Saturn Corp. will try to become the automotive world's premier relationship marketer June 24-25 in Spring Hill, Tenn.
Saturn has invited 650,000 Saturn owners to visit the birthplace of their car to celebrate a homecoming. Some 50,000 to 60,000 are expected to attend.
'Relationship marketing is one of the watchwords of the '90s,' said Steve Shannon, Saturn's director of consumer marketing.
'Companies are spending a greater share of their resources on current owners. The word of mouth and the following we have among our owners is exciting, and this is a chance to thank them and bring them back to the birthplace of their car.'
The event is planned as Saturn is grappling with an oversupply of cars and an aging product in the face of new competition. The company also is trying to ensure its future growth by convincing General Motors to eventually expand its capacity from 320,000 to 500,000 cars per year.
Saturn outlined its plans for the two-day extravaganza in the first wave of invitations mailed last week.
The program makes it clear that Saturn is trying to build a relationship with its customers that extends beyond the dealership door.
Country music star Wynonna Judd will entertain participants in a large, outdoor amphitheater on the front lawn of the assembly plant in Spring Hill.
A child-care center for children ages 3 and up has been dubbed 'Camp Saturn.' Kids traveling with their folks will play games, see jugglers and clowns and have their faces painted.
Teen-agers are not left out. They will participate in a version of Saturn's outdoor 'Excel' course, which the company uses to train employees. The program stresses experimental learning and teamwork by requiring participants to complete a series of outdoor maneuvers.
'Team Town Expo' will showcase technology and product displays and demonstrations from Saturn and its suppliers.
A vintage car show, an arts and craft fair and food and drink in picnic areas will dot the as sembly plant grounds. Saturn owners also will visit the Opry land theme park in Nashville for free.
And, of course, there will be a plant tour because owner interest in the assembly plant helped spawn the homecoming.
'In some ways, the homecoming is something that people have been asking for,' Shannon said. 'They send letters and want to come to the plant and meet the people who made the car. People stop at the gate and ask to come in.'
So Saturn researched the idea of a homecoming by asking Saturn owners if they would be interested in visiting Spring Hill for a weekend.
The gatherings are a great way to meet the customer in a positive environment, said Craig Ransavage, supervisor of Harley-Davidson's Harley Owners Group member services in Milwaukee.
Harley-Davidson has held annual rallies for a decade. More than 22,000 people attended last year's 10th anniversary rally in Milwaukee, he said.
Saturn dealers are organizing car caravans to the party. Dealers also will host barbecues for local customers during that weekend.
The fee for the event is $34 for adults and $17 for kids ages 6 to 12. Younger children get in free. Part of the proceeds will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which aids terminally ill children.
Saturn's ad agency, Hal Riney & Partners of San Francisco, is helping to plan the event with logistical support from Carlson Marketing Group of Troy, Mich.
Staff Reporter Jennifer Heil contributed to this report.