Dodge hybrid eyes truck and SUV owners

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Dodge's new hybrid truck, the Dakota Quad Cab, will have a hybrid sort of ad launch.

Although TV spots will break nationally on late December college football bowl games, they have to be delivered to the networks by the first week of December because of Y2K concerns, said Elaine Pearson, senior manager for Dodge advertising. So the DaimlerChrysler unit also will ship ads to regional dealer groups for earlier use, she said.

"They'll go to the dealers as soon as they're available," Ms. Pearson said.

The new truck offers a full-sized, four-door cab and a shortened pickup bed, putting it somewhere in the emerging niche between pickups, sport-utility vehicles and cars.

FOUR-DOOR PICKUP

But, although Dodge officials have their eye on winning over some SUV owners, they're portraying the Quad Cab as all truck.

"It's a truck," Ms. Pearson said. "It's a four-door pickup truck and that's how we're positioning it."

Even with the shortened bed, that positioning is inevitable, said Mike Gialdini, senior manager for Dodge Truck marketing plans.

"Based on everything we've learned from customers, if it's got a bed in the back, they think it's a truck," he said. "It's got four doors and SUVs have four doors, but it's got a bed."

Automakers are pushing to blend pickup utility with car-like amenities, noted Jefferey Schuster, manager, forecasting and product planning for J.D. Power & Associates.

"What we're starting to see is a barrage of what we're calling sport-utility pickups," Mr. Schuster said. "These vehicles are more of a combination of SUVs and trucks."

The Quad Cab will face competition from the existing Nissan Frontier King Cab and Ford's Explorer Sport Trac, due in January, he said. Within the next year, other automakers, including General Motors Corp, also will enter the niche.

"Getting to market now, you don't have as much competition. But in the next couple of years, it's really going to heat up," Mr. Schuster said.

Buyers are most likely to be SUV owners who want the pickup bed but also want enough seats for family and friends, he said. Dodge, however, he doesn't think that's likely to be the biggest market.

Dodge, Mr. Gialdini said, expects most of its buyers to be consumers who have wanted a pickup but were turned off by the limited seating capacity of even extended-cab pickups.

CAPABILITIES HIGHLIGHTED

Quad Cab print ads will appear in December as part of the overall "Dodge. Different" brand effort launched for model-year 2000 via BBDO Worldwide, Southfield, Mich.

Spots will show the capabilities of the vehicle, with one showing what owners might put inside and outside the cab, said Richard Johnson, chairman-chief creative officer for the BBDO office. The full-sized doors and cab will be emphasized.

"The positioning is that this is a truck given four doors, not an SUV given a bed," he said.

Dodge wouldn't disclose spending. It spent $602 million in measured media last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

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