DETROIT -- General Motors is driving "The Road to Redemption" in a new print ad campaign urging car and truck buyers who don't care for GM to put its vehicles on their shopping list.
The world's largest automaker will launch the print campaign next week to convince the 40 percent of U.S. vehicle buyers who shun its models that GM vehicles now have world-class quality. And it will follow with other ads aimed at improving GM's overall image beyond the throng of incentive deals it regularly throws at buyers.
"The message of the ads is simple. We may not have done everything right in the past, but we've learned from it, we've improved from it and today we're confident our products bear a much closer look," GM North America President Gary Cowger said on Wednesday.
The first ad, titled "The Road to Redemption," includes a passing nod to GM's quality problems, along with vows that GM's new cars and trucks are now as reliable as the best in the world.
Cowger said GM had a record on quality, technology and customer satisfaction that it could back up with facts, but had not made any real attempt to publicize it with consumers. Cowger said about 40 percent of U.S. buyers do not consider GM vehicles, including some 10 percent to 20 percent who reject anything with a GM brand.
GM's quality image began deteriorating in the late 1970s as Japanese competitors began importing inexpensive models that proved far more durable than what Detroit had to offer. Today, while GM leads its crosstown rivals in initial quality, according to industry analysts J.D. Power, its long-term reliability record is still mixed.
And both measures still trail those of its Japanese competitors, although the gap has closed in recent years. GM has also been able to increase the number of models with "recommended" grades from Consumer Reports magazine, considered an influential auto shoppers' guide.
Reaching those customers would be key to GM's goals of growing its U.S. market share, which has shrunk this year as foreign automakers have launched new models. But John Middlebrook, GM's vice president of corporate advertising, said the new program could not change GM's image overnight.
"This is a long-term communications program. This is not something that we think we're going to see numbers change in the next 30 days," he said.
Future ads will tout GM's technology, design and fuel-economy improvements.
The campaign comes as the automaker has seen diminishing return on the lures it uses with buyers who are willing to consider GM models, such as $3,000 rebates, zero-percent loans and early lease terminations.
GM has also started 24-hour test drives at about two-thirds of its dealerships. Cowger said of about 61,000 overnight drives so far, 26 percent had resulted in sales.