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Newspapers, responding to the media-buying clout of auto makers and their dealers, are adding new sections as value-added products.

Earlier this month, Chicago Tribune added a new, weekly Thursday section called Cars with regular editorial coverage on used vehicles.

"The ad community here, the dealers and their agencies, strongly suggested we need a stronger automotive presence in midweek," says Joe Murzanski, Tribune's manager of automotive advertising. He notes most advertising running in the new section are display ads.


The 1995, according to National Automobile Dealers Association, a dealer trade group. The newspaper category was the biggest in both years.

Last year, dealers spent 52%, or about $2.7 billion, of their total ad budgets in newspapers. That's a 7% jump in dealer newspaper ad spending from 1995, when dealers spent $2.4 billion in newspapers. Figures include classified and display advertising.

NADA figures don't include what automakers themselves spend on their regional dealer groups.

Ford Motor Co.'s Ford Division has beefed up its regional newspaper spending, according to Jim Bright, Ford brand communications manager.

Regional dealer group spending is rising, too. Several carmakers require dealers to contribute a percentage of invoice price for every vehicle they sell to a regional advertising pool. The popularity of pricy full-size pickups and sport- utility vehicles has pumped more money into those ad pools.


While newspapers generally seem to have good relationships with local dealers, a rare incident arose last year in El Paso, Texas.

A group of dealers started their own free paper, El Sol, after they became dissatisfied with editorial coverage in the two leading local dailies, says Steve Fox, co-owner of the Hoy Fox chain of nine auto franchises.

"We always felt we've been significant customers of the local newspapers, but we didn't feel appreciated," he says.

The El Paso Times and El Paso Herald-Post, which publish under a joint operating agreement, made concessions "in the thirteenth hour" after dealers had inked their contract to start El Sol, says Mr. Fox. The papers offered to include dealer ads in their free Hot Ticket, a weekly sent to non-subscribers.

The paper aims to maintain its close relationship with area auto dealers, according to Mark Milversted, manager of automotive advertising.


Like many newspapers, the Journal & Constitution has long had a special weekly auto section, for dealer Nancy Ferrero's Ferrero Auto Center. The dealership won NAA's Best of Show award for overall excellence for those ads.

Oddly enough, the Loveland paper, which publishes Monday through Saturday, doesn't have a weekly auto section-and hasn't committed to an auto section for its new Sunday edition, which it plans to begins publishing in June.

The family-owned paper puts auto-related classifieds in its general classified section and publishes special car-care sections in spring and fall.

Automotive advertising is on the rise. Dealers spend more advertising new cars, $439 per vehicle, than used vehicles, $199 per vehicle, NADA says. But dealers have been increasing their used-car ad spending, up from $150 per vehicle in 1992.

Today, the average dealership devotes 50% of its ad budget to new vehicles, down from 63% in 1988. Dealers spent 36% of their ad budgets on used vehicles, up from 24% in 1988.


The reasons: lower new-car profit margins, higher used-car profits and more competition from used-car superstores in certain markets.

Dealers in Atlanta and Richmond, early markets for Circuit City's CarMax used-vehicle superstore chain, have beefed up their newspaper ad spending to compete, says Mr. Scaife.

He says it's too early to gauge the impact of Republic Industries' AutoNation

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