Auto marketing executives see the luxury, two-seat sports car as an emerging hot model in 1997.
General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet division and high-end marketers BMW of North America, Mercedes-Benz of North America and Porsche Cars North America have set launches-all but GM's are convertibles.
`A FASHION STATEMENT'
"Every single one of these [two-seaters] is a fashion statement," said Art Spinella, VP at auto marketing consultancy CNW Marketing Research. "There are certain people who are always looking for something that sets them apart, whether it's cigars, Armani suits or a Mercedes."
Baby boomers, who are now in high income-earning years, are
fueling the segment, Mr. Spinella said.
Ads for these cars will have an emotional element because the vehicles evoke strong feelings, said executives with these carmakers.
BMW will tout its Z3 roadster, first seen in the James Bond film "GoldenEye," through an ad campaign that will focus on the thrill of open-road driving and stay true to BMW's core brand values of safety, security, performance, individuality and value, said Victor Doolan, president at BMW of North America.
A "full-scale advertising blitz" featuring a national TV campaign will break later this quarter with a trio of TV commercials from Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis.
At Mercedes, a high-ranking executive at the German parent said the theme for the company's upcoming SLK sports car is "Fall in love with the SLK." However, Michael Jackson, exec VP-marketing, service and sales for Mercedes-Benz of North America, denied the claim, noting that the Mercedes' tri-star logo and its name are enough.
Meanwhile, although the introductory campaign for Porsche's Boxster will position the vehicle as an everyday car-despite a price tag of about $40,000-one new spot from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, will have a humorous, emotional element.
The commercial will show a couple and teen-age son. The man and woman each have set days to drive the car, but on Sundays, they drive together and leave the sad-faced child at home.
The spot breaks during the Super Bowl on Jan. 26, and Porsche's TV buy will include the Academy Awards, to reach more women.
"The Boxster is intended to be a true lifestyle car," said Fred Schwab, president-CEO of Porsche Cars North America.
Chevrolet will use the theme "The best 'Vette yet" to help introduce the new Corvette, with the first TV ads for the model since 1984 (AA, Jan. 6). Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., handles.
Part of the two-seaters' appeal will be their exclusivity and small production run.
CHEVY TO BUILD THE MOST
Chevy is expected to produce the most cars in this segment, with only about 20,000 this model year. And the Boxster is expected to help Porsche double its North American sales to only around 14,000 this year.
In addition, the estimated 9,000 SLKs Mercedes plans to sell in the U.S. have been pre-sold. Still, the coupe will appear in a new Mercedes brand campaign due next month from Lowe & Part-ners/SMS, New York.
Despite this small-scale start, the worldwide market could grow to 250,000 units, Mr. Doolan said.
Indeed, Audi of America is said to be considering entering the segment.