AAMCO Targets Car Owners Losing Their Local Dealerships

Auto-Service Chain Launches $30 Million Ad Campaign, Its Biggest Ever

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- As the ranks of car dealers diminish nearly daily in the industry's worst year in decades, AAMCO wants consumers to know the auto-service chain can fill the void.

The franchiser, which has some 900 independent locations in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, is targeting car owners who are losing their local dealers because of the economy or cuts in retailer ranks by General Motors Corp. and Chrysler. The marketer is launching a $30 million ad campaign this week that it claims is the largest in its 46-year history.

Positioning an owner's vehicle as an "old friend," the voice-over in the TV and radio spot tells drivers that their local car dealer isn't the only one who can take care of their old friend. "So if your dealership is closing, don't despair. Come to AAMCO for all your car-care needs, from tuneups to transmissions," the narrator says.

The campaign is the first work for the brand from Qorvis Communications, Washington. The push is backed by AAMCO's national dealer association, which will run the multimedia blitz for three months in local markets. The push includes an upcoming iPhone application and new website due within the next 30 to 60 days as part of a social-media effort to engage drivers on and off the road.

Mike Ganjei, president of the company's national dealer association and owner of four stores in Virginia and Maryland, said AAMCO isn't authorized to do automakers' factory-warranty work. But he said the chain can handle regularly scheduled work such as oil changes or tire rotations that are required to keep a vehicle under a carmaker's warranty.

Mr. Ganjei said the car-servicing business has been hurt by the slowdown in the economy. Indeed, AAMCO recently commissioned Clarus Research Group, which found that 63% of consumers are not only putting off buying a new car or truck but also delaying repairs and maintenance to save money.

AAMCO is also trying to overcome an image among consumers that it is only a transmission specialist. The company expanded its service offerings in 2000 and is introducing a new logo in the ads intended to help bust misconceptions.

Mr. Ganjei is urging his fellow franchisees to beef up their TV ad budgets for the blitz to roughly 90% of their spending from the 50-50 media split with radio the dealer ad groups have used for the past three or four years.

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