DETROIT - A new vehicle that creates a new segment deserves a big marketing budget.
That's the idea behind the $30 million marketing blitz this year for the 2001 Pontiac Aztek, a car-based sport-utility that hits showrooms in June.
'That's what you have to do with a new brand and a new segment. You have to grab attention,' said Aztek brand manager Don Butler, who crowd-surfed into a press conference over the heads of screaming teen-agers last week at the North American International Auto Show.
With the Aztek, which was introduced as a production vehicle at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show two weeks ago, Pontiac is targeting young people in their 20s and 30s with an active lifestyle.
'We're really looking to try to hit a more innovative customer,' said Mark Reuss, the 36-year-old vehicle line executive for the Aztek.
Butler, who also is 36, said: 'It's an audience we haven't really addressed up to this point.'
Butler said Pontiac is devoting about 10 percent of its marketing budget to Internet ads and promotions, including an Aztek kick-off event called 'The A-List Adventure.'
Visitors to www.aztek.pontiac.com will be able to submit an essay of 75-words or less saying why they should get one of the first Azteks built. Reminiscent of the Ford Focus launch last year, 20 'A-List' winners, chosen in April, will receive an Aztek and a video camera. For six weeks their videos and journal entries will be posted on the Aztek Web site.
Additionally, Pontiac will auction the first Aztek off of the production line on the eBay auction Web site.
Butler said the Aztek also will be the official vehicle of a TV special on CBS called 'Survivor!' where 16 contestants will be left to fend for themselves on a deserted island off the coast of Borneo. The winner gets $1 million and an Aztek.
Sticking with the active theme, Aztek will come with accessory packages, including ones for camping, biking and hiking.
YOUTH IS IN
At the Detroit show, Pontiac unveiled the Aztek to an audience of 100 screaming youths. Keeping with the mood of the event, Lynn Myers, Pontiac-GMC general manager, got out of the vehicle in a stylish leather jacket and began high-fiving the teens.
But at the same time, Pontiac emphasized that the vehicle's functionality and price will primarily attract 30-somethings. The base-model Aztek will sell 'in the low 20s,' one executive said, while a fully equipped model will be closer to $25,000.
GM expects to sell as many as 75,000 Azteks in a full production year, but Butler said the vehicle is designed to be profitable at 60,000 annual units. The Aztek will be built at GM's plant in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico.
Butler estimated sales of the Aztek will be split 50-50 between the front-wheel-drive version and the all-wheel-drive version.
Advertising for the Aztek will begin on the West Coast this summer and then migrate east across the Southern tier of states. Butler said nationwide ads probably will begin in September.
The Aztek is aimed at those looking for a vehicle that is both sporty and functional, but who have been dissatisfied with compact sport-utilities such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.