Makers trumpet certified vehicles

Advertising aimed at upscale buyers

Automakers are taking new-car approaches to advertising certified used vehicles.

In the last two years, ad spending to promote certified vehicles has increased at double-digit rates.

In some cases, those dollars are paying for ads aimed at high-profile consumers — readers of Forbes, Fortune and The Wall Street Journal, for example — who would not be considered used-car buyers. Automakers also are using radio, regional TV spots and the Internet.

Certified seen as alternative

The efforts reflect the growing importance of certified vehicles to automakers’ strategies. The companies are striving to position certified used vehicles as an alternative to new and other used vehicles. In doing so, that supports used-vehicle prices, which protect residuals and trade-in values.

“I want it to look like new-car advertising,” said Audi’s David Cretcher, referring to the Audi Assured Certified Pre-Owned Cars ads appearing in national editions of USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. The ads also are running in several national magazines.

Cretcher, manager of the Audi Assured certification program, said his company sold 6,049 certified used Audis through August of 2001, a 36.9 percent increase over the first eight months of last year.

Automakers won’t reveal how much they spend on certified used-vehicle advertising. But Art Spinella, vice president of CNW Market-ing/Research in Bandon, Ore., reports that manufacturers spent $251.1 million on certified used vehicle advertising/marketing in 2000, up 10.2 percent from $227.9 million in 1999. He predicts that automakers will spend $293.5 million this year, a 16.9 percent increase.

Toyota changed its ads last summer to mention that the company is the No. 1 seller of certified used vehicles.

It sold 16,921 certified used vehicles in September and 143,054 for the first nine months of 2001.

Norm Olson, marketing operations manager for Toyota Certified Used Vehicles, said about two years ago the company ran an awareness ad campaign in national newspapers and magazines to introduce the brand.

Now, he said, Toyota directs most of its ad dollars to its regions. The company, through its regions, heavily advertised its special finance program for certified used vehicles in September.

Mike Dennis, manager of used vehicle certification at Ford Motor Co., said the company is promoting its Ford Quality Checked Certified Pre-Owned vehicles in Forbes and Fortune.

Ford is running an ad in Forbes that invites consumers to check out certified used vehicles at dealerships and to register for a sweepstakes. The grand prize is a 12-day cruise for two that includes an investment seminar by financier Steve Forbes.

Millionaires’ choice

The Fortune promotion calls for consumers to print an online coupon, fill it out and take it to a participating dealership to receive a copy of the The Millionaire Next Door, a book that outlines how millionaires get rich.

Ford does not disclose certified used-vehicle sales figures.

Dana Hammer, manager of GM Certified Used Vehicles, said General Motors is supporting its cut-rate financing on certified used vehicles with advertising in USA Today and newspaper and radio advertising in 10 markets.

GM sold 12,340 certified used vehicles in August and 12,543 in September. August was the first time the company reported certified used-vehicle sales numbers. He said the company is on track to double last year’s sales total of 30,000 to 60,000 this year.

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