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AGILE DEALERS EASTER EGG HUNTS HELP MOVE CARS

By Published on .

When it comes to selling cars and trucks, Kyle Keckler is always up to something.

From Easter egg hunts that draw 2,500 children to raising money for local charities to plastering an image of his face on the body of Fred Flintstone in an outdoor campaign, Mr. Keckler has done it all and then some.

"My job is to get customers in the door," says the agile, quick-thinking general sales manager at Scheit-hauer Chevrolet-Geo in Quakertown, Pa.

Mr. Keckler, who heads the dealership's marketing programs, gets a kick out of coming up with ideas to keep the dealership's name in the limelight and customers on the showroom floor.

Mr. Keckler joined Scheithauer about 21/2 years ago after working at a nearby Ford dealership. Back then, Scheithauer was selling about 300 new vehicles annually, says Bob Scheithauer, the dealership's principal.

In 1993, the store retailed 600 new vehicles and 1994 sales reached 1,010. Mr. Keckler says he expects 1995 sales to top 1,500 "easy." In fact, Scheithauer, located about 35 miles north of Philadelphia, is the No.*1 Chevrolet dealer in total retail sales in its district and holds the No.*8 spot among Chevy dealerships in the Eastern region.

Scheithauer's outdoor boards, from JRS Advertising, Bethlehem, Pa., have become a humorous fixture around Quakertown. They often feature Mr. Keckler's face transposed onto someone else's body.

Mr. Keckler has "appeared" as a sumo wrestler, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Santa Claus and Fred Flintstone on boards changed twice a year.

"I'm in the Rotary Club; someone is always coming up to me in meetings and saying, `Your billboards are really funny,'*" Mr. Scheithauer says.

The dealership spends from $28,000 to $32,000 a month on its marketing programs, which also includes newspaper ads and radio spots, starring Mr. Keckler.

Mr. Keckler says his goal is to weave Scheithauer into the fabric of the community. Often, that means getting involved with local charities. For instance, on one occasion the store helped raise about $8,000 to help send a high school German class to Germany.

Scheithauer's extended family includes children, so many of his marketing programs are centered around children. About 11/2 hours into last year's Easter egg hunt, held in a field behind the dealership, Mr. Keckler realized he had way too few eggs for the 2,500 kids who showed up to hunt them. So he ran to a nearby store, bought every single candy egg the store had, plus hundreds of plastic eggs. Then he darted into a bank and got several rolls of quarters.

Once the candy was gone, he and the staff began handing out the plastic eggs with quarters inside them. By the end of the day, every child who turned out for the hunt had an Easter egg, and Scheithauer sold 18 vehicles, about six more than it sells on an average Saturday.

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