Strong sales so far this year at General Motors have failed to rub off on the mid-sized Oldsmobile Intrigue.
Although car sales at GM were up 12 percent through February, Intrigue sales dropped 11.3 percent to 12,723 and forced a weeklong shutdown at the Kansas City, Kan., assembly plant.
Intrigue brand manager Tim Roush blames Oldsmobile's own efforts this year to reduce fleet sales of the Intrigue to 30 percent of overall sales from about 40 percent in 1999. He says Intrigue retail sales are up 7 percent in 2000.
But the Intrigue, a car praised by Oldsmobile dealers, has not met original sales expectations.
When the car was launched as a new brand in 1997, Oldsmobile expected to sell 100,000 in a full production year.
Despite a record market in 1999, Oldsmobile sold only 90,057 Intrigues, 506 units less than in 1998 when GM production was hurt by labor strikes.
A number of Oldsmobile dealers say Oldsmobile isn't doing a good job of marketing the Intrigue.
'It's a great car, but who do you sell it to? The traditional Oldsmobile buyer isn't going to buy that car,' said Paul Holloway, owner of Dreher-Holloway Inc. (Buick-GMC-Pontiac-Chevrolet-Cadillac-Oldsmobile-BMW-Mercedes) in Exeter, N.H.
Holloway adds there has been a lack of local advertising for the car since GM disbanded the local dealer ad groups last year.
However, Jack Bos, general manager of Grand Oldsmobile Center in Grandville, Mich., believes the ads are hitting the mark. The problem is the Intrigue name is still new to a lot of customers. 'We just have to get the word out a little stronger,' he said.
Grand Oldsmobile is on pace to sell 340 Intrigues this year, up from 290 in 1999, Bos said.
Roush admits it is going to take time to improve Intrigue sales. His goal for 2000 is to match 1999 sales without depending on fleet as much.
'Frankly, we're a new brand, and it's going to take some time to launch the brand,' Roush said.
Oldsmobile will try to boost Intrigue's image with several promotions this month revolving around the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament.
Those include promotions on two sports Web sites: MPV.com and CBS SportsLine.