’re already well into the plans for Orlando, and Captiva will be upon us after that. Because we’re a small team of 60 people, we’re not going to draft in an army of people just for one year, so we have to plan very carefully. While that’s a challenge, it’s a very nice challenge to have.
MW: New UK car sales fell by 17.5% in August and 8.9 % in September compared with sales figures for 2009. How do you maximise brand awareness in such a tough economic climate?
WB: Our biggest challenge is to look for non-conventional ways to tell the story. It takes years through conventional media to build your brand. You need to put cars in locations where customers are, do special events such as our recent Young Creative Chevrolet initiative (see main copy); reaching out to lifestyle media, not just the traditional press.
MW: Which brand is bucking the trend in the automotive industry?
MT: Last year the leading brand for scrappage was Hyundai. [Hyundai in the UK was the market leader for the Government’s new car sales Scrappage Scheme, which ran from May 2009 to March this year, selling 57,000 new cars in 2009.] I think every manufacturer looked at what Hyundai did and thought it was clearly outstanding. I think we would have all liked to have been in that place.
MW: As part of General Motors, Chevrolet is competing against a lot of other brands in its stable. How do you ensure brand differentiation?
WB: Our design team focuses on that. The other thing that we do is make sure that the brands stand for something. We’re an American heritage brand so we have this spirit of optimism, passion and practicality. We offer similar levels of technology and features and benefits because that’s what the market demands, but we differentiate the cars so that people feel that passion, personal and emotional connection to the car.
MT: Even though some people might not even know that Vauxhall and Chevrolet come from the same stable, we do in the industry. One of the benefits of General Motors is that a Ford is a Ford is a Ford, but at General Motors, there isn’t a GM car per se.
There are brands within the stable that are very separate. I don’t think there’s a lot of crossover and indeed in the UK, a lot of the products are sold out of the same dealerships.