Cruze to Market

Many call the Chevrolet Cruze the brand’s best small car ever.  Cruze sales in CY 2011 have averaged over 20,000 units each month—that’s about 13% of all Chevrolet sales—and Advertising Age just reported “Cruze” is one of the hottest automotive brands.  Launching a new model is hard enough; sustaining interest is just as hard and in November GM announced it was slowing Cruze production as sales cooled.

To assess the launch and more recent sales trends, Compete investigated Cruze shopper volumes and success converting shoppers into buyers.  Shopper volume calculations leverage Compete’s patented ability to gather and normalize in-market behavior across the internet, while avoiding false positives.  We included details on social media conversations from Cymfony for additional insights.  Cymfony provides an unfiltered lens into the mind of the consumer revealed through commentary to help understand purchase drivers, key conversation topics and sentiment.

Demanding Insights

Sales are a function of the number of in-market shoppers and the ability to convert shoppers to buyers.  Compete quantified Cruze CY11 shopper volume and the share of all Chevrolet shoppers that shopped Cruze.  Shopper volumes ramped up through June, likely driven by a blend of advertising, media praise, consumer awareness, and gas prices (which hit a recent peak in May).  The September lift coincided with celebrations around Chevrolet’s 100th anniversary.  Lower share of all Chevrolet shoppers means that post-June declines are not part of an overall Chevrolet decline.

Lower Cruze shopper volumes from June—other than in September—mean a reduced potential for sales.  Next Compete assessed the success in converting shoppers into buyers.  Cruze conversion (similar to a close rate) was steady through June (meaning sales gains until then were demand-driven).  Peak sales of 24,900 units came in June on peak shopper volume.  July and August show fewer shoppers, but successful use of higher conversion to bolster sales.  October sales of 14,300 were the result of the fewest shoppers in the period and below-average conversion.

Voice of the Consumer

To add additional highlights, Compete compared Cruze shopper and conversion trends against Cruze comment volume from Cymfony.  Comment volume is the sum of daily-tracked conversations across blogs and forums as well as Facebook/Twitter.

Cruze comment volume shows two distinct peaks—February and July—with a smaller bump in May.  The February bump precedes the ramp up in shoppers; the July bump coincides with higher Cruze conversion.  Comments each month were rich in feedback on GM’s announcement of a pending diesel version of Cruze.  That may have been extra-relevant in February as gas prices increased.  July and August diesel comments may have conveyed images of efficiency and practicality that could have better help convert shoppers to buyers (i.e., higher conversion).   Any of these could be good leading indicators of the potential for future Cruze diesel sales.  There’s potentially mixed news around May’s smaller comment lift.  Those referenced Cruze steering wheel and transmission recall issues, including a recall.

The good news is that May’s comment volume was much lower than the other bumps, and they did not prevent conversion gains a few months later.  More good news: positive Cruze comments soundly outweighed negative ones in every month, including May (not shown).  However, the drop in Cruze shoppers started in June nearly immediately after peak comments about the recall.

Building on Success

Overall, the combination of shoppers, conversion, and comments tell a positive tale for Cruze, and the combination of Compete’s measure of what people do and Cymfony’s insights on why provides a richer understanding of market success—and challenges.  Related, GM just reported it is cutting Cruze production as the market has evolved.  As such it is important to dive deeper into history, monitor going forward, and refine tactics.  Specifically:

  • Overlay Cruze historic ad spend timing/volumes to better isolate how marketing and comments together influence shopper volumes
  • Create Cruze benchmarks by comparing changes in Cruze shopper volume and comments with those of rivals; include comment tone
  • Compare changes in gas prices and diesel prices with timing and volume of diesel comments and shopper volumes
  • Identify the extent to which Chevrolet Volt shoppers and comments spilled over to Cruze
  • Optimize future ad spend/timing/messaging, PR, and social media to leverage latent diesel interest timing
  • Apply learnings to the launch of the 2013 Malibu Eco (shoppers, conversion, comments), which will be the first version of the new Malibu sold

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About Lincoln Merrihew:
Lincoln Merrihew is the Vice President of Transportation at Millward Brown Digital. At Millward Brown Digital, Lincoln is responsible for steering the Transportation Team, which encompasses the automotive and travel practices. Before Lincoln joined the Millward Brown Digital team, he worked at TNS Custom leading the Automotive team, and then continued on there to lead business development for 10 different industry verticals. Lincoln's career aspiration is to create game-changing solutions and insights. Connect with Lincoln on LinkedIn.