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It's a jungle out there

If you think TV's crocodile hunter has a dangerous job, try parodying him. Fred Ricart of Ricart Automotive Group in Columbus, Ohio, dressed up like Australian outdoorsman Steve Irwin - star of the Discovery Channel's 'The Crocodile Hunter' - to become 'The Car Deal Hunter' for a couple of commercials. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Ricart's sidekick on his first commercial was an unresponsive alligator. So he nudged it with the mahogany headstock of a $2,000 guitar, and the reptile promptly snapped off the stock. If that weren't enough, at the end of the second commercial a python appears to strangle Ricart. Said Ricart, 'It took two guys to get it off me.'

RADIO DAYS - Oldsmobile is making the most of its diminishing advertising budget by using employees as radio talent in five commercials. The employees encourage sales of the dying brand, even giving their phone numbers and e-mail addresses as a personal touch. Doug Schumacker, assistant brand manager of marketing for the Alero, said the most memorable of his 35 calls was from 'one gentleman who couldn't communicate without using profanity. But I think we ended up selling him a car.'

DO WE HEAR $21,000? - The 2003 Hummer H2 sport-utility won't be in dealerships until next June, but consumers can buy positions in the waiting line now. Dealers are asking an average $1,000 to reserve the new Hummer, and some consumers placing deposits are auctioning them on eBay. 'The highest amount we've seen is $21,000, but most of them seem to be in the $3,000, $4,000, $5,000 range, and there's no guarantee they're going to get (the vehicle),' said Marc Hernandez, Hummer brand manager. Automotive News couldn't find the $21,000 bid, but it did find a position in the Midwest that sold for $15,100 on Aug. 1. The position price is on top of the sticker price, expected to be $40,000 to $50,000.

BIDDING ON THE BLUE BIRD - While many Ford dealers are waiting for their first 2002 T-Bird to roll into their showrooms, several saw one roll across the auction block Aug. 2 at Manheim's Metro Detroit Auto Auction in Flat Rock, Mich. According to an auction employee who did not want to be named, the Thunderbird Blue retro roadster was the focus of fierce bidding and sold for $52,800, well over the base sticker price of $35,495. So how does a brand-new vehicle wind up at an auction? It doesn't, the employee said. 'It had some miles on it; it was used as a demo.'

FROM C TO C - Don't call Cadillac's new sports sedan a Catera Touring Sedan. The CTS, which debuts at Pebble Beach, Calif., this week, replaces the Opel-derived Catera in Cadillac's lineup. Some dealers are so eager to be rid of the Catera that they're dubbing the CTS the 'Cadillac Touring Sedan.' Actually, the 'C' refers to a class of vehicle, says a spokesperson: 'We've seen `Catera Touring Sedan' and `Cadillac Touring Sedan' in print. Neither is right.' Cadillac is switching to alphabetics and distancing itself from that 'old Cadillac' image.

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