Chevrolet celebrates five decades of Pony Car competition


chevy camaro
2014 Camaro Z 28

NEW YORK--April 15, 2014: Ever since the days of the Hatfields and the McCoys, rivalries have been a cornerstone of American culture. Some become endlessly bitter feuds. Others, like the healthy competition between the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, become a driving force for constant improvement.

“For five decades, the Camaro and the Mustang have been battling it out in every possible setting,” said Mark Reuss, executive vice president, GM Global Product Development. “These two cars have been striving to beat each other on the track, on the drag strip and on the streets. That competition is a big part of why both cars are so amazing, and so popular, today.”

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Mustang, industry experts offer perspectives on four iconic American rivalries:

Camaro vs. Mustang The Ford Mustang was introduced 50 years ago this week, creating a new class of transportation, the pony car. Three years later, Chevrolet introduced the Camaro as a direct competitor to the Mustang, and created one of the most enduring rivalries in the automotive industry.

“The new Camaro hit the ground running, and it's been a battle royale ever since with the bowtie vs. the blue oval,” said Ken Gross, an automotive journalist for 40 years whose pieces have appeared in AutoWeek and The Robb Report. “Chevy readily admits its Camaro is constantly getting better, thanks to intense competition from Ford, and I'd agree.”

Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi The rivalry between Coca-Cola and Pepsi has driven more than a century of innovation, according to beverage industry expert Jeff Cioletti, editor in chief of Beverage World magazine.

“Few rivalries have anything on the greatest face-off in consumer packaged goods history: Coke vs. Pepsi,” Cioletti said. “Both companies are better for the rivalry. And it's ultimately the consumers who have won."

The rivalry began in 1898, when Pepsi entered the soft drink industry 13 years after Coca-Cola was invented. The two immediately took aim at each other, and an entire industry was created in their wake. Soda sold in cans, diet cola, and the Pepsi Challenge are milestones arising from the rivalry.

Jay Leno vs. David Letterman Arguably, the late-night television rivalry between Jay Leno and David Letterman was the most-public square-off in entertainment history. The rivalry began when both men were vying to replace Johnny Carson as host of “The Tonight Show,” with both filling in as guest hosts when Carson was unavailable.

When Carson named Leno as his successor, it surprised many, including Letterman, according to television industry expert Dade Hayes, executive editor at Broadcasting & Cable magazine. “Letterman idolized Carson and always expressed gratitude for having been discovered by Johnny,” Hayes said. “He believed he had verbally agreed to take over the show, but never formalized it in writing – never a recommended approach in show business.”

Famously, CBS seized the opportunity, and debuted “The Late Show with David Letterman” in 1993. The show was placed in the same time slot as “The Tonight Show,” and was a direct competitor from the start — something completely new in late night at that time. The two famously strived to outperform the other in ratings and joked about each other on the air. But the rivalry drove each host to improve his show, and the ratings followed, dominating the late-night slot for almost two decades. Even nearing retirement, the two are intertwined. When Leno retired in February this year, Letterman announced his retirement mere months later.

Nike vs. Reebok A footwear industry rivalry flared in the 1970s as Nike brought its Cortez running shoe to market, taking the athletic footwear market by storm. Reebok countered toward the end of the decade with its similarly named Aztec, touching off a competition that would endure for years.

“The Nike vs. Reebok rivalry definitely ran deep,” said Brendan Dunne, editor at Sneaker News. “The 1990s saw them battling it out regularly. For example, Reebok was crushing the outdoor basketball market geared more towards street play with their Blacktop Pump series, so Nike higher-ups put out an immediate call for a response. The next day they got top designer Tinker Hatfield on a trip to New York City to do research for their own streetball shoe, which would eventually become the Nike Air Raid. The Nike/Reebok back and forth played out like a sneaker-centric espionage thriller and pushed each of the companies to create pinnacle products.”

As Ken Gross, the veteran automotive journalist puts it: “Competition always improves the breed. I'll bet these two legendary nameplates will still be competing 50 years from now.”

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