What's in a name? GM wrestles with crossover designation
GM is apparently just as confused as the rest of us when it comes to naming that crossover/CUV/sport wagon/tall-wagon-thingy sitting in the driveway. In general, a crossover is a unibody vehicle that looks like an SUV, but handles and gets fuel mileage more like a car. SUVs are body-on-frame vehicles, generally built on a truck platform. The differences are sometimes minute, but that is only part of the problem. The bigger problem here is what to call this segment as a whole.
In the early days of SUVs, some people called all of them Jeeps. They were trucks for passenger vehicle duty, exemplified by the Jeep Cherokee. As more manufacturers started offering them, a slew of nicknames popped up to represent the segment, but SUV ended up being the one that stuck. Despite the fact that "sport" more often refers to what you can do with the stuff you are hauling, rather than how the thing drives.
So now we are faced with a similar dilemma in the emerging crossover category. GM ad execs are trying to figure out the best way to pitch their new entries in the field. GM has three new crossovers (the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave) coming out at the end of the year that they are not sure how to label. "We changed the SRX advertising for Cadillac earlier this summer to call it a crossover," Mike Jackson, GM North America's vice president of marketing and advertising, said in an interview with Automotive News.
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But they aren't sure if that label will work for the others as they may be positioned differently by each brand. Gary Topolewski, a Detroit marketing and creative consultant, said: "'Crossover' is an internal term that everyone in Detroit understands. But around the nation, people ask, 'Is it an SUV or a truck or station wagon?'"
Chrysler faced a similar problem when it launched its Pacifica a few years ago. Topolewski, who used to be chief creative officer at Chrysler's advertising agency, BBDO, worked on Pacifica marketing. He remembers that they wanted to get away from the term "SUV" because they felt the term was "tired and old." His argument was that the vehicle was so different, Chrysler should bill it as "having redefined the SUV." That it did, paving the way for such diverse vehicles as the uber-wagon M-B R-Class and the zoom-zoomy Mazda5 nanovan. We're not sure which label will become THE one label for the segment, but we wouldn't mind hearing your suggestions in the comments.