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Say Chevrolet--not Chevy--GM tells employees

Thu, 10 Jun 2010

From racetracks in the heartland to the iconic strains of “American Pie,” one word--Chevy--has transcended class and culture and helped raise the bow-tie brand to the lofty status as one of the most recognized in the world.

But now, one of the most blue-collar and singularly American marques is going formal: General Motors has told its employees to use the world “Chevrolet” instead of the commonly used “Chevy” nickname. An internal memo distributed this week directs workers to use the official name in all communications, from official duties to simple conversations.

The reason for the change is the emerging global presence of the Chevrolet brand. It's sold in more than 130 countries, and spokesman Klaus-Peter Martin said the brand is looking for greater consistency in its messages.

No immediate changes are expected in advertising or other communications.

There is no time line for a phase-in of the change. On, the word Chevy still appeared prominently on Thursday morning, including a statement stripped across the middle reading, “Over 1,000 people a day switch to Chevy.”

“Chevrolet has grown over the past several years and become a truly global brand,” Martin said.

That being said, “Chevy” is not going anywhere. The memo was an internal note telling employees what to say, and Martin said the company is more than happy for the general public to refer to the brand however it wants. Chevy, like Coke for Coca-Cola, has become embeded in the public vernacular.

“We're not trying to kill Chevy,” he said.

Chevrolet was founded in 1911 by race-car driver Louis Chevrolet and GM founder William Durant, and the iconic bow-tie emblem appeared shortly thereafter. The brand has consistently been GM's best-selling division for decades and one of the top sellers in the nation, vying with Ford and Toyota for the individual-brand sales crown.

“There is nothing wrong with being called Chevy,” Martin said. “It's a nickname. It's in our history. It's in our fabric. We love it.”

Chevrolet, of course, is just as familiar to car fans as Chevy. Dinah Shore famously sang “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet,” and another memorable ad pitched “baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.”

GM subsequently issued a statement on the controversy. It reads:

Today's emotional debate over a poorly worded memo on our use of the Chevrolet brand is a good reminder of how passionately people feel about Chevrolet. It is a passion we share and one we do not take for granted.

We love Chevy. In no way are we discouraging customers or fans from using the name. We deeply appreciate the emotional connections that millions of people have for Chevrolet and its products.

In global markets, we are establishing a significant presence for Chevrolet, and need to move toward a consistent brand name for advertising and marketing purposes. The memo in question was one step in that process.

We hope people around the world will continue to fall in love with Chevrolets and smile when they call their favorite car, truck or crossover “Chevy.”

By Greg Migliore