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One of the biggest competitors for the redesigned Geo Metro subcompact isn't another 1995 model. Metro prospects are most likely to be cross-shopping used cars, say marketers at General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet division.

That's because the Metro is one of a small number of new cars still priced under $10,000, with the coupe starting at $8,395 and the sedan at $9,395. Chevrolet expects to sell at least 41% of Metros to first-time new-car buyers based on past years' sales experience with the auto, said Jim Jandasek, Chevy's manager-passenger car advertising.

With that in mind, Chevrolet will focus much of its estimated $35 million Metro integrated marketing effort on reaching college students, African-Americans and Hispanics.

The message: Metro is affordable and reliable, backed with a new-car warranty and a 24-hour roadside assistance program, comes with big-car features like dual air bags and sports a fun personality.

Attracting first-time buyers gives an auto marketer the opportunity to cultivate a long-lasting, lucrative relationship over the course of a customer's lifetime. Chevrolet is designated to play that key role for GM, and the division uses its Geo brand to appeal specifically to young prospects who tend to buy imports.

The print and TV ad effort that broke this month hammers home the value message.

"It's almost anti-advertising-simple and to the point," said Bill Ludwig, exec VP-creative director at Lintas Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich.

A humorous 30-second spot takes place on the production set for a Metro commercial. As a director, cameraman and actress are shown, subtitles list their fees for the commercial as $25,000, $15,000 and $13,000, respectively. "Funny how the most inexpensive thing in this commercial is the car," says the voice-over as the Metro comes into view.

In addition to its national effort, Chevy will run spot TV and radio and outdoor boards in 55 key markets.

The division's efforts to reach college students, blacks and Hispanics will combine targeted media buys with promotional and event marketing programs, said Kevin Donley, VP-associate media director at Lintas Campbell-Ewald.

For instance, the effort to reach college students includes a national contest to create a Metro commercial.

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