Behind Chevy's search for some Apple magic

Automotive News | January 9, 2012 - 4:21 pm EST

DETROIT -- General Motors has a big obstacle to overcome to reach its goal of elevating the Chevrolet brand to Apple status: Young people simply are more interested in iPhones and iPads than Camaros and Cruzes.

At least, that's one conclusion GM drew from talking to some 9,000 young people over the past year to get feedback for two new Chevy concepts it unveiled at the show here Monday.

"Who really knows if it's really possible to make young people fall in love with an automotive brand the way they do with their phones, their laptops or their social networks," GM North America President Mark Reuss said Monday. "If there's a way to do it, Chevrolet is going to find it."

GM marketing chief Joel Ewanick first talked about GM's Apple envy last summer. Apple's reputation for innovation and its laser focus on the customer are traits that make it perhaps the world's most revered corporate brand.

Lead designer Joe Baker introduces the Chevrolet Code 130R concept on Monday. The four-seat, rear-wheel drive coupe was inspired by ideas and feedback from next-generation buyers.

Photo credit: GM

But young people's natural inclination toward technology that connects them to their friends is a built-in advantage for companies such as Apple and Facebook when it comes to the cool factor.

Consider:

• 54 percent of the young people GM surveyed would rather spend time on Facebook or Twitter than driving

• Just 42 percent of them said they're interested in cars

• A bunch of them -- GM didn't say how many -- didn't think much about Chevrolet one way or another.

Reuss vows to continue GM's dialogue with young people to figure out "what makes them tick."

For now, it appears the answer is smartphones and social media.

Mike Colias covers General Motors for Automotive News.Mike Colias covers General Motors for Automotive News.

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