The wooing of a cast-off buyer

Almost immediately after it reorganized, General Motors recognized that it would have to work very hard not to lose customers sawed off in the maelstrom.

And it wasn't just the millions of Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer and Saab owners cast off. GM also targeted customers of dealerships the automaker closed and even buyers of discontinued nameplates.

I'm one of them. I bought a Saturn Aura in 2008.

Intellectually, I recognize I have no beef with the death of Saturn. I chose an Aura over its mechanical-twin Chevrolet Malibu. But I'm not really feeling kinship here.

GM has an uphill task, but it has tackled it with vigor.

Since 2009, GM has sent me dozens of "you're family" e-mails and fliers. I've heard from GM, Saturn headquarters, my Saturn dealer, OnStar, XM Radio and the Chevy dealer assigned to me by GM. I get rebate notices, offers on Chevy, Buick and Cadillac models GM thinks I might like, service coupons, customer surveys, even the occasional "owner loyalty" coupon that almost covers the difference in depreciation between my orphaned Aura and a comparable Chevy Malibu.

I like my car. It's been very reliable. Not a single repair in 65,000 miles. I used some oil-change coupons from my old Saturn dealer, who now peddles Nissans.

But so far, nothing GM sent even tempted me.

Until last month, when I got an offer of free maintenance for 2011 at a Chevy dealer (this one 11 miles away, rather than the previously assigned one, 34 urban miles distant).

Hey, I needed an oil change. OK, I said, this time I'll bite. I went to the dealer Web site to schedule an appointment.

No Saturday hours. So, was a free oil change worth my wife and I driving to the dealership to drop my car before work, borrowing my wife's car all day, rushing home to collect her, driving back to the dealership before it closes and us driving home in our separate cars?

My local Belle Tire changed the oil Saturday: one hour, $26, a bonus of correctly inflated tires, and a smile.

I can see GM's effort. So far, I'm not impressed. But yeah, I'm still willing to listen.

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