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What happens when General Motors Corp. and the United Auto Workers decide to collaborate?

On Oct. 8, you get 140,000 fans showing up at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for the UAW-GM Quality 500, a Nascar Winston Cup race that will be telecast on TBS.

It's unusual for a labor union to get involved in such a high-profile event sponsorship. But both GM and the UAW hope the partnership sends a public message that the two sides are putting aside differences when it comes to giving customers quality products.

"History has taught us that producing high-quality goods serves both of our mutual interests," said Thomas Weekley, assistant director of the UAW General Motors Department. GM and the UAW are sharing costs of the race sponsorship, estimated at $400,000. In addition to buffing public image, both also view the sponsorship as an internal morale booster.

A total of 109 employees and their spouses from more than 50 plants won a trip to the race based on their contributions to employee-suggestion efforts and other programs. Also, Nascar driver Jeff Gordon, who races in a Chevrolet, visited an assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky., for a rally with the workers who built the Corvette that will be given away in a sweepstakes promotion at the race.

GM employees play an important role in marketing the company's cars and trucks, said Jay Wilber, executive director of Quality Network, a joint UAW-GM organization for resolving quality issues.

"Our research shows that one in five Americans comes in contact with someone affiliated with GM," Mr. Wilber said. From that group, 73% of those who buy a new vehicle cite the recommendation of a GM employee as one of the most important reasons for a purchase decision, Mr. Wilber said.

GM and the UAW will leverage their sponsorship with a display near the speedway's entrance covering three-fourths of an acre, open when qualifying trials begin Oct. 4.

The so-called "Information Highway" will include 16 GM vehicles, a display on quality, two race cars, a Sega games area for kids, registration for the Corvette giveaway and a kiosk where consumers can request more product information.

Advertising supporting the UAW-GM Teamwork of Excellence Award, which will be awarded to the race team best demonstrating teamwork during the Winston Cup season, will run on cable TV networks like TNN, in motorsports publications and on Charlotte-area radio and newspapers. It was developed by McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Troy, Mich.

GM dealers in the area also are targeting 200,000 owners with a direct-mail campaign tied in to the race.

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