Chevy Sonic Takes The Stick To College

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Automatic transmissions are for people who should be taking the tram. Real drivers shift, you dig? General Motors Chevrolet is touting the stick to collegiates for its Sonic car, a subcompact under the Cruze whose entire marketing has been pretty much digital, with only the occasional foray into “traditional” media.

The new campaign, “Stay Clutch,” uses Boston-based college-marketing firm CampusLIVE to tout the 2012 Sonic online. The campaign, on CampusLIVE's Web site and Chevrolet Sonic’s Facebook fan page, lets people (technically it could be anyone) compete to win four grand prizes that include a special class at the Stay Clutch driving school taught by a celebrity instructor in Kansas City, and tickets to the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby and MLB All-Star Game.

The contest focuses on the six-gear manual 1.4-liter turbo Sonic, which gets the best mileage (as manuals tend to do) versus the the rest of the lineup.  Participants doing the "Stay Clutch" challenge have to watch an instructional video and submit a video telling Chevrolet why they want to learn to drive a stick.

"It's all digital for right now, though it's something we may expand in the future," says a Chevrolet spokesperson. "We wanted to start with this and see how it goes, and see if there is really an interest out there in learning to drive manual." She says the take-rate for the manual transmission Sonics is around 20%, which has everything to do with fact that few people ever learn to drive anything but an automatic. But, she explains, "the best fuel economy is with manual transmission -- and these days with fuel prices rising, there may be more interest in this, so we decided to find out." 

Indeed, Edmunds.com reports that manual transmissions sales were up 6.5% during the first quarter of 2012, nearly doubling sales of five years ago. The spokesperson tells Marketing Daily that the online program runs through June, at which point the sweepstakes are drawn. While one might imagine that men would be more interested than women, the spokesperson says so far it has brought in an equal mix of both.

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