Tue Apr 11th, 2006 at 11:43:06 AM EST
I wanted to share something I came across a few days ago when I had to make a research paper on Marketing Failures (for my Marketing class). It is a really amazing example. For this purpose, I'll have to take you a little back into time. I don't think it is very popular especially among Europeans but you may have heard of it. It is about Chevy Nova expanding internationally and more precisely to Spanish speaking countries...and the great mistake General Motors did...
First, a few facts about the Nova: Chevy Nova (or also known as Nova II) was introduced by General Motors in 1962. It had five generations which differed mainly in body style. Nova was very successful brand especially because of its lower cost than Chevrolet Corvair which also was a compact car but was quite costly. GM ceased the production of Nova in 1988 when it was succeeded by Chevrolet Citation.
But what actually happened so that Chevy Nova is listed in the book of Matt Haig "Brand Failures: The Truth About the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Time"? In the beginning of the 80s Nova hit the Mexican and Venezuelan markets. Due to an inefficient research made by the marketing team of GM, this expansion happened to be a debacle and lead to almost zero sales on those markets. The explanation was that "No Va" in Spanish language means "doesn't go" and the name of the car Nova (especially when said quickly) can easily be heard as "no va". The buyers weren't very willing to buy a car whose name implies that it wouldn't go. And that is how the mistake happened. As a result, the story goes, Chevy Nova was renamed into Caribe and then sales immediately took off.
Of course, this sounds very improbable. For a company like General Motors, it is absolutely impossible to miss such an important part as the meaning of the name when studying the environment of those countries. That is why, nowadays it is almost certain that such a failure never occurred and the story is tagged as an "urban legend". Basically, supporters of GM and Chevy Nova say that the word "nova" in Spanish means the same as in English- new, or can be related to the state of a star. Furthermore, they say, sales in Venecuela actually exceeded the expected rates. Another thing is that Caribe was not produced by GM but was a brand of Volkswagen. And this is a fact.
Personally, I don't believe that the mistake ever occurred. The assumption that GM didn't check at least how the name will be accepted in those markets is too shallow for me. But nowadays, this example is in most of the Marketing textbooks and is taught at school as a classical example of marketing failure. So, if the students don't make the necessary research to see that it is not actually true, Chevy Nova on Spanish markets is positioned as a failure in their minds. I was really amazed how sometimes rumors can become truth just because it is convenient.
Have you heard of this "failure"? If yes, what is your position? If not--aren't you just amazed of this case? I hardly believed something may be so misrepresented.