GM CUTS FLEETWOOD, BUT WOOS OWNERS;LOYALTY HIGH AMONG DRIVERS OF DISCONTINUED CADDY

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General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac division hopes to be able to retain Fleetwood owners after it halts production on the nameplate at yearend.

The division is in the midst of a three-pronged direct mail program aimed at those whose loyalty has run deep. Fleetwood owners are among the industry's most loyal, according to auto researcher Dan Gorrell.

The program, which started this summer, ends early next year.

Cadillac is trying "to build trust with our owners," many of whom were upset because the Fleetwood is being discontinued, said Lynn Galbenski, Cadillac's direct, relationship and interactive marketing manager. "We wanted to embrace them and help them understand there are other Cadillac vehicles. We want them to feel they're still part of the Cadillac family."

20,000 RESPONSES

About 20,000 Fleetwood owners responded to the first mailing, sent to more than 100,000, Ms. Galbenski said. They answered a questionnaire and sent personal stories and photos for a planned book dubbed "Cadillac Memories." The book is due to be mailed out in March to owners who request it. It will include the stories from Caddy owners and their personal photographs of them and their autos.

The second mailing invited 65,000 of those drawn from the original list to a free screening in 56 markets of the classic film "From Here to Eternity." About 8,000 people attended the movie events, which wrapped up last week, Ms. Galbenski said.

The final piece goes out the first week of December to about 40,000 owners who either responded to the first mailing or weren't in a market where the movies were shown. Recipients will be asked to choose one of five free music CDs or cassette tapes. Clarion Marketing, Greenwich, Conn., is handling the direct mail program.

STAYING IN TOUCH

Since many Fleetwood and Fleetwood Brougham owners won't be ready to buy new cars for another year or two, "it would make sense to stay in touch with the owners for more than a year," said James Hall, VP at consultancy AutoPacific. "If not, there's no reward for people who stayed with the cars until the end."

Ms. Galbenski said the GM division can continue to communicate with the Fleetwood owners via its Higher Standard newsletter, mailed to all Cadillac owners three times annually.

The Fleetwood family of owners, whose average age is 67, has been shrinking. Through October, Cadillac sold 8,717 Fleetwoods, down 23.7% from a year ago.

But Cadillac "should be able to save a lot of those people" by selling them another model, said Mr. Gorrell, VP of Strategic Vision.

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