Detroit. GM and Chevrolet are about to embark on a journey that may just determine the division’s health in the U.S. market for years to come. The new 2014 Chevrolet Impala is not just another car introduction for GM, because the car means so much more than that. At the very least the new Impala represents the hopes of True Believer enthusiasts within and outside the company for a rejuvenated GM and Chevrolet that so far has materialized just in their dreams, and only intermittently in reality.
It also represents The Future to The Suits (Dan “Captain Queeg” Akerson and his Merry Minions, plus the CEO’s sycophants on the GM Board), because they envision a GM that will be strong and powerful once again. And even if this “vision” doesn’t translate into an understanding of what makes for a successful product, they understand the money that can be generated by one.
The problem for Chevrolet is that they’ve allowed the Impala to languish in a limbo of mediocrity for so long that convincing the American drivers “out there” in ConsumerVille that a new Impala is exactly what they want - even though they don’t know it yet – will be an extremely tall order.
Since this business seems to ignore history as a matter of course, deeming it unnecessary and irrelevant in these instantly connected, nanosecond-attention-span times, it’s important to remember that the idea of a hot mainstream Chevrolet was once integral to GM’s success.
In GM and Chevrolet’s heyday, the Impala represented everything good about the then-dominant company. It was stylish, it offered excellent and in some cases outstanding performance, and it delivered exceptional value. In short, it set the standard for the entire industry and consumers bought them in droves. But as is GM’s wont, when it started its long slow slide to oblivion, its operatives forgot what the Impala meant to the company and to the market. And they *******ized it, screwed it up and even worse, just plain ignored it to the point that it became an afterthought.
Yes, Chevrolet loyalists will point to certain spikes in the Impala product cycle over the years - including the most recent example - but at the end of the day they’re just kidding themselves. GM and Chevrolet simply took their eye off of the ball and allowed the Impala to become “pretty good” and “not bad” in a world of competitive superlatives.