LOS ANGELES - American Isuzu Motors is taking its marketing and Internet presence to a new level by giving consumers the opportunity to name an upcoming vehicle on its Web site.
The person who suggests the winning name for the ZSX concept vehicle will have the choice of any Isuzu vehicle as a prize. The contest ends Dec. 15 at Isuzu's site, www.isuzu.com.
Although Isuzu insists the ZXS sport-utility is just a concept vehicle, it seems unlikely that Isuzu would plan a contest to rename a product that isn't coming to market. Dealers interviewed say they have been promised a production version to sell in 2001. The vehicle is to slot between the Rodeo and Trooper, with a sticker price of about $32,000, dealers said. The ZXS is powered by a 3.5-liter 24-valve V-6 engine and equipped with Isuzu's Torque-on-Demand traction system.
At the Tokyo Motor Show, Isuzu designers described the ZXS as a wagon viewed from the sport-utility side, as opposed to most wagons, which are seen from the passenger car perspective. But little of Isuzu's publicity from Tokyo has reached the United States, so the Web site contest also presented an innovative way for the company to promote a new product.
'Our marketing slogan tells consumers that we `Go Farther' in all we do,' said Bob Reilly, American Isuzu COO for sport-utilities. 'Isuzu is not afraid to challenge the traditional with new and different ways of operating its business. Even the cherished launching of a new concept model is fair game.'
American Isuzu attracts about 350,000 visitors to its Web site each month. And in the first five days the contest was on the site, Isuzu received nearly 5,000 proposed names, said Dave Hubbard, American Isuzu executive manager of brand development.
GIVEAWAY IS A BARGAIN
Hubbard said most names have been seriously submitted; only a small fraction appears to be jokes.
Hubbard said hiring a professional marketing firm to create a name for the vehicle would cost anywhere from $30,000 to several hundred thousand dollars. So giving away a new Trooper to a sharp-witted Web surfer is a comparative bargain.
What may hold back Isuzu from quickly picking a winner is that many names already are registered to the auto community. Others are attached to companies or people who would take umbrage if Isuzu were to use them, Hubbard said.
For that reason, Isuzu might wait as long as a year to announce the winner of the contest, Hubbard said. But if the winning name quickly clears Isuzu's legal due diligence, the winner might be announced sooner.