Chevy's 'Love It or Return It' Recalls Hyundai Strategy

GM Marketing Chief Ewanick's Latest Play Puts Twist on Assurance Program

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To use a football metaphor, trick plays are great but how many times can you go to the same playbook? General Motors Co. is about to find out.

GM Global Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick and Chevrolet Brand Marketing Chief Chris Perry are utilizing one of their tried-and-true marketing schemes from their days at Hyundai with the new "Chevy Confidence" program. Dubbed "Love It or Return It," consumers can return any new 2012 or 2013 model year Chevrolet within 60 days if they don't like the vehicle, provided there is less than 4,000 miles on the car and there is no damage.

The campaign is similar to the Assurance Program that Mr. Ewanick instituted while he was at Hyundai in 2009. In the midst of a brutal economy, the automaker allowed buyers who lost their jobs to return their recently purchased Hyundais, no questions asked -- and no cash due nor hit to their credit report. However, this time the GM execs are adding a sweetener they could not at Hyundai: They are playing the all-American card.

Commercials for the "Love It or Return It" campaign, which end Sept. 4, are from Goodby Silverstein & Partners and mention prominently different parts of the cars being assembled in Bowling Green, KY, Los Angeles and "Detroit, Michigan, USA." Perhaps not coincidentally, the voice-over is done by actor Tim Allen, who also voices the highly successful "Pure Michigan" ads. This latest in the "Chevy Runs Deep" series drives home that Chevy's confidence and determination is back "and we couldn't have done it without you."

This is not the first time GM has gone down this guaranteed path. The company made a similar offer to consumers, also in 2009, to help grow sales as it emerged from bankruptcy.

"We have transformed the Chevrolet lineup, so there is no better time than now to reach out to new customers with the 'Love It or Return It' guarantee and very attractive, bottom-line pricing," Mr. Perry said in a statement, adding that GM research shows "consumers are reassured of the quality of a product and like the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have the option of being able to return their vehicle."

Chevy also introduced no-haggle pricing in a push to rid dealerships of 2012 vehicles to make way for 2013 -- including the new Malibu, a new Silverado truck and the new Spark minicar -- saying in a statement, "all 2012 model year Chevrolets will be offered at the best possible prices in addition to all current vehicle-specific incentives. No mystery about it -- the price you see is the price you pay."

Chevrolet brand vehicles account for more than 70% of all GM sales, but the rate of Chevy sales growth in the first half of the year (up 6.3% year-over-year) was less than half of the overall growth of the U.S. market (up almost 15% January through June), according to Automotive News. For the first six months of the year the overall brand notched a 14% market share, down from 14.9% for the same period in 2011, Automotive News figures show.

USA Today noted there is minimal risk in the "Love It or Return It" program, as Hyundai received only 300 returned cars out of almost 435,000 sold in 2009 at the height of the Hyundai Assurance Program.

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