Chevy’s latest ‘Real People, Not Actors’ ad disputed by advocates

DETROIT — Chevrolet’s “Real People, Not Actors” TV ad involving vehicle reliability isn’t sitting well with some consumer advocates.

The ad, which was published to YouTube on Jan. 1 and began airing on TV this month, claims Chevy has higher reliability than Ford, Honda, Toyota and 23 other brands “based on a recent nationwide survey.”

While that statement isn’t false, some have found it misleading considering the fine print, the source of the data and the models displayed in the commercial.

The referenced survey was conducted by Paris-based Ipsos over the last 12 months. It involved owners of 2015 model-year vehicles that were in service from December 2014 to June 2015. But the vehicles shown in the ad are the current versions of the Chevrolet Equinox, Silverado, Traverse and Malibu — all of which have been redesigned since 2015.

The ad shows Ford, Honda and Toyota owners being quizzed about which brands have the best reliability. With each wrong guess, sheets bearing Ford, Honda and Toyota logos are pulled off the vehicles until the four Chevrolet models are exposed.

The spot began airing before Chevrolet launched a TV campaign Monday for the redesigned 2019 Silverado, which officials have said is an “extension” of the 4-year-old “Real People, Not Actors” campaign.

Consumer World, a Massachusetts consumer advocacy organization, is calling on the automaker to pull the ad because newer vehicles are being promoted in tandem with data about older models.

A Chevrolet spokeswoman said the brand “stands by the claim” and “will continue to run the ad.”

It’s not uncommon for reliability to be based on previous model years of vehicles, given it’s a long-term claim. However, the results and definition of “reliability” differ from other more well-known groups.

The Ipsos survey’s results for Chevrolet, as reported earlier by The Cheat Sheet, are drastically different from figures from the latest Consumer Reports Auto Reliability Survey. Last fall, it ranked Chevrolet 23rd among 29 brands, in part “because the redesigned Traverse had ‘Much-Worse-Than-Average’ reliability.” The Traverse is one of the four vehicles touted in the Chevy ad. 

Ipsos’ survey, according to a Chevy-branded fact sheet online, covered some 48,700 owners of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles vs. competitive brands in the area of parts replaced or repaired in the past 12 months. Fluids, filters and accident/collision repairs weren’t counted.

Consumer Reports, by contrast, based its study on responses on more than 500,000 vehicles, spanning the 2000 to 2018 model years. Its broader approach uses a 100-point scale to predict future reliability of vehicles. 

Ipsos’ results are more in line with the 2018 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, which counts owner-reported problems with 3-year-old vehicles. Chevrolet ranked sixth and had four 2015 model-year vehicles awarded as segment-bests. Those were the same four nameplates touted in the ad being challenged by Consumer World. Chevrolet ranked higher than Ford, Honda and Toyota in the J.D. Power study.