Friday, May 25, 2007

Bold Move by a Failing Icon

GM dealers offer Toyota test drives

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com staff writer
May 25, 2007

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- If you want to test drive a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord, starting next month you'll be able to do it at a Saturn dealership. General Motors is asking Saturn dealers to have one or more of the competing models in the showroom so customers can look at it, sit in it and drive it. [...]

"In that side-by-side comparison, we come out really well," said Mark LaNeve, head of North American sales and marketing for General Motors.

Later this year, Chevrolet dealers will be doing the same thing as they introduce customers to the redesigned Chevrolet Malibu, which shares its engineering platform with the Aura.

In focus group research, GM has shown potential customers new GM models next to competing vehicles with all brand identifications removed and, said LaNeve, customers have reacted well to the GM products. [...]

According to industry newspaper Automotive News, sales for the Saturn Aura, which was voted Car of the Year by automotive journalists in January, 2007, have been disappointing for GM.

Part of the reason GM is willing to take this step, said LaNeve, is because the company has little to lose. Midsized sedan shoppers often don't even consider GM products, he said, instead going straight to Honda and Toyota dealers.

The Toyota Camry and Honda Accord are now the two best-selling cars in America. [...]

The company wouldn't even consider doing something like this with its SUVs, said LaNeve. GM currently holds about a 70 percent market share in large SUVs, so there would be little to gain from bringing Toyota Sequoias into Chevrolet dealerships to compare to the Tahoe.

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