Michigan lawmakers move to scrap A-F school grade system

Chevrolet ad will stop airing after Ford, Toyota, Honda challenge

Nora Naughton
The Detroit News

A new Chevrolet commercial claiming the General Motors Co. brand is more reliable than Ford, Honda and Toyota has stopped airing nationally and will stop appearing in local markets after those three competitors challenged the ad's comparison assertions, The Detroit News has learned.

Ford, Honda and Toyota confirmed they each challenged the 60-second TV spot, which aired in Metro Detroit during the North American International Auto Show. Its title: "Chevy Surprises Competitive Owners When It Comes To Reliability." 

A lawyer for one of the three automakers who challenged the ad sent an email to GM's legal counsel this month demanding that the automaker stop making the reliability comparison claims in its advertising campaign, according to sources familiar with the correspondence. GM was given until 5 p.m. Jan. 14 to respond to the demands.

In a verbal response, a lawyer for GM told a counterpart at one of the rival automakers that Chevrolet is moving in a different marketing direction as it ramps up its campaign for the new Silverado pickup trucks, the sources said. And the GM lawyer added that the ad already had stopped airing nationally, with plans to remove the commercial from local markets in the coming weeks, the sources said.

In the Chevrolet ad, people watch as  Toyota tarps cover cars. They are pulled off,  revealing Chevrolet cars underneath.

"Chevrolet stands by the reliability claim and the ad remains in the brand’s toolbox but we have decided to take it out of the regular rotation at this time to launch new Silverado creative," Chevrolet said in an emailed statement to The News. "We have not altered our marketing campaign because of any concerns with the accuracy of our ad content."

The ad is still posted on Chevrolet's YouTube page. Ford and Toyota, however, say GM told them that the ad would be pulled after the two automakers complained.

"Through discussions with GM, we were informed they decided to pull the ad," said Toyota spokeswoman Karen Nielsen. Honda declined to comment beyond confirming its concerns.

Chevrolet has agreed to stop airing the advertisement altogether, though it is still appearing heavily in Metro Detroit, Ford spokesman Mike Levine said. "We’d like to see that happen immediately."

The ad, which started airing this month, uses the "Real People" premise Chevrolet has used for more than three years to claim that a "recent nationwide survey" found Chevrolet to be a more reliable brand than Toyota, Honda and Ford — three of the bow-tie brand's biggest competitors.

The reliability claim in Chevrolet's commercial, which was scrutinized last week by Jalopnik, is based on a survey of 2015 model-year vehicles commissioned by Chevrolet and completed by Paris-based market research firm Ipsos Group S.A. Fine print at the bottom of Chevy's reliability ad directs viewers to ChevyReliability.com for more information on the survey.

That website redirects to a one-page document that says Ipsos surveyed owners of 2015 model-year Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac owners versus owners of "competitive brands." The research firm sent 840,979 "non-sponsored" letters to targeted owners and received 48,679 completed surveys. 

The definition of reliability, Chevrolet says in the document, "is the percentage of vehicle owners who reported they have not repaired or replaced any vehicle components in the past 12 months (excluding fluids, filters and those related to accident/collision)."

Consumer Reports, which surveys its readers every year for a reliability study, found in 2018 that Toyota was the second most-reliable brand after its sister brand, Lexus. Honda finished 15th and Ford finished 18th. All three brands were ahead of Chevrolet at 23rd.

But J.D. Power's 2018 dependability rankings, which are more similar to the study Chevy commissioned for its reliability ad in that it looks at 2015 model year vehicles, ranked Chevrolet above Toyota, Honda and Ford.

As Chevrolet's reliability ad comes off the air, the brand is rolling out a massive campaign for its all-new 2019 Silverado pick up truck, which debuted last year at the Detroit auto show.


Twitter: @NoraNaughton