The Big Three Are Invisible To Young Buyers

Having lived in both the Rust Belt and the Sun Belt in the last few years, it became very obvious to me that, outside a small sliver of the Midwest, no one has any affinity at all for cars from GM, Ford or Chrysler.
Of all the troubles the Big 3 face, perception is the biggest one. Because there’s nobody under the age of 30 who can associate domestic automakers with excellence. They simply don’t remember a time when it was cool, or even worthwhile, to buy American cars. The generation that’s buying new cars for perhaps the first time is totally lost for domestics.
As BusinessWeek reports, the Detroit automakers realize it. Maybe:

By now, anyone who can see lightning and hear thunder is aware that Chevrolet is advertising the redesigned 2008 Malibu on TV, in print, in outdoor advertising, online, and generally everywhere as “The Car You Can’t Ignore.” But young people have roundly ignored the Malibu for years and, pickups and SUVs aside, it isn’t the only U.S.-made car that should be feeling snubbed.
Domestic brands like Chevrolet have to “disrupt” that pattern and get themselves noticed, said Ed Peper, Chevrolet’s general manager, in a presentation to the International Motor Press Assn. on Oct. 18 in New York. In plain English, that means U.S. carmakers must figure out a way to get, and hold, the attention of younger buyers with models that offer the looks, quality, reliability, pricing, performance, and fuel economy coming out of Asia and Europe.

The Malibu???? That’s not the answer. We had a Malibu station wagon when I was growing up and it was a piece of crap with sticky seats. I’ll go more in-depth on this someday, but Detroit needs, well, to get out of Detroit.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. I actually like the styling of the new Malibu and think that it is one that finally lives up to the reputation of the classic Malibu (not the sticky-seated on you remember…)
    However, there are two main issues with the Big 3:
    1. Their manufacturing-based culture that looks in to plant capacity not out to consumers needs. Ad agencies need to get involved with the business more deeply to lead product decisions because the product is, more than the advertising narrative, the heart and soul of the brand.
    2. The place in the market. Domestics are getting squeezed from high-end makers moving down and low-end makers moving up. Where do the Big 3 fit in the marketplace? I don’t think they know. Their agencies should figure it out.

  2. Yes. Growing up in NYC, I can barely remember a time anyone I knew owned an American car. Even in high school, the cool car was Japanese: the Datsun 280Z.
    That was a long time ago. Since then, American cars just haven’t been a part of the picture. The occasional SUV or minivan, but that’s about it. And even in those categories, the preferred models are all foreign.
    Detroit has to do something pretty radical to get this generation back in their camp. They’ve done so much wrong, screwed customers over in so many ways, that I don’t really know if it’s possible.
    @DB: I will check out your post in a few.