Posted by: David Kiley on October 5, 2006
Forced to rent a car this week after the head gasket on my Subaru went South following a botched radiator flush and fill (i’m withholding the name of the chain until they decide if they are going to pay me $2,000 to fix my car) i ended up with a Chevy Cobalt from Enterprise.
I had only driven a Cobalt at a GM event when it first came out. I hadn’t borrowed one from the press fleet for an extended drive. But here is my thought about this Cobalt, which is peppering rental fleets across the country. Blech!
What I’ve got here is a stripped down Cobalt that a state social worker would be ashamed to have as their government issued fleet car. Cruddy cloth seats. No central locking button of any kind. This is that car that automakers tell me they build just to get a really low starting price on www.edmunds.com, but that nobody really buys.
Wrong. Rental fleets buy them. Let me just say…this car has made a terrible impression on me. How many drivers do you suppose have driven this car and gotten an equally bad impression? I know there are better versions of Cobalt. Im not an idiot. But for the average car renter, it’s a reach to expect them to think…”Ugh….this car sucks…but, I’ll bet if I opted for the premium version, it would really be nice.”
A few years ago, a marketing guy at Buick told me that GM had learned its lesson with rental fleet cars. Buick, he said, had long sold stripped down Buick Centuries and Regals to rental fleets—-cars that noone other than a state purchasing agent would buy. He went on to say how dumping so many stripped down cars on fleets had been one of the contributing factors to Buick’s demise. I can hear him now. “Do you realize how many traveling business people got a truly crappy impression of this brand that was aimed straight at them?”
Learned their lesson, huh?
I am anticipating that someone at GM will tell me that the rental fleets demand these stripped down cars. Oh? If GM is really interested in protecting its brands and models going forward, how about making the decision to either not build the stripped down one. If they don’t buy it, they don’t buy it.