Prospects tumble in for Chevy's new Avalanche

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Chevrolet is mining prospects for its all-new Avalanche, even though the 2002-model sport-utility/pickup isn't due to go on sale until next spring.

"When you're talking about a new name and a new brand, you want to talk about it, the earlier the better," said Ed Schoener, brand manager of the General Motors Corp. so-called crossover truck.

Mr. Schoener and his brand team already have collected the names of 91,500 "hand-raisers" from sources including a print ad that ran in March with a toll-free number, Web address (chevrolet.com/avalanche) and business reply card. Chevrolet's main site (chevrolet.com) also links to the Avalanche site.

Roughly 2,500 consumers called the toll-free number and some 40,000 mailed back the reply cards. The Web site generated the biggest response -- of the 500,000 unique visitors through August, 49,000 left their e-mail addresses.

Mr. Schoener said he's encouraged by the nearly 10% response rate from the Web site.

Chevrolet should be pleased with that response rate, which came without the printing and postage costs of traditional direct mail, said Rick Barlow, president of relationship agency Frequency Marketing, Cincinnati. Traditionally, direct mail's response rate is 2% or less. Avalanche's online results are "a real signal where the Internet is taking direct response," he said.

Chevrolet will update online prospects via e-mail as it releases more Avalanche information.

Mr. Schoener said it's too early to evaluate direct mail sent to consumers who only provided their home addresses. Also, Chevrolet is still collecting names via two tours that will make a total of 33 stops through October.

Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., handles national and regional advertising for Chevrolet, as well as direct mail and e-mail programs.

Shoppers already can buy branded Avalanche merchandise online at chevymall.com.

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