GM discount effort lures Ford, Chrysler shoppers

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General Motors Corp.'s "employee discount" promotion is pulling more potential buyers into showrooms, prompting Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group to counterattack with campaigns touting their own deals and disparaging GM's.

The "employee discount" hype is attracting more consumers who have non-GM brands on their shopping lists, according to CNW Marketing/Research. CNW found that while 57% of all people who entered a GM dealership last June were already GM "intenders," just 37% were intenders this June. CNW President Art Spinella said that indicates the new program is drawing increased numbers of non-GM consumers, and that the showroom traffic is less reliant on those who already own GM vehicles.

GM's current deal started June 1 and ends July 5. Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson, Birmingham, Mich., handles GM corporate, multi-vehicle brand advertising.

GM "has gotten a lot of hype" from its current employee-discounts-for-everyone deal, said a Chrysler spokesman, claiming its incentives are "superior to what you're going to get from GM and we don't have to add additional money to make that happen or put a gimmicky name on it." To tout that, Chrysler is running a national print, TV and online campaign from Omnicom Group's BBDO, Troy, Mich. themed "Straight Math. Great Product."

TOO EARLY

The spokesman said it's still too early to tell whether GM's current ads are having a negative impact on Chrysler, which is seeing increased showroom traffic this month.

On Dodge.com, after clicking on "Summer Sales Drive," the page reads: "You don't need an employee discount to get a great deal from us." Deals on the 2005 Dodge Durango sport utility vehicle include 0% financing for 36 months, $4,000 trade-in bonus cash or $4,000 cash, according to the site.

Ford Division's national TV spot, which broke last week, is themed "The Truth." The commercial plugs record sales of the Mustang, the F-150's record as best-selling U.S. vehicle and the Explorer as the best-selling SUV. The spot segues into the core message: that Ford brands' rebates make them cheaper than GM's employee discount.

WPP Group's JWT, Detroit, is Ford's agency for the work. A Ford spokesman didn't return calls by press time.

Ford Division already has a deal on its pickup trucks, a co-promotion deal with Home Depot. It offers buyers of the Ranger, F-150 or Super Duty pickups a choice of one of five gift packages from the retailer valued up to $870. The "Bring it Home" promotion is being heavily advertised on national TV, in print, online, and direct mail as well as inside Home Depot stores and Ford dealerships.

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