TAKING DIRECT ROUTE: MITSUBISHI AIDS CRUCIAL LAUNCH WITH MAILING FOR SWEEPSTAKES

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Mitsubishi motor Sales of America, pinning some big hopes on its 1999 Galant sedan, kicked off a massive direct mail drop late last week backing the relaunch.

As part of the carmaker's largest-ever launch, Mitsubishi is spending several million dollars on the direct effort to reach 1 million prospects. In addition, it's pumping $44 million into measured ad media for the redesigned Galant through September. The Galant push is crucial for the car marketer, which considers it a relaunch of not only the car but the entire Mitsubishi brand.

Direct Partners, Santa Monica, Calif., handles the direct campaign, in which a sweepstakes offers prizes including a top-of-the-line Galant, a Hawaii trip and big-screen Mitsubishi TVs to prospects who take test drives.

Entries also are available via the auto marketer's Web site (www.mitsucars.com) and through Hispanic media.

ALL DEALERS PARTICIPATE

The direct mail piece is going to current Mitsubishi owners and to the "aspirational set," owners of smaller competitive cars, said Peg Dilworth, director of marketing communications. All 500 Mitsubishi dealers in the U.S. are participating in the test-drive sweepstakes.

Last year, Direct Partners used direct mail for a similar promotion supporting Mitsubishi's Montero Sport sport-utility vehicle. Findings from analysis following that direct mail push were applied to the Galant effort, though Ms. Dilworth declined to discuss detailed findings or the projected response rate for Galant effort.

The mailing contains a coded number. After a test drive, a consumer calls a local dealer to learn if the number is a winner. The promotion ends Dec. 31.

In model year 1999, Mitsubishi hopes to sell 60,000 of the new Galants, which went on sale Aug. 1. Mitsubishi could use such a lift; 1998 sales of the old Galant hit 23,502 through July, down 18.7% from a year earlier, according to Automotive News. Total U.S. Mitsubishi sales for the period, however, edged up 0.5% to 112,055.

Mitsubishi and Japanese parent Mitsubishi Motors Corp. reported losses for the fiscal year ended March 31. Both have restructured and have new management.

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