Guest Post: Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again
At this point we had not convinced Chevrolet to build a production Eurosport. The VP of Chevrolet left for a Corporate position and Bob Stempel, fresh from Europe, became our new VP. A product review for him was scheduled and I decided to show the Eurosport again. We only had one Celebrity fiberglass model so every time we wanted to show the Eurosport we had to convert it, paint all the bright trim black, put the red accents on, wheels and tires, etc. Because Chevrolet had turned it down twice they did not want to show it to Bob Stempel in the studio as part of the review. I talked to Henry Haga about it and he said, “Put it in the hallway, as a proposal.” Chevrolet agreed.
We got the car ready to show as well as the support material, Back To Basics, color chips, standard equipment, options, wheels, etc. Our concept demonstrated the desired corporate philosophy and Back To Basics displayed our “Every Car A Showcar” concept. We put spotlights on the car and put a cover over it. I did not want Bob to see it when he came in as he would walk past the studios in the hall on his way to our auditorium. He would come back from the auditorium to the Chevrolet One Studio which was next door to us. Before he came back we pulled the cover. The silver Eurosport proposal looked great.
As Bob walked by he looked at it and assumed that it was part of his Chevrolet product line. It was not, Chevrolet did not want the car. I peeked out the studio entrance door as he walked by, just as he entered the Chevrolet # 1 studio door he looked back at the car and smiled. I knew immediately that we were going to get it. The Eurosport had a strong sporty and emotional appeal to everyone who saw it.
While we waited for Stempel to review the cars in Chevrolet #1 Norm came in and told me to show Bob everything, including the Eurosport. He sensed that the mood was right, we were ready. I presented all the background, Back To Basics, “Every Car A Showcar”, all the options, 4 and 6 cylinder engines, two-tones, interior combinations, etc. Bob Stempel smiled and said that it was a great concept.
Bob was told by Norm that the Eurosport was not in the program. After some discussion, which went very well, he looked around and asked for approval from his management team. Everybody nodded yes. Obviously it was an opportunity for added revenue, above the success of the Celebrity.
Norm supported the car; there was a lot of quiet gnashing of teeth but the concept was sold. Stempel knew how things worked. They all left for Chevrolet #3 Studio and about twenty minutes later Bob came back in with Norm and waved me over to the boards. “Dick, I want to do this just the way you have shown it.” He asked about engines again and I told him that I thought the Eurosport represented a mentality that could be coupled with either a 4 or 6 cylinder engine, fuel economy or performance. “Well,” he said, “That is exactly how we are going to do it.” He looked at Norm and nodded. Norm and I shook his hand and he left.
After a lot of studio discussions among the designers, we came to a conclusion based on the fact that most station wagons were sold loaded with options. No-one wanted to be seen in a cheap wagon because they had to have it, they wanted to be seen in a wagon that looked upscale. Our thought was that a Corvette or Camaro person, who needed a family sedan, still had a sporty car in his or her head, that car could be the Celebrity Eurosport.
In spite of all the discussions with the Chevrolet marketing people they just could not connect sportiness with functionality.
After Bob Stempel’s approval, the program went forward. At the next Chevrolet product review, the studio proposed adding the station wagon to the Eurosport line resulting in three Eurosport models. Stempel agreed, but for the following year. Chevrolet marketing started to like the Eurosport wagon a lot as an upscale model and later helped push the introduction to a few months after the coupe and sedan. Everyone was happy.
During all of this, Norm Scholler was replaced by Fred Schaafsma who went forward enthusiastically. He challenged the name Eurosport but there was nothing better to replace it with. The trendy word “Euro” was starting to appear in the press.
During our effort to sell the concept, Pontiac was watching. Henry Haga, my boss, was responsible for Pontiac Design as well as Chevrolet and he tried to get us to let Pontiac have the blackout treatment. We staved that idea off and succeeded with our concept intact; the black trim with red accents which was very new when the car hit the street as it was appearing on popular special design products.
Pontiac was not happy, their special model of the Pontiac 6000 called the STE, was a $6,200 option. The Eurosport cost Chevrolet less than $1.56 and was sold for $320, as an option. Obviously they offered very different values to very different customers but Pontiac was upset that we were able to put together such a stylish and dramatic version of the Celebrity with practically no money. In the end, black trim and red accents were right for Chevrolet, and chrome trim was right for Pontiac as the STE enhanced the base car.
Continue to page 3, below.