GM pulls disputed 'Real People, Not Actors' TV ad

Toyota, Ford and Honda took issue with the comparison spot

By Published on .

Chevrolet will stop airing its most recent "Real People, Not Actors" TV ad that claims the brand has better reliability than Toyota, Ford and Honda, among other brands.

The commercial has been pulled nationally and is being phased out in local markets after each brand featured in the spot — Toyota, Ford and Honda — challenged the claim.

At least one brand, according to a person familiar with the matter, sent an email to GM's legal counsel demanding that the automaker stop airing the ad, which was posted to YouTube on Jan. 1 and began airing earlier this month. Commonwealth/McCann is the agency for Chevrolet.

The spot shows Ford, Honda and Toyota owners being quizzed about which brands have the best reliability "based on a recent nationwide survey." With each wrong guess, sheets bearing Ford, Honda and Toyota logos are pulled off the vehicles until four Chevrolet models are exposed.

"It's understandable that the 'real people' in the commercial would be surprised with Chevrolet's claim of being the most reliable car brand," Ford spokesman Mike Levine said in a statement. "Because it's not the case. They have agreed to take these false and misleading ads down and we'd like to see that happen immediately."

Honda and Toyota spokespersons separately said the brands challenged the ad but declined to provide details.

The decision to pull the ad, which was first reported by The Detroit News, comes after Chevrolet last week said it "stands by the claim" and "will continue to run the ad."

On Wednesday, Chevrolet said it pulled the ad to launch a new Silverado television campaign, which debuted last week. A Chevrolet spokeswoman declined to comment on discussions with any other brands.

"Chevrolet stands by the reliability claim and the ad remains in the brand's toolbox but we have decided to take it out of the regular rotation at this time to launch new Silverado creative," Chevrolet said in a statement. "We have not altered our marketing campaign because of any concerns with the accuracy of our ad content."

The referenced survey in the ad was conducted by Paris-based Ipsos over the last 12 months. It featured owners of 2015 model-year vehicles that were in service from December 2014 to June 2015. But the vehicles shown in the ad are current versions of the Chevrolet Equinox, Silverado, Traverse and Malibu — all of which have been redesigned since 2015.

Consumer World, a Massachusetts consumer advocacy organization, last week called on Chevrolet to pull the ad because newer vehicles are being promoted in tandem with data about older models.

Ipsos' survey, according to a Chevy-branded fact sheet online, covered some 48,700 owners of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles vs. competitive brands in the area of parts replaced or repaired in the past 12 months. Fluids, filters and accident/collision repairs weren't counted.

It's not uncommon for reliability to be based on older vehicles, given it's a long-term claim. However, the Ipsos results and definition of "reliability" differ from other market research firms followed by the auto industry.

The Ipsos survey's results for Chevrolet are dramatically different from results of the latest Consumer Reports Auto Reliability Survey. Last fall, it ranked Chevrolet 23rd among 29 brands, in part "because the redesigned Traverse had 'Much-Worse-Than-Average' reliability." The Traverse is one of the four vehicles touted in the Chevy ad.

Ipsos' results are more in line with the 2018 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, which counts owner-reported problems with 3-year-old vehicles. Chevrolet ranked sixth in the 2018 study and had four 2015 model-year vehicles awarded as segment-bests. Those were the same four nameplates touted in the ad being challenged by Consumer World. Chevrolet ranked higher than Ford, Honda and Toyota in the J.D. Power study.

Michael Wayland is a reporter for Automotive News. Vince Bond and Michael Martinez contributed to this report.

Most Popular
In this article: