The Oldsmobile rocket missed its target of 400,000 sales last year, but the 100-year-old brand is headed in the right direction.
Oldsmobile's sales increased 6.8 percent to 352,197 units sold in 1999. The division expects a sales boost from the all-new version of its flagship Aurora, which arrived in showrooms in January.
Oldsmobile will begin advertising the Aurora in selected major markets in April, followed by national advertising in July. But Oldsmobile plans to avoid missteps that left the old Aurora with a murky image.
The model's identity was blurred in Oldsmobile's effort to update its own image, says John Gatt, Aurora brand manager.
'Oldsmobile attempted to use the Aurora (in advertising) to counteract perceptions that existed about Oldsmobile,' Gatt said. 'In doing that, the positioning for the Aurora got lost.'
This time, Gatt said, Aurora advertising will stress the car's styling, ride and handling. An Aurora tag line is being tested.
And Gatt said: 'Unless you looked at prior (Aurora) advertising real hard, you didn't realize that Oldsmobile made the car. Clearly, in TV and print advertising, in everything, you're going to know that this is an Oldsmobile.'
This generation Aurora's target buyer is younger, more affluent and better educated than current owners. Oldsmobile also wants to increase female buyers beyond the current 30 percent.
Gatt refused to say how much the campaign will cost, but did say Oldsmobile's advertising budget will increase substantially. During the first nine months of last year, Oldsmobile spent $175.6 million in advertising, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
Engineers and designers are getting in step with what marketers need. First, this generation Aurora gets a V-6 version, with a $30,800 base price, as Olds seeks to build sales to almost 50,000 units. The existing V-8 has a base of $34,895.
'There is a whole lot more volume for cars in the $30,000 to $31,000 price range than there is for cars in the $37,000 price range,' Gatt said.
Oldsmobile also toned down the Aurora's 'polarizing' rear-end design and lopped 6 inches off the car's length - moves that research showed would increase its appeal to women, he said.
Aurora will target upscale women by advertising in such magazines as Food & Wine beginning in the May issue and with special events. Oldsmobile also will sponsor the 20-city tour of the Montreux Jazz Festival, beginning in late spring, in an effort to reach young buyers.