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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A recent post in the Chevrolet discussion group mentioned the Bel Air

Ah, the Bel Air. The greatest example of how GM (and Detroit in general) spent years busily destroying its own best brand names. Named for the classiest residential area in LA, the Bel Air was once the super deluxe Chevy. The Coupe Deville of the working class.

Over the years, it was successively topped by the Impala, the Caprice, the Caprice Classic, and then at some point came the who-knows-from-where Celebrity, then one whose name I can't even remember trying to be the standard Chevy sedan. Bel Air devolved downards until at some point in the 70's it became the embarrasing loss leader with rubber floor mats and no heater, then finally disappeared completely. The same thing has been done in countless great car names.

What a magnificent way to squander brand equity. Build up a name, then deliberately degrade it. Sheer genius. And a good reason Detroit's in the pickle it's in today.

Notice how the most successful car company on earth -- Toyota, I hate even saying that -- keeps its names around? We're going on better than 30 years of Corollas, 20 years of Camrys, endless 4-Runners and Celicas. Instead of running their car names downward, they keep improving the cars they go on.

It's a good strategy and it works. Wake up, Detroit.
 

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Originally posted by AMcA@Jul 14 2004, 09:02 PM
Notice how the most successful car company on earth -- Toyota, I hate even saying that -- keeps its names around?  We're going on better than 30 years of Corollas, 20 years of Camrys, endless 4-Runners and Celicas.  Instead of running their car names downward, they keep improving the cars they go on.
Where's the Tercel today? Now Echo.
Where's the Cressida? Now Avalon.
Where's the Paseo? Now Scion Tc?
Starlet? ??
Previa? Now Sienna.
Supra? Gone...

All companies change. Names will always change.
 

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Originally posted by Rex Raider@Jul 14 2004, 10:02 PM
Where's the Tercel today?  Now Echo.
Where's the Cressida?  Now Avalon.
Where's the Paseo? Now Scion Tc?
Starlet? ??
Previa? Now Sienna.
Supra? Gone...

All companies change.  Names will always change.
I agree with the point made earlier. In the Toyota examples you provided, the older names weren't necessarily run into the ground but evolved into better vehicles. Perhaps the older names were dropped to avoid baggage associated with the earlier designs, but with GM, it seems that the names are, at times, run into the ground.

Examples that come to mind?
Toronado
Riviera (although I liked the final version)
Cutlass
LeMans
 

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It's to give the customers the impression that the products are getting better and better. Bel Air used to be the best, but now there's the even-better Impala. And, whoa, look, now there's the even-better Caprice. People want the latest and greatest. And it's probably not just trickery. The last Bel Air of 1975 probably had an interior as nice or nicer than the Bel Air in the 50's, it's just that interiors got nicer and nicer and what was top of the line in the 50's was bottom of the line in the 70's. (By the way, I don't think any car was sold without a heater in the 70's, least of all a full-size Chevy.)

The FWD Grand Am introduced in '85 had base, LE, and top of the line SE trim. Then the GT trumped the SE, and the base was dropped. Within a few years, the SE was bottom of the line. Same with the Grand Prix, although now even the SE is gone, GT is the base. Same game, but now they used letters instead of names to indicate trim levels. Their was no overall name for full-sized Chevies, other than the "Standard" label that used to be used so they said "Impala" instead of "SE".

The Celebrity was never the top-of-the-line Chevy sedan. It was a Malibu replacement (sort of).
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Originally posted by Rex Raider+Jul 15 2004, 02:02 AM--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Rex Raider @ Jul 15 2004, 02:02 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> <!--QuoteBegin-AMcA@Jul 14 2004, 09:02 PM
Notice how the most successful car company on earth -- Toyota, I hate even saying that -- keeps its names around?  We're going on better than 30 years of Corollas, 20 years of Camrys, endless 4-Runners and Celicas.  Instead of running their car names downward, they keep improving the cars they go on.
Where's the Tercel today? Now Echo.
Where's the Cressida? Now Avalon.
Where's the Paseo? Now Scion Tc?
Starlet? ??
Previa? Now Sienna.
Supra? Gone...

All companies change. Names will always change. [/b][/quote]
True enough, Rex, but each of the Toyoaters you mentioned ran its course and was replaced, often after a span of years, by a very different car.

The Previa - replaced by a substantially larger (mm. for mm. against a Caravan!) machine, with different packaging when consumers found it too small, and didn't like its snub nose & engine placement.

The Tercel - replaced by a totally different format car, the smaller, tall 'n' tippy and butt ugly Echo. The tercel, by contrast, was a blandly not bad looking conventionally packaged small car.

The Avalon - replaced the Cressida, a car that had been dead for 2 years, and on life support long before that.

And who wants to bet there will be a 2020 model Avalon sitting alongside a 2020 Corolla and Camry?

My point is not that Toyota hasn't built up and discarded names itself. But it's stuck by its best ones, always improving the cars. Look at Chevy. Well, Suburban has been around since the 30's. Corvette, 53 years. Silverado, it's been around a while, though at one time it was a just duded-up option package, not a truck. Then . . . ummm, there's the revived Impala (nameplate was gone for 9 years, I believe) and the Malibu (gone for 14 years). Everything else is either spanking new.

Just think how much goodwill Chevrolet squandered while the Malibu and Impala names gathered dust. Seriously, all those people who had 2 Malibus and loved 'em both, then wound up buying a hideous Celebrity. And when it came time to replace the Celebrity they looked at a Lumina (a car so thoroughly forgetable that I had to Google for its name). It did nothing for them. They bought a Toyota. And then another.

S'pose, maybe, just maybe, those Chevies had all been Malibus, they might have liked them just a little better? Could they have forgiven a successor to that beautiful blue '67 coupe they loved so much the sins of the Celebrity and the Lumina?

If you doubt me on the power of brand names, just look at the current Impala. Odd looking thing, not a class leader in any attribute. Not a bad car, but nothing notably good about it either. But its sales have been GROWING(!) as the car ages! I can't think of any way to explain it except that it has a great name. Imagine that the current Impala had been christened as the Chevy __________ (<fill in the blank with a new, audience-tested name in the same vein as Lumina or Celebrity). It wouldn't even be in production any more.

That's the power of good brand names. Imagine for a moment they hadn't let the Bel Air name rot - if it had remained the name of the up-market Chevy ever since its 1950 introduction. How do you think a Chevy Bel Air with that continuity behind it would be selling today?
 
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