POST-GRADUATE STUDIES: DAEWOO MOVES OFF CAMPUS, TARGETS SLIGHTLY OLDER CROWD

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Daewoo is learning that finding a niche in the huge U.S. market is not easy. The company had been trying to sell products through a team of college students to other students on campus. But now it's beginning to aim its student salespeople toward off-campus events and a slightly older crowd.

Bill Tucker, vice president of marketing and customer relations at Daewoo Motor America, also says the company will launch its first TV campaign in the second quarter of this year, either with national spots or on cable.

Of the 2,400 cars Daewoo sold in this market last year, only about 20 percent of those sales came from the 5,000 college students the company had signed up for the sales program. Tucker says student referrals should account for close to 50 percent of sales.

"So now we're trying to come up with a whole new array of promotional activities," he says.

One example Tucker cites is the company-owned store in Oakland, Calif., managed by 42-year old Jim Wright. Tucker has seen the share of his sales from student referrals jump from 3 percent to nearly 30 percent since December when he began taking his cars and students to off-campus venues such as restaurants and jazz clubs, athletic clubs and Golden State Warriors professional basketball games. "Kids can't buy cars," Wright says. "Give me the 25-to-40 crowd."

Daewoo gave its company-owned stores $50,000 each in November and December for the student-referral program. That budget was cut to around $20,000 in February and March of this year. But Tucker says that in addition to the TV exposure, Daewoo will have a bigger presence on the Internet later this year to help the dealers communicate with consumers. He says the company also may hire a full-service advertising agency.

"As we bring dealers on, we need better media coverage," Tucker says. Daewoo has 17 company-owned stores in nine states and five independent dealers in five states.

Some of the Daewoo student employees in Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., sued the company in February, alleging Daewoo had broken some contractual promises.

Store manager Wright, an eight-year veteran at selling cars, thinks the Daewoo marketing program will work.

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