Here’s Why the Chevy SS Was a Total Failure
Ahh, the Chevy SS. One of those cars where you buy it and you tell your friends about it — your new car, your pride and joy, your shiny new vehicle, your faithful 4-wheeled friend — and they say “The Chevy what?” “The what now?” “Do you mean Camaro SS?”
That’s been the story ever since the Chevy SS came out for the 2014 model year, and this lack of awareness is one of the reasons why this car failed. There are other reasons, of course, and I’ll get to those in a minute, but first I want to say that I’m writing this piece because I drove an SS and I liked it, and you probably should’ve bought an SS but you didn’t.
I know you didn’t, because, well, no one did. Since the SS first went on sale in the fall of 2013, Chevy has managed to sell something like 12,000 of them, total, over a period of time now spanning four years, which surely makes it the rarest modern Chevrolet. I mean, somehow they managed to sell 22,000 units of the freaking SSR. And they could only sell 12,000 of these?
On paper, it seems like a surprise, as the SS has basically everything a car enthusiast could want. It’s rear-wheel drive. It was offered with a 6-speed manual transmission and GM’s amazing magnetic ride control suspension. It used a 415-horsepower 6.2-liter V8, which growls like the engine in a muscle car. It’s loaded with stuff, from heated and ventilated leather seats to an automatic parallel parking system. And it’s very fun to drive. It’s perfect, right?
It sure seemed like that from behind the wheel. I learned just how fun the SS is to drive when I borrowed this 2017 model from a viewer in New Jersey, and I cruised around some decent roads on a late fall day. The SS surprised me with its speed, as it’ll hit 60 miles per hour in 4.6 seconds, and with its sound, which really is brawny and muscular. The SS also touts excellent handling and steering, with a quick steering rack — and it’s sharp and capable in the corners while simultaneously compliant over bumps thanks to the excellent magnetic ride control. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking: Why don’t I have an SS?
And you might be asking yourself the very same question — but there are several important reasons why this car failed.
One of which is simply the fact that it was too expensive. Not the SS I drove, to be clear: Its sticker price was just above $50,000, and it’s an amazing value for that money, touting luxury car goodies at a discount price. The problem is that you could only get the SS with all that stuff, and for that price. Had there been a stripped-down SS for $35,000 — something that could compete with the Dodge Charger, which is pretty popular — I think it could’ve done well.
But I think Chevy nixed this idea because it wouldn’t have made financial sense. The SS was built in Australia, and surely it wasn’t cheap to pay relatively pricey Australian labor to make the car, then add in shipping costs from such a faraway land. My thinking is Chevy had to pump it full of features so they could jack up the price, as a “stripped-down” SS never would’ve been profitable — even if it had been popular.
The other reason you didn’t buy an SS is that there’s quite a good chance you’ve never heard of it, or at least that you’ve forgotten about it. Chevy didn’t do much marketing for this car, and you basically had to find out about it through word of mouth. The name didn’t help much, either, as “SS” is typically a trim level on Chevy models, and it remains one today. Calling an entire vehicle the “SS” while you’re simultaneously trying to sell the “Camaro SS” really just leads to confusion — and it doesn’t exactly help the SS carve out an identity.
And speaking of an identity, can we briefly discuss the SS’s styling? I love sleeper cars like the SS that blend in until they’re blowing by you, but most people like their performance cars to look performance-y — witness, for instance, the Dodge Charger and Challenger, the Ford Mustang and the Chevy Camaro. People who spend fifty grand for a performance car want other people to know they spent fifty grand for a performance car. The SS, meanwhile, looks like the kind of thing that would prompt you to ask “Is there anything else?” when Hertz offers it to you at the airport.
And so, the SS was a total flop, and it makes sense why it was a flop … yet, I wish it hadn’t been a flop. It’s a brilliant car with a lot of great equipment, and a wonderful driving experience — it’s going to be a great deal on the used market, though values may stay strong, much like the Pontiac G8. Still, even if prices are high, I highly recommend the SS. No one else will know what you have, but you’ll know — every time you floor it away from a traffic light, or activate the automated parking system, or watch as the valet parks your car in back, having no idea that he’s driving the rarest car in the parking lot.
Also published on Medium.