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Transformers to transform GM sales in China

General Motors and Guangzhou Automobile Group are hoping Transformers will transform sales in China.

GM IS BANKING ON Transformers: Age of Extinction to kick-start Chevrolet sales in China – the fourth installment in the Transformers franchise features both the Chevrolet Camaro and Trax SUV (available here in Australia).

GM is hoping the Transformers movie will act “as a springboard for launching new products,” said Tim Mahoney, the global chief marketing officer for the Chevrolet brand. Chevrolet is introducing six new models into China this year and 2013 results saw the brand struggle to keep pace with the 16% growth for passenger vehicles in China, with sales rising by only 9%.

The bright yellow with black stripes Chevrolet Camaro (known as Bumblebee in the movie) first appeared in the original Transformers in 2007. According to Chevrolet’s Mahoney more than 70% of Camaros purchased are yellow – in the US it’s just 5%.

“The yellow is pretty well associated with Chevy and I think a lot of it, I can’t prove it, but I suspect a lot of it has to do with the role Bumblebee played,” he said.

The reason Chevrolet is confident this new installment of Transformers will have a big impact in China is because of the number of Chinese actors in the movie.

“Transformers 4 is going to be a very important film for the relationship between Hollywood and China,” said Phil Contrino, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “Paramount has cast Chinese actors in the film so there is a lot of outreach to Chinese viewers to make sure that it’s not just selling a film into China.”

GM used its extensive clout with Paramount Pictures, the firm behind the film, to ensure as many of its vehicles appeared in the movie as possible. A GM office also appears in the film as does a GM executive.

This relationship (read: sponsorship) saw GM push to get its Trax SUV, which went on sale in China this year (2014), in the movie. The Trax is an important introduction for GM in China, where the brand has fallen behind in the small SUV segment.

But GM isn’t the only brand hoping the Transformers will give it a kick-start. Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., whose Trumpchi GA5 sedan is driven by actress Li Bingbing in the film, plans to export the Chinese brand to the United States as early as next year (2015).

gac trumpchi ga5

“Our sponsorship of Transformers 4 will help more overseas dealers and consumers know about our cars and over the long run it will greatly contribute to our branding,” said Wu Song, head of the Trumpchi brand. “We want to start exporting to the U.S. as quickly as possible and I am confident that they will find our Trumpchi cars competitive.”

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober