Just a few short years ago, its rule over the car kingdom had come to an end, totaling 77 consecutive years (1931-2008) - a record yet to be beaten. Yet unlike the feudal times of monarchs, it's not something that is lost forever. Currently world number 2, GM still has a chance to win it back. Stripped of some of its brands GM may be finally on-track to do so.
Closer to home, GM Philippines may not have faired the recent automotive crisis as well either, yet their newly appointed local distributors of Chevrolet in the Philippines, The Covenant Car Company Incorporated (TCCCI) certainly seem to be in a fighting mood.
A recent chat with TCCCI's Director for Marketing Services, Lyn Manalansang-Buena reveals their battle plan.
INTERVIEWER: First of all, why the name, The Covenant Car Company?
LYN BUENA: A covenant signifies a commitment. We chose the word covenant to describe our company because we believe that the success of this business lies in our partnerships with all Chevrolet stakeholders. It is a covenant between us and our principals in GM and Chevrolet, between us and our dealers, our customers, our employees whom we call stewards, and our society. More-so, it is our covenant to forge and grow the iconic brand that is Chevrolet here in the Philippines.
And in this covenant, we pledge our time, talent and resources for the success of Chevrolet in the Philippines. We bind ourselves to build the brand, sell the right cars and cultivate the right culture to serve our customers. We promise to partner with all stakeholders to be a responsible corporate citizen that strives for good governance and applies best business practices in everything we do. Above all, it is a covenant between us and our God to steward the business in order to accomplish a higher purpose.
I: How did the turn over go?
LB: When we took over, the product line then was the Spark, Captiva, Aveo, Optra and Suburban. There was a lot that was needed to be fixed. Aftersales, of course, is one. We're looking after it. It's one of the thorny issues.
Selling mainstream cars is completely different from what we know. Efficiency has to be everywhere. We have twelve dealers. All dealers have to comply with corporate identity guidelines.
Let's face it, they've been a bit discouraged because of what's happened with the brand in the past. There's been some complacency I suppose and they were affected by the bankruptcy issue so they're not as gung ho.
So we've lined up all these activities to show them that we're gung ho and we'd like to infect them with that. It looks like it's working. Hopefully, we can keep it going.
I: Could you tell us about these activities?
LB: Chevy Plus is an event we had in Sofitel. We gathered all the sales teams of 12 different dealer networks. We walked them through how we will rebuild the Chevrolet brand. We talked to them about tips on sales and marketing.
We also got the Presidentiables to address them. We got Villar, We got Gilbert, We got Erap and we got brother Eddie. It was a surprise that we unveiled towards the tail end. These candidates gave their personal message to encourage Chevrolet people to believe in change. Nobody campaigned, of course.
The event was to instill the brand values in them. And a couple of days later, we launched the brand and we launched Cruze.
We did it before the Cruze event so that when they start facing people, they know the car, they know the brand and they have a renewed sense of pride.
I: Yes, I remember that event. The Chevrolet Cruze was unveiled on the large LED ad billboard along EDSA. Not the usual car launch venue. What's the reasoning behind that?
LB: EDSA is one of the country's prominent thoroughfares for all regular commuters -- the regular working man that drive along the city. The Chevrolet logo was designed using the "bowtie" to then represent every working man, it has been the thrust of the brand since then to serve and provide the regular working man with a dependable and desirable car. Through the years the Chevrolet brand has evolved and expanded its product portfolio to include the diverse and growing preferences and needs of the automotive public in all their life stages. Chevrolet has now evolved in to a status that's better, stronger and larger than life. It is our vision that the all-new Chevy Cruze will be the main attraction of every city's prominent thoroughfare in the Philippines beginning in EDSA.
I: So it seems the renewed Chevrolet is tied closely with the new Cruze. What is its role for TCCCI?
LB: The all-new Chevy Cruze signifies a bold 2010 beginning of change for Chevrolet in the Philippines with TCCCI as its new distributor. With the Chevy Cruze, we want the automotive public to embrace the "Change" in the way they see their car and appreciate the brand Chevrolet. Change as its handle aims to carry out a new and vibrant approach to doing things differently in the hopes to propel the brand to a level that will positively contribute to the lives of the Filipino people, ultimately directing the Cruze as a definitive answer to the ever changing needs and demanding desire for more of its market. The Chevy Cruze is viewed within Chevrolet as the vehicle that will ignite the passion for Chevrolet. With the warm reception that the Cruze gained in Europe, Asia and North America, we hope to replicate that here in the Philippines. With a renewed GM and Chevrolet, partnered with TCCCI, a whole new level of focus on the Filipino consumer has begun. Undivided attention will be paid to the market, the automotive landscape, product, and the customer to change how Chevrolet will be viewed in the Philippines. And the change starts with the entry of the Chevy Cruze as we declared, "There's a Cruze for every Juan de la Cruz".
I: What do you think is the Cruze's advantage over the competition?
LB: It would be difficult to peg one best quality for the Cruze as aside from having a very solid, formidable profile, there are so many new features that can be associated with some premium models. But if I may highlight some things, it would be its 6-speed automatic transmission capacity - the only one that has in its class. Likewise, Chevrolet focused on the build quality and features of the Cruze making it the safest in its class, as maximum 5-star safety ratings all around the world (Euro NCAP, Australian NCAP, Chinese NCAP, etc.) would attest. To top it all off, it is currently a finalist and in the running for the World Car Awards this year. In fact, in general, one can initially tell a good quality car by checking on how solid its body is -- showing that quality was not spared as seen in premium cars. This is evident in the Cruze, unlike the usual thin sheet aluminum or steel type that we're so used to seeing in other cars in its segment. And best of all, its value for money proposition is too good to pass over.
I: Going back to the "Change" you mentioned, what other changes is Chevrolet undergoing?
LB: There's the showroom spruce-up - a dealer facility improvement program for all 12 dealerships nationwide. We freshened up the building facades with new and uncluttered frontages. Inside, the vehicle line-up is on display, with the new model parked on a silver pedestal in the center.
I: I see Chevrolet active outside of dealerships too. What are your activities?
LB: We recently had the Don Pastor Racing School powered by Chevy in McKinley Hill. We provided him with the WTCC Cruze mock up that he used for some of his students. It's a drive around a short course set up there.
The STV Auto Rally Corporate Challenge is another. We fielded 4 Cruzes and a Captiva.
We also had a mall show tour. It's a mini motor show featuring the Cruze that's all staged by us. The mall tour covers SM Mall of Asia, Trinoma, Alabang Town Center and Shangri-la Plaza Mall. The mall tours are going to continue. We're going to go provincial.
Simultaneously, we have the WTCC Cruze and Camaro touring all the showrooms.
I: Now I've seen that WTCC Cruze and that's certainly a lot of work for just a mock-up. Are there other plans for that car?
LB: There are other events that we will be participating in. One of which is the PhTC (Philippine Touring Car) project. That's our version of the WTCC. We've commissioned BRE (Blanco Race Engineering) to put together a Cruze race car for the Philippine Touring Car Championship which will compete in races.
I: Does that mean we could see a Chevrolet-backed touring car team?
LB: That's part of the plan. We're hoping to slowly inch our way towards that. We're very excited about it. We'll be featuring that car in the Manila International Auto Show (MIAS).
I: So is 2010 going to be a banner year for Chevrolet?
LB: We're rooting for our partners to be with us in these steps we'll take to building the brand. We need them to be one with us in these activities. Eventually, it will go back to a better brand, better profitability and a whole new Chevrolet in the Philippines. That's why in the Cruze event, we chose to do things differently. That's why we had a different venue, different event style. We really wanted to show the market that it's a different team. And the brand, we feel, has a lot of potential.