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General Motors Corp. has cut a massive, multivehicle "ride-and-drive" marketing program as part of its efforts to conserve cash during crippling strikes.

GM had planned to spend $18 million to $20 million on the test-drive program, in which consumers in 18 cities would have had the chance to try out a variety of vehicles, said executives close to the carmaker. A GM spokeswoman declined to confirm the spending figure.


GM's Cadillac division also said it put on hold the dealer ride-and-drive program for its new Escalade sport-utility vehicle.

One of the consumer events will be held, this week in Denver, because invitations to prospects had already been mailed, said the executives.

"It's a pilot, and right now it's just in Denver," said the GM spokeswoman. "We tried to reduce what we could in advertising and marketing, and some things can't be pulled."


In a unique twist, the automaker will offer a wide variety of its cars and trucks in Denver, with each GM division represented, including Saturn Corp. GM and other mass-market carmakers traditionally show off a single, newly launched or radically redesigned vehicle at such promotions.

GM also is providing rivals' products so consumers can compare vehicles. It plans to measure conquest sales -- in which owners of competing brands switch to GM -- after the event, the executives said.

Visual Services, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is handling the program.

The two strikes, which started June 5 and June 11, headed to court last week. GM sued the United Auto Workers union, claiming the two local strikes in Flint, Mich., are illegal. A federal judge in Detroit urged the two sides to meet with an arbitrator and set another hearing for July 21. The judge declined GM's request to order the UAW into immediate arbitration.

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