Chevy Cobalt – The Next Best Thing to a Hybrid?

YAGS! In case you’ve missed it, the U.S. has hit a bit of an economic bump in the road. In a rare show of bi-partisan support, the government passed a stimulus package bill, but those checks are quickly being diverted to pay for increasingly expensive food and European-style gas prices. With gas prices hitting record highs almost every day and thus requiring a new story, I think these articles deserve their own onomatopoetic acronym, YAGS – Yet Another Gas Story. "YAGS! I can’t believe I spent that much on gas."

With YAGS in almost non-stop rotation (and other stories of general economic collapse), how will automotive manufacturers continue to attract shoppers? For manufacturers with a fleet of small fuel-efficient vehicles, it shouldn’t be such a difficult transition, but the Detroit 3 are better known for large gas-guzzling SUVs capable of traversing the jungles of suburbia. The results for those so far have been not good. The folks in Detroit do make some fuel-efficient vehicles, and with a slew of advertising they are making sure people know they don’t have to wait for the Chevy Volt. To help drive that point home, Chevrolet recently took over the MSN home page featuring one of its fuel efficient models, the Cobalt.

During the week of the portal takeover, referrals to Cobalt surpassed 65,000 sessions with 25% of those coming from MSN.com. Among the takeover referrals, 17% engaged with a key shopping tool such as requesting a dealer quote or configuring a vehicle. A Compete study determined vehicle purchasers are twice as likely to engage with a key shopping tool than non-purchasers.

The ad’s fuel-economy messaging clearly resonated with consumers. Chevrolet should be pleased with the success of its takeover of MSN, but did interest spread beyond Chevrolet.com? To determine that, we need to expand our view to determine how well Cobalt is doing in the overall automotive marketplace.

In May, Cobalt shopper counts reached their highest level since February. Despite similar levels of demand, Chevrolet was able to sell almost 60% more Cobalt models in May compared to February. While not as hip and cool as a hybrid, the Cobalt and other small cars can save a substantial amount of money at the gas pump without the added cost of a hybrid engine. By utilizing timely messaging Chevrolet was able to find success in a down market. With gas prices showing no signs of ebbing, nearly every model is featuring fuel-economy messaging from the obvious (Honda Civic) to the not-so-obvious (GMC Sierra). Has their advertising been as effective as the Cobalt’s?

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